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Federal Incentives for Aid

September 9, 2013

Federal Incentives for Aid

by Mike Sheffey

Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.

Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)

There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.

The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.

What do you think about the proposed federal plan?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Working Your Way Through College...and Enjoying It!

by Mike Sheffey

In terms of employment in college, on-campus jobs are the way to go. They get you that spending money you need while keeping you up to date with campus activities. In a way, they make you feel like a great contributor to the campus and its events.

Take me, for example: I work for Terrier Vision, the crew that films the sporting events at Wofford College and streams them online. It’s weird since I’m not too much of a sporty guy but filming these events gives me a sense of involvement and with that, a legitimate interest in the sports (or at least the games I’m filming). The same goes for other on-campus jobs: They connect you with slices of your campus and community you wouldn’t otherwise get to be a part of. And the money isn’t half bad, considering many jobs on campus will pay more than those off simply because the colleges/universities have more funds at their disposal. I meet new people and honestly have fun with my job. Plus, it’s much more convenient to get to work. (Yes, WoCo is small but the principle still applies to larger schools.)

You don’t have to work for sports, either (it’s not my thing but the job is rad): You could just as easily work for your school’s theater department in set construction or with your school’s alumni foundation phoning for donations to specific programs. Many of my friends are TAs and that sounds like a rewarding experience to be able to help others on your campus in an academic setting. Jobs are available almost everywhere – you’ve just got to seek them out!

On-campus jobs push you to explore all aspects of your school, meet new people, engage in networking with a new set of professionals and get that extra bit of money. This kind of goes back to my previous article on keeping with your passions because a) you can help pay for your passion and b) you could get paid FOR your passion! (My incredibly talented photographer friend gets paid to photograph almost every WoCo event.) Do you work on campus? If so, where and how did you land your position?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Setting-Up a Scholarship 101

September 5, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Many students are in desperate need of financial aid, and setting up a scholarship is a wonderful way to help them. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a college education in 2006-2007 was $10,454 at public colleges and $26,889 at private ones. With Pell Grants capping at $4,310 this year, government money hardly cuts it. Here are a few things providers should think about when creating a scholarship.

One-Time Scholarship or Endowment?

An easy way to create a one-time or annual scholarship is to submit award information to a local scholarship foundation. It should be noted that annual scholarships (endowments) may require the provider to come up with more than $20,000. Ongoing scholarships are similar to bank accounts in that interest accrues on the initial deposit. The earned money then becomes an award. If winners are to receive a significant amount of money, a large initial donation may be required.

IRS watch

As long as scholarships are used for college expenses, they are usually tax-exempt. However, there are some IRS regulations, and they are particularly strict when it comes to corporate scholarship providers.

Who is eligible?

Scholarships are a great source of support to students who face difficult circumstances or enter underrepresented fields. Regardless of targeted recipients, providers should be clear on who they are looking for. There is no point in reading applications from students who won’t be considered. Criteria such as GPA, field of study, year in school etc. should be specific, but lax enough to give students a shot.

Advertising

With the help of Scholarships.com, advertising can be a cinch. Once a provider submits scholarship information, it will be made available to students who visit our site. To prevent providers from being inundated with applications from ineligible students, Scholarships.com will only show the scholarship to students who meet its eligibility criteria.

Posted Under:

Federal Aid , Scholarships , Tips


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by Paulina Mis

That I needed to fill out a FAFSA was a given. All counselors advised students to search for aid, and it seemed wrong to miss out on the opportunity—especially when other students came home with awards. Admittedly, applying was a bit confusing (but worth it). After receiving my FAFSA award letter, however, I was totally mystified. There were columns for college grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans and Federal Work Study. I didn’t know if I had to accept all financial aid, if I could request more or if this was just my receipt. Out of fear for signing away my future home, I was almost ready to not sign anything. Thankfully, things became much easier after the first year (although the FAFSA part was still confusing). Knowing the basics made the award letter much easier to read.

