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Draft of House Stimulus Package Revealed

January 16, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

While it's still a long way from becoming law, the first published draft of the economic stimulus legislation created by the House of Representatives includes billions of dollars for higher education, including several provisions designed to make paying for school easier.  The bill still has to be approved by both the House and the Senate (which is drafting its own stimulus legislation) then signed by the President, so it remains to be seen how many of the following appropriations will make it into the final version of the stimulus package.

The stimulus bill would increase funding to several federal student financial aid programs, as well as providing emergency funds to states to prevent further drastic budget cuts, and designating money to help colleges, especially ones affected by disasters, make needed improvements and repairs.  If the bill is passed, federal work-study will receive a boost in funding, as will Pell Grants, eliminating a projected budget shortfall for the program.  Unsubsidized Stafford Loans will increase by $2,000 per year, bringing the loan limit to $7,500 or more for undergraduate students.  The maximum Pell Grant award will also increase to $5,350.  In addition, lender subsidies will also increase, hopefully enticing more banks to remain in the FFEL program.  The Hope tax credit and a provision that allowed families to deduct up to $4,000 in educational expenses will also be combined into a new $2,500 tax credit, through which families with too little income to file taxes could still receive $1,000.

As Congress hammers out the details of the stimulus bill in coming weeks, these numbers will likely change.  A more detailed breakdown of these and other proposals affecting colleges and universities is available from Inside Higher Ed.

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Congress Holds Hearing on Lender Subsidies

May 22, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Yesterday, Congress held a hearing to begin the process of determining the fate of the Federal Family Education Loan Program, the bank-based federal student loan program that President Obama has proposed eliminating in the 2010 federal budget. Voices from both sides of the debate chimed in, with one clear theme emerging: in 2010, student loans are definitely going to change. The questions at this point are to what extent federal student lending will change and whether the banks currently involved in FFEL will still have a place in the new system.

The Obama administration proposes switching all federal Stafford and PLUS loans to the federal Direct Loans program, then using the savings from eliminating lender subsidies to increase Federal Pell Grants and make funding mandatory, while also greatly expanding the federal Perkins Loan program and spending more on college completion. Opponents of this plan, primarily consisting of FFEL lenders and representatives of schools that participate in FFEL, have suggested alternatives that would restructure student lending, but still leave a place for lenders to service the loans. Not one witness at the hearing advocated keeping the system as it is, though, and it seems that a shakeup in student lending is inevitable. Hopefully, this will result in more available financial aid for students.  Inside Higher Ed has more information on the hearing.

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Scholarships You Can Still Win This Summer

June 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As we mentioned yesterday, the 2008-2009 school year is winding down, and people are preparing to flip over to a new academic calendar and a new college application cycle.  However, that doesn't mean that students still seeking admission or financial aid for 2009-2010 are completely out of luck.  There are still colleges and scholarships accepting applications right now.  In fact, there are some substantial scholarship awards that you can still win this summer, and to prove it, we're listing a few of them below.  To learn more about these awards and others with upcoming deadlines, you can do a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com.

HANDS Essay Contest

Hands Along the Nile is accepting applications until July 4 for its $5,000 scholarship essay contest. To apply, students are asked to compose an essay of no more than 2,500 words in response to the question, "How is community development in the Middle East important to the U.S.? Why is it particularly crucial to focus on Egypt?" This scholarship is open to high school seniors and full-time undergraduate and graduate students at colleges in the United States.

Blade Your Ride Scholarship Program

Through June 30, current undergraduate and graduate students who are passionate about the environment are invited to create a video webcast for a chance to win up to $9,000 towards their college education.  Videos should focus on the global climate crisis and creativity is encouraged.  Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA and must be attending college in the United States, but citizenship is not required.

SPENDonLIFE Credit Challenged Scholarship

High school and college students who have been declined for student loans due to the credit crunch have until June 15 to apply for a scholarship of up to $5,000 to help cover their college costs.  To apply, students are asked to write a 500-word essay describing the impact of the economic downturn on their lives. This contest is open to U.S. residents between the ages of 17 and 25.

The Calm-a-Sutra of Tea $15,000 Scholarship Competition

The Tea Council of the USA is looking for videos about the health benefits of tea, and you have until August 2 to create one.  Applicants ages 16 and older who are legal residents of the United States or Puerto Rico are invited to upload a video about tea to YouTube, then share the link with the Tea Council.  One winner will receive a $15,000 college scholarship.

Scholarships.com College Scholarships

Scholarships.com is also accepting applications for three of our scholarship awards.  For a chance to win $1,000, you can apply for the Resolve to Evolve Essay contest, the College Culinary Arts Scholarship, or the College Design Scholarship.  Other Scholarships.com college scholarships are available throughout the year, as well.

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Eight Chicago Students Win New Full-Tuition Scholarship

June 9, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Roosevelt University in Chicago has just awarded its first batch of full-tuition scholarships to students graduating from Social Justice High School, a school on the city's southwest side.  Eight graduates from Social Justice High School earned four-year scholarships, each worth more than $80,000, for earning good grades and doing well on the ACT.

