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More Colleges Turn To Direct Loans

September 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The U.S. Department of Education released a series of new statistical reports last week showing a dramatic increase in participation in the federal direct lending student loan program.  Motivated largely by the economic downturn and the credit crunch of the last year, 400 new colleges joined the federal direct lending program.  Overall, student borrowing through the program has increased by 50 percent in the last year.

The federal direct lending program provides students at participating schools with Stafford Loans directly, instead of going through the intermediary of a bank, as is done in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).  In previous years, borrowing through FFELP could land students with lower interest rates, as well as significant repayment incentives, but that has changed significantly since 2007 as a result of subsidy cuts and economic difficulties faced by FFELP lenders.  Since direct loans are serviced directly by the Education Department, they are largely exempt from the fallout of the credit crunch and are currently more appealing to many colleges.

There is good news for students at schools that continue to participate in FFELP, though.  Lenders are participating in the loan buyback program enacted as part of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act passed earlier this year.  About 40 percent of the student loans in the bank system have been sold to the Education Department, with paperwork being completed on much of the remaining balance.  This move appears to have worked to allow lenders to fund loans for students, as the Education Department also reports that not a single student has had to participate in the federal "lender of last resort" program.

In other financial aid news, Congress recently approved $2.5 billion in Pell Grant funding, to help tide the program over through March 2009, at which point most spring semester grant awards should have been disbursed.  All of this news suggests that students are highly likely to be able to continue to find federal student financial aid for college, at least for the forseeable future.  Of course, finding scholarships and avoiding student loans is still a smart plan, but this news suggests that despite growing fears about the economy, federal financial aid will still be available to students who need it.

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Spellings Announces Shorter FAFSA

October 2, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

In a speech delivered yesterday at Harvard University, U. S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that her department had managed to whittle the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) down to 27 questions.  The FAFSA is currently 120 questions long and described as Spellings as more complicated than an income tax form. A shorter FAFSA has been called for by Congress and advocated by virtually everyone aware of the form's existence.

Spellings stated in her speech that the length of the FAFSA may be preventing many families from filling it out, despite the fact that they might qualify for federal student financial aid. While part of this phenomenon is likely due to the prevalence of financial aid myths, the complicated nature of the FAFSA likely does play a role.  Although fafsa.ed.gov states that the form should take less than an hour to complete, even for first-time filers, the assessment has always seemed a bit overly optimistic to me. I remember my first encounter with the FAFSA taking hours, and while I ultimately submitted it, I definitely did so under duress and only after repeatedly begging my parents to fill it out for me.  An effort by the Education Department to make it simpler and less stressful to pay for school is definitely welcome.

While Spellings' speech didn't address whether this was the final incarnation of the FAFSA or when changes would debut (let's all cross our fingers for January), a shorter financial aid application is undoubtedly good news for students.  In the meantime, if you're struggling with applying for financial aid, check out some of the resources offered by Scholarships.com.  We have a breakdown of FAFSA and other daunting financial aid acronyms, some tips for completing the FAFSA, and detailed instructions for filling out the FAFSA on the Web.
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The Presidential Forum on Renewable Energy Scholarship

January 7, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The U.S. public cannot help but worry about the future of our environment. The reduction in available energy resources affects us all—regardless of age. By applying for this scholarship, students have a chance to be a part of the solution and to find money for college. To apply for The Presidential Forum on Renewable Energy Scholarship, students will have to create a plan for renewable energy in the U.S. The plan should consist of four to six points that describe the approach this country should take to reduce its dependence on nonrenewable energy resources. Winning scholarship candidates will present a feasible, creative solution and take into account the challenges that may be encountered along the way.

For more information about this and other college scholarships and grants, you may conduct a free college scholarship search. If you are eligible to receive this scholarship, you will find the application and contact details in the “My Scholarships” section.

Prize:

Three winners will receive a $10,000 scholarship

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be between the ages of 18 and 24 as of January 1, 2008 2. Applicant must be enrolled full-time or part-time in an undergraduate college program 3. Applicant must be a U.S. citizen

Deadline:

February 1, 2008

Required Material:

1. An essay between four and six pages in length (no more than 2,500 words) 2. Verification of college enrollment and U.S. citizenship.

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Bill Gates on the Education Campaign Trail

January 8, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

With the Iowa election safely behind us, U.S. citizens will soon come to realize that the rest of the country also gets to vote. Yes, it’s true. Citizens in the other forty-nine states can also voice their opinions on key issues. And if Bill Gates has it his way (and he’s been doing well so far), education will be one of those issues.

