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by Susan Dutca

The class of 2015 had the largest student loan debt in history and while some students may side hustle to cover their tuition bill, one student has opted to skip the grind and instead, hustle the streets to help pay for her college education.

Star student Emily Stutz wasn't offered the necessary financial aid to attend college, even after she appealed to all of the eight schools to which she was accepted. Her parents, who earn a combined $155,000 as special education teachers, aren't able to "come up with $20,000-$30,000 a year," according to Stutz. So she created a GoFundMe account and panhandled outside a local Target over the weekend, holding a sign that read "H.S. Senior. No $ for College. Anything helps." So far, Stutz has raised over $24,000 via her GoFundMe page, which would cover one year's tuition at a private college - so she considered staying home and going to the University of Massachusetts which costs only $13,500 a year.

While she had many sympathizers, some drivers told her to get a job. Though she has a 4.0 GPA, works two jobs, has been accepted to all eight to which she applied, she claims, "even the smaller cost [of attending college] was unattainable." Most importantly, Stutz wanted to relay her message on the issue of student loan debt and college unaffordability, stating "It's such a big issue with the presidential election...people take out these huge loans and have to pay back like a mortgage on their education."

Merit scholarships at private institutions aren't enough to lessen the burden of the tuition price tag, according to Stutz. While we were unable to discover to which schools Miss Lutz applied, perhaps a community college would be an affordable option. The money she has raised via GoFundMe so far would likely pay for all or most of her undergraduate studies if she spent the first two years at one of the dozens of community colleges in Massachusetts, most of which are around $4,000 per year. There are also ample opportunities out there for students who take the time to search and apply for scholarships. Many high school students start searching for scholarships when they are a sophomore or junior in high school, which is a great idea as well, rather than relying on the colleges to which you apply for all of your financial aid. Applying for more than one scholarship also increases your chances of earning more money towards your college education. Just read the Success Stories of some of our users and see how they made their post-secondary education affordable and occasionally even free.

In your opinion, do you think panhandling for college funds is the best option? Would you do it? What other options would you consider pursuing? Leave us your thoughtful comments below.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

What happens when half a million students are forced to take zero credit, remedial college courses? Parents and students must pay roughly $1.5 million and borrow $350 billion extra a year - even if 74 percent of those students end up delaying college or dropping out. Not only does it break the bank for low-income families, but yes, the affluent families as well. Who's to blame for college unpreparedness?

According to a new report by researchers at Education Reform Now, "American families across all income levels are spending billions each year in extra college costs." Though the common perception is that remedial courses are only available for low-income students or community colleges, it extends to middle, upper-middle, high-income, and many colleges of well. In particular, some of the most affluent students at private nonprofit four-year colleges (the top 20 percent) are taking more remedial courses than students from the bottom 20 percent of national family incomes. Statistics show that over $12,000 extra has been spent by unprepared students from the top income quintile (incomes over $113,440) attending private nonprofit institutions. On average, about $3,000 is paid extra, and $1,000 borrowed to complete remedial courses. Additionally, unprepared students are more likely to delay completing college - or simply drop out. The issue of college unpreparedness is not limited to minority or low-income students, but it penetrates all income levels.

But who's to blame? Researchers point to the "expansive failure of our K-12 education system" and recommend giving secondary assessment when accessing college readiness. Some believe that we are focusing on the wrong topics and should, for example, teach statistics and not algebra since it will be more practical and useful post-college. Others blame the way in which students are evaluated through the "traditional method of scoring." Proponents of the Common Core State Standards, including President Obama and even some conservative allies believe that the "common-sense logic" is premised on the skills necessary to successfully participate and compete in the 21st-century economy and global market. Some schools have already addressed the issue by implementing a "corequisite remediation" model which allows students to take for-credit courses while being enrolled in a "learning support class to help them master the material."

Should both high schools and students be held accountable for their college readiness? Remedial courses are depleting students' financial aid and savings, and have them asking professors whether they know of any scholarships that are intended to help students who have run out of financial aid. You can count on ample scholarship opportunities here at Scholarships.com to leave you financially prepared for college costs. From easy scholarships where you hardly have to do anything to essay scholarships, you have the chance to help fund your higher education dreams.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Talk is Cheap. College Isn't.

New Policy to Eliminate Pell Grants, Federal Loans, Tuition Tax Credits

Feb 23, 2016

by Susan Dutca

Talk is cheap when it comes to politicians' promises, but one thing that remains expensive is a college education. From vetoing a scholarships bill that would free up $721 million for community colleges and scholarships for low-income students, to killing the Senate Bill 180 which would require the New Mexico Lottery to provide $41 million to a college scholarships fund there has been no resolution to the budget stalemate since July 1, 2015. New America Higher Education has one resolution: out with the old, in with the new. That means removing federal loans, federal tuition vouchers, Pell grants, and tuition tax credits.