The program was announced in 2006 to give low-income students at a predominately Hispanic high school incentive to succeed in high school and go on to college.  To qualify, students must earn at least a 20 on the ACT and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.  The scholarships cover up to the full cost of tuition at Roosevelt for four years, minus other aid.  In addition, the students will also receive housing allowances of $11,000 per year to allow them to live in the Roosevelt University dorms downtown.

Winning scholarships can hold many benefits for students beyond just financial ones.  The Roosevelt University scholarships at Social Justice High School encourage students not to give up on academics and to push themselves in school.  Several of the recipients retook the ACT or put in extra effort on their coursework in order to qualify for the scholarship.  Winning a scholarship can also motivate students to be more successful in college, according to research into benefits of scholarships.

The Chicago Sun-Times has more information on the Roosevelt University scholarship porgram. This is just one of many generous local scholarships out there.  To learn about other scholarship opportunities, you can conduct a free college scholarship search.

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DeVry Stimulus Scholarship Program Offers 500 Scholarships

June 10, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

DeVry has announced that it will be awarding 500 scholarships to students attending its seven colleges: DeVry University, Keller Graduate School of Management, Ross University, Chamberlain College of Nursing, Apollo College, Western Career College, and Fanor.  Scholarships will be awarded to adult students who are starting college or returning to college after an absence this fall.  The announcement is timed to celebrate the addition of DeVry, Inc. to the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index this week.

The awards have been dubbed "stimulus scholarships" and will be targeted to displaced workers who are returning to school for retraining.  To qualify, applicants must have lost their jobs in the last 12 months and who are starting a course at one of DeVry's schools.  DeVry will begin accepting applications for the scholarship on July 1.

This scholarship adds to the list of options returning students have if they've been laid off from their jobs.  A number of community colleges are offering local scholarships to displaced workers in their communities, in some cases waiving tuition entirely.  Other colleges and scholarship providers are also ramping up financial aid for those affected by the economic downturn, as well.  A free college scholarship search can help you find even more ways to pay for school.

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Culinary Arts Scholarships Awarded in Cooking Competition

June 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Aspiring chefs in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other locations across the country recently received the chance to compete for a wide range of culinary arts scholarships through the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), a non-profit organization that helps underserved students prepare for careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry.  The annual C-CAP scholarship contest awards scholarships of up to the full amount of tuition at leading culinary schools to students who have participated in their programs.

A story in The Los Angeles Times followed students through the final round of the C-CAP competition, as well as the scholarship awards banquet, where nearly $590,000 was awarded, including several scholarships over $50,000.  To be accepted into the C-CAP scholarship competition, students must be 21 or younger and enrolled in a culinary arts course at a C-CAP school, and must have completed at least one culinary arts course.  Students complete a scholarship application that includes an essay component and two letters of recommendation.  They then compete in a preliminary cooking competition. Winners advance to the finals, which include another cooking contest and a scholarship interview.

Culinary arts can lead to a fulfilling career, but programs can be expensive and it can be difficult to find enough financial aid.  This and other culinary arts scholarships can help students follow their passion and enter careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry with minimal debt.  To find out about the C-CAP scholarship, you can visit their website, and to find other culinary arts scholarships, you can do a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.

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More College Students Taking Summer Classes

June 12, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Early reports suggest that summer enrollment is up at colleges across the country, likely due at least in part to the recession.  Since summer jobs are harder to find and some summer internships have also been taken off the table, more students are looking to summer classes as a way to stay productive between spring and fall semesters.  Dwindling college funds and other economic difficulties may also be pushing students to try to finish college as quickly and cheaply as possible.  Most state colleges and community colleges offer summer classes, as well as many private schools.

Summer classes are a great way to keep yourself on track for graduation, as well as to get required courses out of the way as quickly as possible.  While more time might be spent in the classroom at once, summer terms are shorter than regular semesters, so that class you've been dreading won't seem to drag on quite as much.  Summer classes often come with smaller class sizes and more support from the instructor, in addition to longer class times, so they can also be a good way to master subjects that might otherwise be a struggle.

One problem that comes with summer enrollment is finding financial aid, however.  Often, schools award fewer summer scholarships and depending on the school's approach to summer aid awards, students may have already used up their federal aid for the academic year, or may have to reduce the amount they receive the following fall and spring in order to pay for summer.  Some schools are working to make it easier to pay for school in the summer, though, as a piece in Inside Higher Ed reports.  Several have instituted summer payment plans similar to those available during the regular academic year, while others are offering tuition discounts and summer scholarship awards.  You may also be able to apply other college scholarships towards your summer tuition, or even still win scholarships this summer.

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Appealing Your Financial Aid Award

June 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

With unemployment continuing to rise, college savings funds still performing poorly, and some states being forced to make cuts to grant and scholarship programs, many students are likely to be facing a very different financial situation when it comes to paying for college in 2009, as opposed to 2008.  Students who have experienced a significant change in their financial circumstances since completing the FAFSA, such as a loss of income and savings, can appeal to their college's financial aid office for a chance at more need-based college scholarships and grants.

