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Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)

June 12, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 created two new grant opportunities for college students—the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART). Though these grants have already been in effect for two years, few students know about them. Below you will find information about the Academic Competitiveness Grant. For details concerning the SMART Grant, you may visit the Scholarships.com Blog or the Federal Student Financial Aid for College Section.

Academic Competitiveness Grant Overview

The Academic Competitiveness Grant is available to undergraduate students who are US citizens and who are enrolled in their first or second academic year at a two or four-year degree-granting institution. This grant is called competitive for a reason. To receive the award, students must have demonstrated their academic potential by having completed, successfully, a difficult program of study during high school. Those who are found to be eligible during their sophomore year of college must also maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

What one considers competitive can be a matter of option, but the Department of Education has set up some guidelines. Students who have completed a minimum of two AP or IB courses and those who have participated in the State Scholars Initiative or a similar program may be eligible for the grant. Students who meet the eligibility requirements can receive up to $750 for their first year of study and up to $1,300 for their second year of study.

Those interested in receiving the grant will have to submit a FAFSA. (Financial need is one component.) The Student Aid Report, a summary of answers reported on the FAFSA, will indicate whether a student is eligible to answer further ACG questions. If an ACG is granted, it will be awarded as a supplement to the Pell Grant money received by the student.

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Posted Under:

College Grants , FAFSA , Financial Aid



Student Loan Guaranty Agencies

June 13, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Students who enter into loan agreements can be bombarded with unfamiliar terms and overwhelming agreements. The meaning of a student lender is obvious enough--it's the entity in charge of borrowing money--but the role a guaranty agency plays in the student lending process is a bit less obvious. The information below will give you a better idea of how guaranty agencies work, and how their work affects you.

What are guaranty agencies?

Guaranty agencies are state or private non-profit organizations in charge of administrating the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, one that subsidizes participating student lenders. Because lenders who participate in the FFEL program receive subsidies from the government, they must abide by certain rules. (e.g. they cannot charge an interest rate higher than that set each year by the government.) In return, the government agrees to insure them through one of the 35 existing guaranty agencies. If an individual defaults on a student loan, a guaranty agency will pay the student lender most of the remaining loan balance.

How do guaranty agencies affect me?

Students who enter into a loan agreement with an FFEL lender agree to pay their guaranty agency a maximum 1% default fee (also known as a guaranty fee) to cover insurance costs.  Guaranty agencies with a sufficiently large reserve may choose to lower or eliminate the student default fee. Some may also reduce fees for students who sign up for direct bank withdrawal or for those who make a certain number of on-time payments.

If a guaranty agency is forced to repay a student lender for a student's loan default, they are also responsible for collecting the outstanding balance. Students who are unable to fulfill their borrowing responsibilities due to certain circumstances may be eligible to have their loans discharged (forgiven).

For additional information about the guaranty agency serving your state, you may contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID or visit the Department of Education website.

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Posted Under:

FAFSA , Financial Aid , Student Loans



Scholarships.com College Engineering Scholarship

June 16, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

As a means of promoting diversity and developing talent, Scholarships.com has created a new set of scholarships for high school students and undergraduate students. The “Fund Your Future” Area of Study College Scholarship consists of thirteen $1,000 prizes to be granted to students who pursue a postsecondary education in one of thirteen designated fields and 185 related majors.

Among them is the Scholarships.com Engineering Scholarship, an award for students who plan to or are already majoring in engineering and related areas of study. To ensure that current and future engineering students receive the funds they need to afford a quality education, we have created a scholarship especially for them.

If you’re interested in applying for the Scholarships.com College Engineering Scholarship, respond to the following question in 250 to 350 words (entries that fall outside of this word range will be disqualified):

“What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in engineering?”

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be a registered Scholarships.com user. Creating an account is simple and free of charge. 2. Applicant must be a US citizen 3. Applicant must be undergraduate student or a high school senior who plans to enroll in a college or university in the coming fall 4. Applicant must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors:

• Chemical Engineering • Civil Engineering • Concrete Engineering • Electrical Engineering • Engineering • Engineering Management • Environmental Engineering • Fire Protection Engineering • Mechanical Engineering • Mining Engineering • Railway Engineering

Deadline:

September 30, 2008

Required Material:

A 250 to 350 word response to the following question: “What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in engineering?”