By donating $30 million to the bipartisan group Strong American Schools, the billionaire is hoping to make education a central matter in the 2008 election. With Bill’s $30 million and another $30 million to its name, the Strong American Schools “Ed in ‘08” effort is hoping to draw some attention, regardless of victorious party.

"Ed in ’08 " hopes that the future president will work to increase teacher salaries, extend school days (I probably lost some of you there) and decrease dropout rates. In addition to helping primary and secondary school students and educators, "Ed in '08 " will help students complete a college education. A total of $50,000 in college scholarships will be given away by Strong American Schools to help students in need of financial aid.

This is not the first donation Gates has made to educational efforts. His Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given away more than $3.6 billion in education grants. That doesn't take into account the billions it contributed to global development and health improvement efforts. Bill Gates scholarships have provided students across the nation with the money they needed to receive a postsecondary education.

For additional information about scholarships offered by Bill Gates and other providers, you can conduct a free college scholarship at Scholarships.com.

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Top Universities Scramble to Keep up with Harvard's Financial Aid Package

January 10, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

When word spread that Harvard would increase financial aid to both the middle and upper classes, tensions boiled at schools across the country. It was bad enough that Harvard attracted the best and the brightest from every nook and cranny—now they would be inexpensive too. Some guys have all the luck.

To be fair, Duke did beat Harvard in the financial aid race by being the first to announce their plan to pour an extra $13 million into the financial aid program, but their promise was simply not as impressive as the one offered by Harvard. When Duke capped their student loans to prevent debt, Harvard eliminated loans altogether—and replaced them with scholarships.

After Duke announced that parental contributions would no longer be expected from families who made less than $60,000, Harvard (which had already established that policy in 2006), announced that families making between $60,000 and $120,000 would only be required to contribute 0-10 percent of their income. Those making between $120,000 and $180,000 would only have to pay 10 percent of it. 

Shortly thereafter, Stanford jumped on the bandwagon by saying that they too would do more to make their school affordable. According to The Stafford Daily, the school made plans to increase their need-based aid by 15.2 percent. The change would save the average parent $2,000 each year.

The trickle down effect also influenced other schools. Among those with New Year’s resolutions involving financial aid boosts are the University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, Haverford and Swarthmore.

Of course, not everyone gets to benefit. It’s easy to be a philanthropist when you have large endowments in the bank, which not all schools can boast. Students at colleges and universities with less money or larger student bodies were not as satisfied with their financial aid offices.  According to The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor would not only leave their policies as they are, they would continue—like many other colleges—to raise their prices. So much for that financial aid revolution we've all been waiting for.

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Bush Calls on Congress to Cut Earmarks

January 29, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Bush called on Congress to cut down on bill earmarking. Earmarks, often attached to spending bills at the last minute, have been used to designate money to benefit legislators' personal interests. Local and state projects that may not have otherwise been funded are often successfully snuck into an earmark and financed.

Sometimes used as “paybacks” for organizations that donate money to a legislator’s campaign, earmarks have received negative attention in the press. However, numerous colleges and universities have also been able to profit from them. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, $2 billion for research, construction and school projects was earmarked for colleges and universities in 2003. Criticizing the practice, President Bush stated that most earmarks don’t even make it to the floor of the House or Senate saying, “You didn’t vote them into law. I didn’t sign them into law.”

If earmarking is curbed, some schools may see a decline in their budgets, and will have to look elsewhere for additional funding. But because Mr. Bush was referring to the 2009 budget, legislators still have the option of bypassing a veto by delaying approval of the spending bill.

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Lottery Scholarships

January 25, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Your shot at winning the lottery is not particularly high, but playing is so easy that it’s simply irresistible. Though students should not hinge their entire financial futures on luck alone, lottery scholarships are a fun and easy way to supplement one's scholarship search. Plus, someone has to win. Maybe it'll be you. But before you go lottery crazy, familiarize yourself with the options, and get the facts on lottery scholarships and lottery-funded scholarships (there is a difference).

Lottery Scholarships: There are two kinds of lottery scholarships, ones that are state-sponsored and ones that are sponsored by outside providers, usually businesses. Company-funded lottery scholarships, also known as sweepstakes, pretty much embody what comes to mind when one hears the word “lottery”. Most people are eligible, and the application process is pretty easy; sometimes contact information is the only requirement. Unlike regular lotteries, you don’t have to pay to play. If paying is a requirement, don’t apply; more than enough charge-free awards are available. 

Once the entries are in and the lottery deadline passes, the sponsoring company will choose an applicant at random—think computer generations rather than spinning spheres with name ballots. If you’re wearing your lucky socks on selection day, you just might win.