In their policy paper, "Starting from Scratch: A New Federal and State Partnership in Higher Education," New America Higher Education expressed their vision to reconstruct and repair the "broken system of financing higher education." The team plans to scrap the archaic system and replace it with a "federal-state financial partnership" where the government would dole money to states, which would go to colleges and universities - taking into account important factors such as enrolled low-income students. Students would only have to pay their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the state would be held accountable for student outcomes such graduation rates and securing employment. In addition to lowering tuition, the cost of living expenses such as room and board, transportation, and childcare costs would be lowered.

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States would have to maintain their current funding as provided in their individual budgets, match federal funding by 25 percent, and be responsible for performance and costs. There would be a bonus to states that contribute more than expected and also, a bonus for colleges who enroll more than 25 percent of low-income students. What's the catch? The plan would cost roughly $38 billion annually, and states would have to contribute an additional $17.9 billion. The existing system has left about 7 million borrowers in default with their student loans and the report claims that "going to college has left them in a much worse position than if they had never enrolled."

The partisanship disaster continues as colleges and universities haven't received "operating money from the state since July 1," according to Celeste Bott of the Chicago Tribune. The MAP grant provides up to $5,000 in financial aid to students who demonstrate need, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Some claim the scholarships bill would snag money from social service providers who provide care for the state's "most vulnerable residents," or that states simply do not have the money to spend. Governor Rauner agrees that the school funding formula needs to be changed.

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Do you support New America's Higher Education proposal? Leave your thoughtful comments below. Don't wait another day - take advantage of the available scholarships and learn more about grants and financial aid today.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

There are scholarships, grants, and fellowships that reward students based on academic, athletic, music, and other types of achievements. But now there's one that encourages students who have enrolled to drop out. The Thiel Fellowship awards $100,000 to students who want to build and create things instead of sitting in a classroom. Founded by Peter Thiel, one of Forbes' top entrepreneurs, the fellowship encourages a non-traditional alternative to a college education, and some pretty bright students have jumped on board to learn before they get an education.

Naturally, the Fellowship struck a heated national debate upon its inception. Academics tend to believe that a college education is invaluable, including Stanford's President-to-be Marc Tessier-Lavigne. He was asked about the value of a college degree versus "folks like Peter Thiel telling people not to go to college." He responded, "the complexity of the world is in such a way today that the case for a liberal arts education has never been stronger." Some Ivy League students think differently. Harvard junior Grace Xiao dropped out after receiving the fellowship and her company Kynplex is now funded by the fellowship. Xiao states that, "Federal grants are harder to get which is pushing more researchers to explore early partnerships with industry."

According to The Wall Street Journal, college graduates only recently started earning a higher income than they had over the last decade, and unemployment rates are now declining. Unemployment rates dropped from 7% in 2010 to 4.9% in 2015. The top 25% of students in highly-desirable fields earn at least $60,000 a year. How successful are the Thiel Fellows? The Foundation's website boasts that since its first class, Thiel Fellows have started more than 60 companies that are together worth over $1.1 billion, and have created hundreds of jobs in the course of tackling problems ranging from telemedicine and human longevity to solar energy and clean water."

Spread over two years, the $100,000 grant is reserved for 20-30 young adults under the age of 23 who have strong entrepreneurial ambitions. Applicants do not need to have an incorporated company, a developed product, or even a pitch deck to apply. Fellows don't need to be programmers - others have started up non-profits, launched media companies, and built hardware. The Foundation provides grant recipients with a team of programmers, salespeople, and people with "in-house expertise in engineering, marketing, and design." Fellows are able to meet some of the industry's top leaders and investors for strong networking and business opportunities. The Foundation does not take equity in fellows' companies either. So what is the catch? If you win, you have to drop out of college to accept the fellowship.