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship list. 

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Financial Aid Available to Graduate School Students

June 17, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The government recognizes the dire financial circumstances of numerous undergraduate students, and slowly, steps are being taken to change things for the better. Three new federal grants have been created within the past two years, the maximum Pell Grant award has risen and interest rates on undergraduate Federal Stafford Loans will begin their gradual descent this fall. But…where does that leave graduate school students?

According the Council of Graduate Schools, the number of students seeking master’s and doctoral degrees is expected to rise by 12% between 2006 and 2014, and many of these students will need financial aid. While certain aid does not apply to graduate school students, plenty of assistance is available to those who know where to look. Here are just a few options:

Federal Aid Unfortunately, graduate school students are not eligible to receive federal grants, but federal aid in the form of federal work study and low-rate student loans (Stafford and PLUS) are still an option. And while the recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act will not lower loan interest rates for graduate school students, those who borrowed before July 1, 2006 will see a substantial drop in their bill. Variable interest rates on federal loans will decrease from 7.22%to 4.21 % this year.

Scholarships and Grants Numerous scholarships and non-federal grants are not just available to graduate school students, they are restricted to them. Companies and organizations frequently offer aid to graduate school students who display an interest in work that aligns with their goals. After all, these scholars can be the future innovators of their industry. To find scholarships you may be eligible to receive based on your year in school or major of interest, try conducting a free college scholarship search.

Employer Assistance Students who commit to working for a certain employer may be lucky enough to receive full or partial compensation for an additional degree. This is often the case with hospital staff, educators and employees who could help their companies profit through new skills and certifications.

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House of Representatives, White House Agree on College GI Bill

June 19, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The House of Representatives plans to vote today on the latest version of the GI Bill, a law aimed at increasing the college financial aid awarded to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Associated Press stated that Congress and the White House have reached an agreement on the bill's provisions, and that approval by the House and the President is expected.

Initially, the members of the House expressed disapproval of a major provision that would pay for not only veteran needs, but also for the war in Iraq. Rather than pass both portions of the bill as was done by the Senate--based on its version--the House ignored the Iraq allocation and agreed to set money aside for veterans pursuing a college education.

When the bill came back to the House for revision, a new agreement was settled upon, and approval of Bush’s request for an additional $162 billion to pay for the wars is expected. As before, the House has agreed to offer veterans who participated in the war for at least three years enough money to cover the costs of tuition at the most expensive college or university in their state, with additional funds to cover living expenses. The value of maximum benefits will more than double the current contribution for each veteran's college education, reported the Associated Press.

Though most agree that some additional funding should be awarded to keep up with the increasing costs of a college education, ones that are rising at rates that outpace inflation, some worry that too much was being allocated for the cause. Conservative Democrats have expressed concern that the bill could not be covered by cutting funding to other sectors, and that the bill was irresponsible considering the nation’s financial circumstances.

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True Patriot Essay Scholarship

June 23, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The True Patriot Network, publisher of “The True Patriot" pamphlet, is awarding a college scholarship to students who write the best response to the question, "What does true patriotism mean to you?" The providers of this award are dedicated to instilling in current politics the founding moral framework of America—regardless of party association---and hope to increase student involvement in politics. High school students interested in furthering their knowledge of the government, and in applying for this essay scholarship, may be eligible to win $25,000 for their postsecondary education.

Prize:

1. $25,000

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be a high school student. 2. Applicant must be residing in the US. 3. Applications must be submitted in MS Word, in 12 point type, and must be double spaced. 4. Each essay page must include a name, title and contact information.

Deadline:

September 1, 2008

Required Material:

1. An essay of no more than 1500 words answering the question, “What does true patriotism mean to you?”

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship search results.

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Scholarship Fund Established in Honor of NIU Shooting Victims

June 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

On February 14, 2008, five students were killed in a shooting at the Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. It was the fourth-worst university shooting in the history of the United States, following the Virginia Tech massacre, the University of Texas Clock Tower shooting, and the California State University massacre. As surprising and mystifying as the crime was, donors from across the country have made one thing clear—the victims will not be forgotten.

