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by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to paying for a college education, it seems as though students have two options: deal with impossibly high payments while they're in school or crippling debt for years afterwards. Well, Oregon students were provided a third option last year when legislators approved the Pay it Forward plan that would allow students to attend state colleges without paying tuition or taking out student loans but would instead commit a small percentage of their future incomes to repaying the state. It turns out, however, that said plan isn't the saving grace for college students afterall.

First proposed by students at Portland State University, Pay It Forward has drawn serious criticism since Oregon passed a law to study the idea. According to a report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, analysis shows that the plan would leave most graduates deeper in debt than if they had taken out loans and would throw colleges’ balance sheets into uncertainty. Here are some of the more prevalent points in the association’s report but for a more detailed look, click here:

  • Pay It Forward does not account for non-tuition costs like room and board.
  • Students who generally rack up the most debt – those at for-profit and private nonprofit institutions — would not be eligible for the program.
  • The program would have “enormous” start-up costs.

Early estimates suggest that Oregon would have to take about 3 percent of a former student’s earnings for 20 years for it to work. With that being said, what are your thoughts on Pay It Forward? Do you think it’s too soon to tell if this is a viable option for other states to adapt?

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 Suada Kolovic

If you're a recent college graduate, chances are you'll have to start paying off your student loans sooner than you think. And even with the economy in a slump, don't expect a free pass on not paying them back. So while keeping track of the multiple loans you've accrued during your college career is tasking, it's important to understand your options. An often overlooked possibility is private loan consolidation. Aren't familiar? Allow me to explain.

A consolidation loan can simplify the loan repayment process by allowing the borrower to combine several types of loans into one. And often, the interest rate on a consolidation loan is lower than the rate on a typical student loan. Until recently though, few banks have offered consolidation loans for private student debt. Why? According to a report last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, part of the problem was the high cost of marketing to potential borrowers and finding adequate financing to provide the loans. But that may be changing: In January, Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Bank said it would begin offering private consolidation loans which could signal that change is afoot nationally. Wondering who should consider a consolidation loan? It's an ideal option for students who have finished school, are gainfully employed and have been making on-time payments on your private student loans for at least a year or two. The real advantage of refinancing is the chance to get a lower interest rate on your debt and to simplify their monthly payments into a single bill. (For more on this story, click here.)

For more information on student loan consolidation, borrowing responsibly and tips on repaying your student loans, head over to Scholarships.com financial aid 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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by Abby Egan

I started looking for colleges in my junior year of high school because I was so unsure about what I wanted. Deciding on a college was a scary thought to me because I was under the impression that I was going to be stuck at whichever school I chose for four whole years. So to ease my ever-increasing stress levels, I visited my dream school (MCLA) almost seven times before accepting to attend for the fall of 2011.

I jumped at every opportunity to get to know my top choice better and better: I visited on long weekends with my parents, signed up for multicultural nights and participated in overnight programs bussed from Boston. I took the drive to MCLA whenever I needed to talk to the Bursar about bills or the financial aid office about student loans. Though it was a long ride, I got on a first-name basis with the librarian and a handful of school officials, putting faces to names and breaking down that wall between being strangers and being acquaintances.

I took the time to really determine whether I wanted to spend the next four years at MCLA. Though my parents researched facts online and talked on the phone with MCLA officials, I made sure to do my own research as well. The bottom line was that I was attending MCLA, not my parents, so I made sure everyone I encountered at the school I spoke to knew me and not just the me my parents spoke about.

I knew I wanted to attend MCLA after my first visit but I’m glad I took the time to get to know the institution a little bit better. It made me feel more prepared for my first semester of freshman year but even if you visit 100 times, you might not know if your school is the one for you until you immerse yourself in the community. If for whatever reason you don’t feel it’s right, don’t panic: You can always transfer. Deciding on a college isn’t the end all be all – there’s always room for change – but you just have to find what’s right for you.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.

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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For Some, "Pay it Forward" A Step Backward

3% Over 24 Years Not a Bargain for All

Aug 22, 2013

by Kevin Ladd

Dreamed-up in Portland Oregon and soon lauded in New Jersey, Washington, Ohio and elsewhere, the "Pay it Forward" plan could cost some folks more than simply taking out loans at 6.8%. With the plan calling for approximately $9B in start-up funds and requiring college grads to pay 3% of their income for the 24 years following graduation, only those making below a certain amount would benefit. Certainly, it would be great in the beginning and sounds easier than securing loans, but anybody looking at the big picture and planning to earn over $55K per year upon graduation should probably consider a more traditional path. As always, we recommend finding as many scholarships as possible to keep student loans to a minimum. Free money is better than either of the aforementioned options!

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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College Cost Increases Continue to Outpace Inflation

Community College Tuition & Fees Up 24% More Than Inflation Over Last 5 Years

Aug 21, 2013

by Kevin Ladd

Even community colleges across the country are increasing costs much faster than inflation, causing concern among those attempting to use what most would consider the most accessible of forms of higher education. Even with lower interest rates recently signed into law by President Obama, the costs for just about every aspect of post-secondary education continue to rise. Last year, the average cost to attend an in-state, two-year school was $3,131. That's an increase of nearly 6% over the previous year, larger than all other types of schools.