Your award letter only reflects how much aid you are eligible for.

Using the information provided in your FAFSA, the amount your family can potentially contribute to your schooling is weighed against the actual cost of attendance. The award letter will reflect all federal, state and university offers of aid. This includes scholarships, college grants, and student employment. Financial aid gifts such as tuition waivers, assistantships, fellowships, resident hall advisor compensation and scholarships from organizations may not be listed until a school is notified about them. Your award letter is not a receipt. You will not take on a $5,000 loan by not responding, but you may lose some award money if you don’t. You can take advantage of as much or as little of this money as you wish.

What You May Find

If you see any college grants in your letter, that’s a good sign. Government grants are basically free money, and you should take advantage of it. Student loans are also common. Students may see awards for Stafford, PLUS, and Perkins Loans. While government loans are not free awards, they are a good bet for students who need to take out additional funding. The government provides students with interest rates that beat those offered by private loan companies. Federal Work Study is another pseudo award. Many colleges and universities will find work for students who would like to earn money. While such work is unlikely to make a student rich—much of it close to or commensurate with minimum wage—it is easy to find, and it is flexible. You are not required to accept any or all aid offered.Students may choose to decline some or all of their financial aid. Those who only wish to take advantage of free grant money may turn down the loans and federal work study funds. If a student needs $3,000 but is only offered $1,000 in grant money, they may use up their entire grant award as well as some or all of their loan award.Students unsatisfied with awards still have options.

Government Assistance May Not Be Enough

Students who feel they need more may speak to financial aid officials and request additional funds. Sometimes, schools may offer additional aid to coveted students or to those with new financial difficulties. Schools are not required to do this, so going in with a temper is not the best approach. Those who find no luck may still apply for additional scholarships, college grants and loans. Free grant and scholarship money is best, but additional, government-subsidized or private loans are available. Schools usually have a preferred-lender list for those who need to borrow, but it is important for students to conduct personal research on the side.


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Pell Grants

August 29, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Some of the best things in life are free, especially when it comes to financial aid. Students who fill out a FAFSA will quickly realize that a world of financial assistance is at their fingertips. Of all government aid, Pell Grants are definitely the sweetest. Providing aid to millions of undergraduate students each year, the Pell Grant is the largest grant program in the U.S.

Used loosely, a grant is a monetary award that does not need to be repaid. Graduate school grants tend to come with some research strings attached, but not the Pell Grants. All students who submit a FAFSA will be automatically considered for Pell Grants, and all they need to do is to fill out the admittedly pesky form. Information about whether they qualify for aid and how much aid they qualify for will be sent to students by their respective colleges. These school "award letters" will usually arrive sometime between March and April, though dates do vary.

Students who got into college by the hairs of their chinny chin chin need not worry about being ruled out for aid. Pell grant money has nothing to do with GPA, athletics, involvement, talents, and all other things that make the average student shudder. These awards are based mainly on financial need.

If you are raising your eyebrow suspiciously, you deserve a pat on the back: Pell Grants are not perfect. The government can help you, but only to a point. Aside from the financial aid eligibility issue, Pell Grants have fairly low caps. For the 2007-2008 year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $4,310, and this is not the award most students will receive. The amount of aid a student will receive depends on financial need, the cost of school attendance and the length of stay. The hourly status of a student is also considered. Students who can fit their schoolbooks into a purse will receive less aid than those who attend full time. Graduate school students, unfortunately, are not even eligible. Students who cannot attend with under $5,000 in grants may need to look elsewhere for financial aid. Students who show extreme need, graduate from a competitive school or plan to major in the math & sciences may be eligible for additional government grants. Those who don’t should consider applying for scholarships, non-government grants and fellowships. A great place to perform a financial aid search is Scholarships.com. With 2.7 million scholarships & grants worth over $19 billion, Scholarships.com has something for everyone.