To honor those who were killed, scholarship providers large and small have pulled together $500,000 to create a scholarship for students of NIU, and more donations are expected. The new scholarship fund will be called “Forward, Together Forward,” a line from the university's Huskie Fight Song, stated the Associated Press. Nearly 1,500 donors have pitched in to establish the fund—without solicitations.

The university plans to award five scholarships each year, to be granted on the annual anniversary of the shooting. The first scholarships will be awarded on Valentines Day of 2009. According to The Northern Star, Northern University’s student newspaper, winners are expected to receive about $4,000 each and will be selected by a provost-designated scholarship board.

The new scholarship fund will help students significantly decrease the costs of their education, especially now that an increase in NIU tuition has been announced. During the 2008-2009 school year, college rates will increase by about 9.5 percent.Those who receive the scholarships will be able to both meet and exceed the increase. Further details about the award are expected in the coming months.

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Five Women Charged in Private Student Loan Scheme

June 27, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Kathy L. Hardy, her two daughters and two other associates are being charged for having allegedly taken out numerous fraudulent private student loans since 2005. The five women were accused of having received a combined sum of more than $690,000 by filling out over 70 student loan applications, reported U.S. News.

Though many of the loan applications were denied, a number of lenders, including Sallie Mae, the biggest student lender in the business, lent tens of thousands to the applicants. By using stolen Social Security numbers and the information of victims whose names resembled their own, the five women were able to slip by lender verifications.

The FBI's investigation into the matter began when one of the victims complained that someone had taken out a loan under her name. Upon further investigation, it was found that the women alleged to have been at fault had stolen numerous identities—including one that belong to a deceased person—to collect money.

The case raised concerns that the stealing of identities to obtain private student loans may be too simple. Because private student loans are easier to obtain than Federal Stafford and Perkins Loans, and because private student loans are not sent directly to colleges and universities, the potential for fraud may be considerable.

To minimize the chance that similar problems will arise in the future, a congressional provision that would force student lenders to forward loans directly to schools is being considered.  The suggestion has received mixed reviews from lenders who, one hand, would like to eliminate the possibility of fraud, and, on the other, want to facilitate the borrowing process for potential customers.

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Bush Approves College Financial Aid Bill for Veterans

July 1, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Despite an initial House split over some of the bill’s provisions—an incident which nearly doomed approval by the House—an agreement on the veteran college aid bill was reached by both Congress and the President. On June 30, President Bush signed into law the bill which would, among other things, provide veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars additional assistance in affording a college education.

The new law—similar in content to the WWII GI Bill—will call for an increase in the college financial aid  awarded to troops who have served in either war for a minimum of three years. Sufficient assistance to pay for the most expensive public college or university in their respective states will be available to the veterans.  Those who are eligible will also receive a monthly stipend to offset housing costs and other college-related expenditures.

The legislation will more than double the federal funding veterans previously received for a postsecondary education. Even those who are not currently planning for college can benefit as the money may be transferred to a veteran's child or spouse. 

Perhaps the more controversial part of the bill was that which allocated $162 billion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to ABC News, the new funds would bring the total amount approved for war expenditures to about $850 billion over the last five years. In reference to the bill, President Bush stated that, "Our nation has no greater responsibility than to support our men in women in uniform - especially because we're at war."

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Using Tuition Installment Plans to Pay for School

July 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

A college education is an expensive purchase. It’s certainly an investment, but an expensive one nonetheless. Many students are forced to take out thousands in student loans to afford college, but some are so close to  paying for school that accumulating college debt on account of minor need would be a shame.

For many such students, tuition installment plans may be a good option. Certain colleges and universities allow students to split up their semester or trimester payments into monthly installments. They pair up with one or more tuition installment plan companies which administer the services, and make the option of enrolling available to those who are interested.

Students and parents who receive steady paychecks and those awaiting college scholarship or grant awards may benefit from the tuition installment plan option. Such plans are interest free, but, unfortunately, they are not cost free. Individuals who use tuition installment plans usually have to pay administering companies annual enrollment fees or finance charges, ones that usually average between $30 and $60. Certain participating colleges may also ask that those enrolled pay a large portion of their college tuition and fees up front.

Students considering a tuition installment plan should contact their college financial aid office to find out if the plan is available and, if so, what fees are involved.

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