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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Merkley's "Pay it Forward" Guaranteed College Affordability Act

Dem. Senator Jeff Merkley Proposes Income-Based Loan Repayment

Aug 20, 2013

by Kevin Ladd

The new student loan bill Senator Merkley (D-Ore.) plans to introduce is a progressive idea intended to battle high loan repayment costs and hopefully restore the middle-class in the United States. The announcement of this proposal came after President Obama signed a student loan bill into law on August 9th. The new loan bill sets interest rates for undergraduate loans to the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.05% with a cap of 8.25%. While some Democrats oppose the bill as they feel Congress shouldn't "profit off the backs of students", it seems widely to be seen as an improvement over the default doubling of rates from 3.4% to a flat 6.8%. Merkley's goal is to make much bolder steps and pursue steps that more favor the middle-class and promote more affordable post-secondary education. As always, any ideas or comments you have are welcome and we will be sure to pass your ideas onto both the President and Senator Merkley!

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 Chelsea Slaughter

The search for good scholarships can be a task, but it doesn’t have to be hard work! When I was exploring the wide world of scholarships, I tried my best to look into ones I knew I could succeed at winning. Here are a few tips for finding your best scholarship opportunities:

  • Search for institutional scholarships. This is always a great starting point: Go to your college or university and check out what scholarships they are offering current or accepted students. Most schools have scholarships for different majors and GPAs – all you have to do is find the one that fits you and apply!
  • Use Scholarships.com and other scholarship search sites. Doing a search on Scholarships.com and other similar sites would put in in the right place to find scholarships that perfectly fit you. Each site contains their own scholarships, plus corporate, private and local scholarships that fit your needs. Doing this weekly will help you find the right scholarships as soon as they are posted.
  • Check with your counselor. Stopping by your counselor’s office frequently can help you get a leg up on other students and find the scholarships that some organizations don’t post online and instead send directly to high schools. If you’re currently in college, make sure you go past your financial aid office to see what’s posted.
  • Consider employers, not-for-profit organizations and religious institutions. Check with your employer, organizations you’re involved in and the religious institutions you attend to see if they are offering any scholarship opportunities. You’d be surprised at what is available to those in the inner circle!

Don’t let your scholarship search become a stress-filled situation; instead, put the most energy in completing the applications, writing essays and meeting deadlines. Have any scholarship search tips to share? Let us know in the comments!

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, is the treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

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 Carly Gerber

According to the Buffalo News, there has been a decrease in the amount of students who receive their undergraduate degree in four years. Fewer than half of the University at Buffalo graduates graduated in four years and many other universities have seen the same decrease in their students graduating in that once-traditional timeframe. For example, Niagara University had only 60 percent of its students graduate in four years, while Alfred University only had 43 percent of its graduates graduate in four years. These statistics aren’t just exclusive to New York State, either: I personally know students from all over who have taken an extra semester or two to graduate.

My circumstances of being a transfer student and a student who has changed her major more times than she can count have caused me to extend my stay at college by a few semesters. Initially, I felt guilt, regret, sadness and self-loathing for needing to spend extra time at college; however, I wanted to feel excited for the future and those negative emotions were only going to hold me back from my full potential. Now, I’m feeling excitement, urgency and passion to take my college career seriously and to become a proud and successful graduate. I feel more mature and wiser because of my setbacks and changes during my time at college.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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 Carly Gerber

The student librarian or the math tutor in the tutoring center at your university may be one of the thousands of students involved in the Federal Work Study program.

The U.S. Department of Education explains that the Federal Work Study program involves universities assigning college students part-time jobs in their institutions or through private employers. The income may be minimum wage or higher (it depends on the work the student is doing) and the income goes toward the students’ college expenses. For example, the recipient can have the funds go directly toward tuition or books.

Students can apply for the Federal Work Study program (or FWS or Work-Study) annually by filing a FAFSA. The FAFSA asks an array of questions, the answers of which determine the amount of federal financial aid the applicant can receive. Within the application, it asks the applicant if they would like to be considered for the Work-Study program.

Students may apply for work-study annually. Also, students who are in high school should ask colleges they are interested in if they have a work-study program. Work-study program is a big time commitment but it’s a great way to defray the ever-growing cost of college.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!

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 Chelsea Slaughter

Summer classes are great for getting ahead or catching back up if you’ve fallen behind. They aren’t for everyone, though, so when deciding on extra courses for the summer, keep these factors in mind:

  • Financial Aid: An important factor is whether or not you can financially afford to take summer classes. When I was a freshman, I was able to take two summer courses using a summer Pell grant but unfortunately, that option is no longer available. Summer financial aid is included in your fall/spring aid year so if you use your loan money in entirety during the fall and spring, then you may not have any left for summer classes. Check with your campus financial aid office to get the most current information and payment alternatives.
  • Class Location: You do not have to live near your university or stay on campus to take a summer class. You could take a course at a nearby university while living at home – just go to your admissions office to fill out the necessary paperwork to complete this. Online classes are also always an option; there may be a price difference between online and traditional in-person courses so be sure to check that before signing up.
  • Time Spent in Class: My university has a breakdown of three short semesters during the summer that last one month each. I took two “Maymester” classes and we were in class for almost three hours a day Monday through Thursday; I found this easy because the professors taught only the needed information without the extra projects that usually fill up a semester. Not all universities have this option so check with your advisers on the different summer class options.

The academic year is almost over so if you are interested in continuing your coursework this summer, get informed and determine if summer classes are right for you!

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, is the treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

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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