Yesterday, U.S. News ran an excellent article by Kim Clark detailing the do's and don't's of appealing your student financial aid award, according to college financial aid administrators.  According to Clark, appeals are up this year and are more likely to be granted, as administrators take into account how drastically the financial landscape has changed.  If you are thinking of requesting a professional judgment appeal, here are some things you should do: 

     
  • Send a letter detailing changes in your circumstances and why you need more aid.
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  • Don't make demands for grants, but do explain how much help you need.
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  • Provide documentation, including pay stubs, medical bills, tax forms, or whatever helps show how things have changed since your 2008 tax return.
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  • Apply as early as possible.  While many colleges are increasing financial aid offerings, much aid is still first come, first serve.
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  • Write the letter yourself or have your parent write it if you are a dependent student and aren't comfortable doing it yourself.
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  • Tell the truth and don't lie or embellish--if caught, you could be fined or even jailed.
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 For more tips, you can read the entire article here.  If your circumstances have changed and you need more money for college, go beyond just requesting more aid from your school.  Update your Scholarships.com profile and do a scholarship search, paying attention to any new need-based scholarships and grants that may come up.  You could be eligible for more money than what is offered by your school, your state, and the federal government.

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Financial Aid Changes Happening July 1

June 30, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

While it falls in the middle of summer on most academic calendars, July 1 marks an important date for financial aid each year.  On July 1, the Education Department switches from the 2008-2009 academic year to the 2009-2010 one, and new federal rules for financial aid go into effect. This means new loan consolidation and repayment options, lower interest rates on some federal student loans, among other changes for students receiving federal student financial aid.

One big change you likely already know about if you have applied for financial aid for fall is that Pell grants are going up from a maximum of $4,731 for 2008-2009 to a maximum of $5,350 for 2009-2010.  This change has already been widely publicized and is already reflected on your financial aid award letter.

Changes for current undergraduate students that you may not already know about include lower interest rates and lower loan fees on federal Stafford loans.  The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate students will drop from 6.0 percent to 5.6 percent on July first.  Rates will not change for unsubsidized loans, graduate students, or federal PLUS loans.  The upfront loan fees on all Stafford loans will fall from 2 percent to 1.5 percent. Students who have older Stafford loans or PLUS loans with variable interest rates will also see lower interest rates as of July 1, provided they have not already consolidated their loans.

Those who are considering loan consolidation will see one of the biggest changes on July 1, with the unveiling of a new consolidation program through the federal Direct Loans program.  It will allow students to participate in an income-based repayment plan that will forgive any outstanding debt after 25 years.  Payments will be capped at 15 percent of whatever you earn above 150 percent of the federal poverty level and no payments will be required if your earnings fall below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

Finally, since July 1 marks the start of the new academic year for financial aid, today is the last day to file a 2008-2009 FAFSA.  If you are planning to enroll in summer courses and have not yet applied for aid, you may want to check with your school to see whether summer is counted as part of 2008-2009 or 2009-2010 for financial aid purposes.  If your school counts summer as part of the previous academic year and you have not yet filed a FAFSA, you will want to do so right now.

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Education Secretary Duncan Proposes Changes to FAFSA

June 24, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As part of his campaign's focus on education, President Obama pledged his administration would address issues of the financial aid application process, such as the length and complexity of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has previewed some of the administration's proposed changes, with a formal announcement expected today. While not as sweeping as the two-page FAFSA EZ Congress already mandated when renewing the Higher Education Act last year, these changes are still a step towards simpler financial aid applications.

Changes will be rolled out in phases, with the first phase being a smarter FAFSA on the Web.  Rather than forcing students to read fine print to determine whether they need to provide information requested by each question, as of next January, the application will use the information students have provided to determine which questions they need to answer.  Students with independent status will not be shown the questions about parental income and low-income students will not be shown certain questions about assets that they don't need to complete.  This is a fairly simple step to save time and hassle, and eliminate some of the barriers that keep students most likely to be eligible for federal grant programs from applying.

A pilot program has also been initaited to test the feasibility of allowing students to access their tax information online to complete the FAFSA.  If successful, it could be expanded to all users, saving headaches involved in finding their 1040s, W2s and related forms, then scouring each for the correct lines to copy into the FAFSA.

Duncan also stated that the administration will seek permission from Congress to begin taking steps that could eventually result in eliminating the FAFSA entirely and relying solely on tax information to apply for federal student financial aid.  While not explicitly stated by Duncan, it could be an end result of his request to Congress to remove questions from the FAFSA that do not pertain to information reported to the IRS on a student's (or their parents') 1040.  Once the complicated need analysis formula of the FAFSA has been set aside in favor of this simplified process, the idea of allowing students to apply for aid by checking a box on their tax return seems almost within reach.

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