Lottery-Funded Scholarships: Another type of lottery scholarship is the state-sponsored, lottery-funded one. These scholarship prizes are paid for by the big, jackpot of $50 million, kinds of lotteries. A number of states have adopted programs wherein a portion of the revenues received from lottery tickets are used for education programs (both scholarships and school contributions).  Not all states participate yet, but it’s quite possible that more will jump on the bandwagon. Tennessee, New Mexico, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, Missouri and West Virginia are among those sponsoring lottery-funded scholarship programs.

State eligibility requirements for lottery-funded scholarships vary greatly from state to state, with some states having stricter regulations than others. Usually, students who apply for lottery-funded state scholarships must at the very least attend a high school and college within the state of the program.

Students who apply for certain lottery-funded scholarships must also meet or exceed a particular GPA or standardized test score before applying. For example, only students with a GPA of at least 2.75 may apply for the merit-based Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. 

Other states make financial need a requirement. This may partially ease the minds of people who have voiced concerns about lottery-funded scholarships taking from the poor and giving to the middle classes. According to professor of economics Mary O. Borg, a disproportionately large portion of lottery tickets are purchased by low-income customers. These winning are then redistributed largely to middle class students at the expense of the poor.

To find lottery and sweepstake scholarships you may be eligible to receive, conduct a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.  You can also check out our Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes contest for a chance to win $1,000 towards your college education!

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Court Rejects Protests of Federal Aid Witholdings for Drug Offenders

April 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

After an appeal by the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international grassroots network of students concerned about the impact drug abuse has had on communities, the court has once again rejected the claim that withholding federal student aid from drug offenders is unconstitutional.

According to the 1998 Higher Education Act, students who have been convicted for having, for the first time, used drugs are to be denied federal college funding, including free aid in the form of Pell Grants, from the government for one year. The length increases to two years for a second conviction and becomes permanent after the third. For those convicted of selling drugs, the punishment is a two-year federal aid loss or, for two offenses, the permanent withholding of federal aid.

The SSDPF has complained that the double jeopardy law, one which prevents an individual from being tried twice for the same offense, makes such procedures illegal. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Judge Kornmann disagreed with the claim stating that the law served legitimate federal interests by minimizing college drug use and preventing taxpayers from having to fund the education of drug users or sellers.

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College News , FAFSA , Financial Aid



Mixed Reviews for Presidential Budget

February 5, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

On February 4th, President Bush unveiled his much criticized national budget to a frustrated Congress. Members of both parties found fault with the president for his proposal to increase funding for the military at the expense of Medicare. According to the Los Angeles Times, President Bush’s proposal could slow the growth of Medicare programs by nearly $208 billion over the next five years.

The budget for the Department of Education, on the other hand, was received with mixed reviews.  A firm advocate of scientific research, the president proposed that funds for physical-science research, much of which would go to colleges and universities, increase in the upcoming year.

While physical scientists cheered in one corner, medical researchers jeered in the other. Once again, The National Institute of Health (NIH), the primary government agency responsible for health-related research, was upset with the president's funding proposal.

After his decision to veto a bill that would increase NIH funding in November, the president's budget did not come as much of a surprise. Upon hearing last year's proposal, Bush claimed that Congress was, "acting like a teenager with a new credit card." Ironically, if Bush's budget is approved, skyrocketing national debt is expected. The current U.S. debt could more than double over the next two years if Congress chooses to accept the budget. More likely, the proposal will be stalled until President Bush leaves office.

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Financial Aid Course a Requirement for Allegany Students

February 15, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Beginning in 2012, high school seniors attending schools in Allegany County, Maryland will have new graduation requirements--financial literacy classes. According to the Associated Press, these half-credit courses will teach students about maximizing earning potential, making the best of finances and maintaining good credit scores.

With college rates rising at rates that exceed inflation, students across the country are facing financial difficulties. The crises in mortgage and student loan industries have government officials scrambling to guard students against debt that could haunt them for years.

About two-thirds of undergraduate students borrow money for college and graduate with an average debt of $19,000. Student loans frequently outweigh a graduate’s earning potential, and many find themselves struggling just to make ends meet. What initially seems like a worthwhile investment frequently becomes an overwhelming burden for a growing number of students.

To avoid debt, students should educate themselves about their financial aid options. High school students can take advantage of the free college scholarship and grant information available to them at Scholarships.com. When conducting a college search, students should also keep in mind their current financial standing. If they cannot realistically afford their school of choice, runners-up should be considered.

Like students of Allegany County, those attending other high schools may be able to avoid student loans by completing a free college scholarship search. Regardless of GPA, athletic achievement or community involvement, students can find awards they may be eligible to receive. 

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