For more information on Pell Grants, visit Student Aid on the Web.

For additional information on financial aid, visit the Resources Section of Scholarships.com.


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Perkins Loans

August 30, 2007

by Paulina Mis

When it comes to loans, this is the real deal. The Perkins Loan program is a government and school funded program with the smallest interest rates, only 5%. Compared to other low-interest government loans and their high-interest private counterparts, the Perkins Loans are ideal for students who need on-the-spot funds.

Of course, the best of loans are not available to all. Seeing as these loans have the lowest rates, they are usually reserved for the neediest students. Luckily, needy graduate students are also eligible. They may have gotten the cold shoulder when it came to Pell Grants, but graduates still have options when it comes to low-rate government loans.

Even though the government puts forth a large amount of funding for Perkins Loans, the loans are still considered campus-based. This is because schools match some government contributions and are in charge of loan administration. They even have to apply to participate. Not to worry, most schools do participate in the program. Approximately 1,800 schools across the country provide students with financial aid in the form of Perkins Loans.

Students who are interested in the Perkins Loan should submit their FAFSA. Whether a student qualifies and how much aid they qualify for is based on their determined financial need and their school of choice. Undergraduates with the greatest need may be eligible for up to $4,000 in yearly aid; graduates may receive up to$6,000. Over the course of their education, undergraduate may borrow up to $20,000 and graduates can borrow up to $40,000 (this includes undergraduate loans.) Thankfully, if these loans add up, students have up to 9 months after graduating, withdrawing or dropping below part-time status to find repayment funds.

Perkins Loans are a good option for quick aid, but before applying, students should take advantage of free funding options. Performing a free scholarship and grant search at Scholarships.com and browsing through school websites may eliminate the need for loans altogether.


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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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The Pros and Cons of Graduating Early

by Radha Jhatakia

Much of the time, college students who are able to get the classes they need and have an education plan are able to graduate early. Graduating early can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it; it worked for my fellow virtual intern Jessica but how do you know if it's right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you have job offers lined up after graduation?

2. Did you go to college close to home?

  • If you said yes, then graduating early wouldn’t be a tough transition but if you attended college further away, graduating early may be more difficult. Many if not all of your friends were will still be in school and you’ll also miss out on the senior graduation programs.

3. Did you take out loans to pay for college?

After you answer these questions, you should be able to determine if you should graduate early or not. Just remember there are pros and cons to both and you should choose the path that’s right for you.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Study: Pell Grant Restrictions Affect Enrollment at Community Colleges in the South

by Scholarships.com Staff

Community colleges across the country have seen a steep decline in enrollments this year for a few reasons. A recovering economy steering students toward jobs and budget cuts that have led to fee increases have played key roles but changes to federal Pell grant eligibility are most notable. According to a new study, community colleges in the Deep South have been hit hardest by the changes that took effect last year.

The study, by Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama director Stephen Katsinas, argues that community college enrollments in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi are highly sensitive to changes in the federal grant program. Enrollment in 47 of the 62 two-year colleges across the three states declined this past fall and more than 5,000 students lost Pell grants – a change that the report's authors say can be directly attributed to the changes in eligibility. Students are now limited to just six years of Pell grants, fewer students automatically qualify for the maximum grant because of a lower income cap for receiving an “automatic zero” expected family contribution and students without a high school diploma or GED are no longer eligible.

While many states have started to see their economies improve, that’s not the case for the three states included in the study. In fact, not only have their economies not recovered but state-supported student aid programs are much smaller, so colleges have fewer resources for low-income students who no longer qualify for Pell grants. Both Pell grants and community colleges are "vital to enhancing college degree completion in the Deep South, for it is the community colleges where economically disadvantaged students begin higher education," the study noted. The enrollment numbers were based on surveys of community college officials. All of the two-year colleges in the three-state region responded. However, the national enrollment data for 2012 hasn't been compiled yet, said David Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education.


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