In addition to co-founding PayPal in 1998, serving as a director at Facebook, launching Palantir Technologies, funding LinkedIn, Yelp, and other tech startups, Peter Thiel is also a partner at Founders Fund and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build a Future. His motivation for starting the fellowship? "College discourages students from trying new things and leaves them in horrendous debt." Would you apply for the fellowship? If yes, create a profile today to apply for the fellowship, as well as other scholarship, grant, and fellowship opportunities.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

Comments (18)

by Susan Dutca

Is it possible to educate and correct inmates through quality, legitimate prison education? Discussions of social and educational reform, particularly within more decrepit and under-resourced environments are commonplace - but what about when it comes to educating incarcerated individuals? According to the Washington Post, proponents such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan to assist those behind bars, particularly through Federal Pell Grants, which averages less than $6,000 a year per student. Through the new Second Chance Pell Pilot program, the goal is to have college and universities providing college-level courses in prions; in turn, inmates would be more educated which would lower prison recidivism rates, as well as community and social violence. It is not clear whether the investment would create a safer society or to what extent it would be effective, and considering its funding source – tax payer dollars - individuals such as U.S. Rep. Chris Collins argue it is a waste since the Pell Grant is a "limited pot of money needed to assist struggling middle-class families."

The Department of Justice estimated in 2013 that inmates taking educational courses in prison are 43 percent less likely to be re-incarcerated. Furthermore, four to five dollars in prison costs would be saved with every invested dollar. Unshackling the stagnant, 20-year ban on offering Pell grants to state and federal prisoners could come sooner than anticipated. While numbers have not been finalized, an estimated $30 billion a year would go into the pilot program. Only inmates eligible for release may qualify, and the program is expected to last three to five years. After all Duncan claims, "America is a nation of second chances." The question is, to whose and at what cost? In your opinion, should this be on the agenda for educational and penitentiary reform?

The Pell Grant, like all other grants, does not require repayment and is renewable annually. Based on your eligibility, you may qualify for the maximum amount of $5,775. While the new pilot program has not be implemented, take advantage of free money that you may be eligible for by conducting a quick and simple search at Scholarships.com.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

Comments (47)

by Scholarships.com Staff

Under the Obama administration, the motto “work hard, play harder” is continually being redefined to “work hard, pay harder”. According to The Wall Street Journal, a new plan is being finalized that will allow millions of low-income Americans to slash their monthly student-debt bills, in turn raising taxpayer costs for the government’s mushrooming student-loan portfolio. This week the Education Department proposed to expand eligibility for the Pay As You Earn program, which sets borrowers’ monthly payments as a small share of their income.

Education Department officials report that six million more Americans will become eligible this autumn for PAYE. The program caps monthly loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, defined as the amount above 150 percent of the poverty level. Well-paid graduates and those working minimum-wage jobs will be paying equivalent proportions of their income towards their student debt. While low-income borrowers who have incurred an unusually large federal debt reap the benefits of the revised program, a majority of college graduates and taxpayers will continue to suffer.

With a current outstanding student debt of $1.2 trillion, the White House continues to give people an economic incentive not to repay a loan. Because these loans are issued regardless of the borrower’s ability to repay, opponents of PAYE say the loans fund basic living expenses with tens of thousands of borrowers consuming aid even when they’re not enrolled for courses. Universities have also taken advantage of the flawed program, offering to pay student’s monthly bills under PAYE while simultaneously raising tuitions. The loans are turning into six-figure grants, debts the taxpayers incur.

Is the Obama Administration setting a double standard, promoting income equality, yet essentially paying young people not to pursue higher incomes? Is PAYE a program that allows those enrolled to take advantage of the system, while punishing those who work hard for their money?

Working after high school IS NOT getting you a financial jump on your college peers. You are instead creating self-inflicted wounds to your livelihood when you could be one of the six million new applicants prospering from Obama Hoods thievery. It makes absolutely no sense not to apply for financial aid with curriculums that allow you to maintain a job, programs that ease (or even lift) the burden of financial debt, and give you the opportunity to earn a degree to fulfill your childhood dreams! No individuals of any race, age, gender, or income class have an excuse to not get their degree, seeing expert assistance is as quick as completing your Scholarship.com profile.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

Comments (10)

What’s in a Decimal Point?

Online FAFSA Error Makes Low-Income Filers Look Like Millionaires

Jul 7, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a decimal point could make a world of difference: An update to this year’s FAFSA has cost some low-income filers a chance at some serious federal student aid.

For the 2014-15 FAFSA, the government expanded several income and asset fields in the online form to accommodate higher incomes. Herein lies the problem: Some lower-income filers are missing the .00 outside the box and entering cents into the text field. And when the do that, an income of $28,532.79, for example, is converted into $2,853,279. Big mistake. Huge. If the error isn't caught or corrected on individual forms, the filers could lose out on Pell Grants or other need-based student aid. According to Jeff Baker, policy liaison at the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, the department has already identified 165,000 individuals who've made the mistake. He's estimated that a majority of colleges have at least one affected student, while some may have hundreds. "It's a serious problem," said Baker at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ annual meeting. "We have to fix it." (For more on this story, click here.)

With all the headaches that typically go into applying for federal aid using the FAFSA, what are your thoughts on the current roadblocks? Why not just have filers round income to the nearest whole dollar amount? For more information on the FAFSA, the importance of applying and what you'll need before you get started, check out Scholarships.com’s Federal Aid section.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

Comments (3)

by Suada Kolovic

Unless you plan on paying for your college education out-of-pocket, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as the FAFSA) is essential in your quest for financial aid. For the uninitiated, the FAFSA is used by the Department of Education to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid for college, including the Pell Grant, federal work-student programs and federal student loans. And while most students struggle with the complicated application process, LGBT students potentially face more serious roadblocks: According to U.S. News & World Report, name changes, gender identification and strained family relationships can present unique FAFSA challenges.

In 2012, sexual orientation and gender identity were the number one reason for youth homelessness in the U.S., notes Thomas Krever, chief executive officer of the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Almost 40 percent of homeless youth identified as LGBT and of those teens, 46 percent ran away because their family rejected their sexual orientation or gender identity. What does this have to do with the FAFSA? Students under the age of 24 need tax returns and bank statements from their parents in order to file for financial aid and those without family support are left in limbo. Other LGBT students struggle with the fact that the FAFSA doesn’t necessarily reflect their identity. Questions about name and gender can be enough to keep transgender teens from even applying, says Eli Erlick, founder of Trans Student Equality Resources. "One thing about funding, specifically FAFSA, is that transgender students may not be able to change their name due to parents not being supportive or not having the money to do so," says Erlick. "This can lead to transgender students being nervous to apply, or not even applying at all, because they're scared for their own safety, because using these forms with their legal names may out them." (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think about the challenges LGBT students face when seeking financial aid? Can you think of something the government can do to ease this pressure?

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors heading to college in the fall, listen up: The average cost at the nation’s four-year public universities rose 2.9% this year, the smallest annual increase in more than three decades (yay!) but the slowdown in tuition increases have been offset by reductions in federal grant aid (boo!).

According to a new report from the College Board, public colleges have raised tuition prices so sharply in recent years not to gouge students but to bank on the increased state aid. And although the increase is moderate, "this does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable," says economist Sandy Baum, co-author of Trends in Higher Education reports on tuition and financial aid. "It does seem that the [upward tuition] spiral is moderating. Not turning around, not ending, but moderating." Unfortunately, students continue to suffer from the constant cycle of rising costs and serious college debt. Shrinking state aid for public colleges and universities has translated into the cost of public schools to jump $1,770 in inflation-adjusted dollars. The amount of government aid received last year fell $6,646 for every full-time student at those institutions while just five years ago, each student received $9,111 in today’s dollars. (For more on this report, click here.)

If college is in your forecast, what do you make of the report’s findings? Let us know in the comments section.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Mary Steffenhagen

The crisis in Syria! The Bradley Manning sentencing! The fracking debate! Yet another random act of violence!

The media bombards us with information and news every second of every day – a sensory overload of grim stories and political biases. It's overwhelming but college can become a sort of bubble, a relaxing retreat from the cares of the outside world. You don’t see the news unless you turn on your own TV or radio or follow a news site or newspaper. With all the other fun things to do, who’s got time to be depressed and bored by other people’s problems?

It’s incredibly easy to feel that what you see on CNN doesn’t affect you – a college student in America – but it does. You may not live in a small village in the Middle East but actions cause ripples and what happens across the globe may, in any small way, touch your life. Some events will affect you directly. For example, President Obama recently signed a bill to restore lower interest rates on student loans: This directly affects you and me, who will now be paying a 3.4 percent interest rate on our loans as opposed to the previous 6.8 percent.

Current events are nearly always incendiary topics as well. You will encounter a diverse range of people in college with a diverse range of ideologies...and a shrug and a “Whatever, I don’t really care about that” won’t get you off the hook in discussions anymore. It’s important to know where you stand and even more important to do your research, so as not to form a hasty assumption. First off, it will help you not to look like a buffoon or needlessly offend others and secondly, being able to form and articulate a well-thought argument is an invaluable skill!

Lastly, being cognizant of “the outside world” is an important development in the whole messy process of becoming an adult. Forming opinions, arguments and worldviews – and having them challenged – is a necessary part of life...especially in an environment such as college, where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t let college become a bubble and cut you off from the vital circulation of ideas and news. Get (and stay) informed!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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