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How Work-Study Can Help You Pay for School

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!


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Is the Four-Year Plan Making Us Feel Guilty?

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!


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Are Summer Classes Right for You?

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.


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Finding the Best Scholarship for YOU

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.


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by Emily

The results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities indicate that at least a few students at many private colleges and universities were unable to obtain enough private loan funding to pay their fall tuition.  The survey also indicates that the credit crunch may have steered a number of students away from private schools.

More than 500 NAICU member schools responded to the survey, which asked questions about the availability of Stafford loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the availability of private student loans, and unanticipated enrollment shifts.  Eighty-five percent of schools reported that they had lost at least one FFELP lender, but the vast majority had no difficulty replacing these lenders.  Additionally, most colleges lost at least one private lender, with 27 percent of those schools reporting that students had some difficulty finding a replacement lender.

More than half of colleges surveyed reported they had at least some students who were unable to secure private loan funds for the current semester, and 45 percent of schools reported students changing their enrollment status due to financial concerns.  Eighteen percent of colleges surveyed reported fewer returning students and 19 percent reported a smaller freshman class than anticipated.  While most colleges reported no significant changes in enrollment, it appears some private college students (who are typically the most likely group to qualify for student loans) are being forced to alter their educational plans due to the current economic situation.

Three quarters of private colleges surveyed also reported increased financial need among their student populations.  Coupled with the rise in FAFSA files across the board and preliminary reports of more demand for financial aid coming from state universities and community colleges, it appears competition is getting stiffer for need-based student financial aid.  This is just one more reason for students to ramp up their scholarship search and find money for college as soon as possible.


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by Emily

The Project on Student Debt just published information on the average student loan debt load for students graduating college in 2007.  The report shows that average student debt increased 6 percent from 2006 to 2007, while the average annual salary of college graduates increased by only 3 percent.  The percentage of students borrowing remained the same at 59 percent nationally, though some individual states experienced double-digit increases, including North Dakota, which surged ahead 14 percent to capture the #2 spot for percentage of student borrowers, with 75 percent of its students taking out loans, following South Dakota's 81 percent.

While more North and South Dakotans borrow than residents of any other state, Iowans have the highest average debt load of $26,208, followed closely by New Hampshire's $25,211.  States that fared well were Utah and Hawaii with the lowest average debt ($13,266 and $14,911 respectively) and Nevada and Utah with the lowest percentage of borrowers (40 and 42 percent).  The report also contains information for individual private colleges and state universities for 2007, as well as a list of the schools with the highest and lowest levels of student debt.

So if you're still in the midst of your college search, you may want to check out the full report from the Project on Student Debt, complete with a state-by-state interactive map.  If you're planning on attending college in a high-debt state, don't panic.  Just devote a bit more time to finding money for college, such as doing a thorough scholarship search.


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by Emily

Fewer students may have to worry about finding a new lender for their Stafford Loans next year, as more colleges are turning to federal Direct Loans for student loans.  A web-based poll of college financial aid administrators at schools participating in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) revealed that six percent of those surveyed are planning to make the switch to direct lending next year, with an additional 29 percent seriously considering it as an option.

This means that Direct Loans could very likely become the leading supplier of student loans in 2009.  Since direct loans are taken out from the government, rather than from a bank, the stability they provide is proving popular among student borrowers.  Already, the amount of money in the direct borrowing system has grown by 50 percent this year, whereas the amount in FFELP is up only 7 percent.  While most students have been able to find different lenders and continue borrowing what they need in student loans, attending college at a school that participates in direct lending can save students a bit of hassle in getting financial aid

While a move towards direct lending means that students at participating schools won't be able to cash in on incentives banks might offer during student loan repayment in the future, these options have become scarce in the last year due to the federal subsidy cuts and credit troubles banks have faced.  The disappearance of the FFELP's advantages coupled with the uncertainty and instability caused by the credit crisis will likely continue encouraging schools to turn to Direct Loans to service their Federal Stafford Loans.


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by Emily

Curious how colleges are weathering the recession?  Wondering just how different things are now than when your parents (or even your older siblings) went to college?  Reuters recently published a roundup of educational figures related to enrollment, endowments, student loans, and college costs.  Many of these statistics have already shown up elsewhere in the Scholarships.com blog. 

Tuition, fees, room, and board totaled $31,019 at private colleges, $16,758 for in-state students at state universities, and $24,955 for out-of-state public university students.  Two-thirds of students at four-year schools received some form of grants, averaging $3,600 at public schools and $9,300 at private schools. 

Federal student loans have become increasingly popular since the mid-1990s, with students borrowing a total of $77 billion to pay for school in 2007.  The class of 2007 carried 6 percent more debt than the class of 2006 upon graduation. 

Tuition and borrowing are likely to continue to increase, as endowments have taken a hit in the stock market and state support for higher education also continues to fall.  State funding covered 2/3 of public university budgets in 1998, but only covered half their budgets in 2007.  Tuition also accounts for a larger percentage of college budgets.  More students may also put their educational plans on hold due to increased difficulty finding money for college.


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by Emily

Colleges are continuing to face financial hardships due to the current global economic crisis.  Endowments have shrunken by an average of 30 percent this year, primarily in the last two months.  Numerous colleges and universities, both public and private, are cutting or freezing spending, and several institutions have been forced to implement hiring freezes, offer early retirement to employees, or lay off employees.  Even Harvard University has announced a more conservative approach to future spending.  An article appearing in the New York Times earlier this week shows some schools considering a move away from entirely need-blind admissions policies (which ignore students' ability to pay when determining who to admit) in order to ensure they receive enough tuition revenue to maintain their financial aid programs.

Meanwhile, families are in similarly rough shape.  Investments are in trouble, unemployment is up, and families are having trouble getting home equity loans or other lines of credit that they may have previously used to cover tuition529 plans have taken a hit, as well, and student loans have also tightened credit requirements.  All this means that students might face greater difficulty getting into and paying for school.

So that's the bad news.  Now for some good news: 

     
  • Congress has expanded the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (ECASLA) to make it easier for banks to access enough funds to make loans.  The increases in unsubsidized Stafford Loan limits have also been renewed into the next academic year.  This could further shore up the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and make it easier for students to borrow what they need to pay for school.  A new economic stimulus package is in the works, as well, and part of the money involved may go to Federal Pell Grants.
  •  
  • Despite financial difficulties, colleges are pledging to maintain or increase their spending on campus-based aid for their students.
  •  
  • The Department of Education is planning to present its vision for simplifying and improving the federal student financial aid program.  One of the most notable aspects of the new plan is the proposal to shorten the FAFSA on the Web application.  Greater efforts to standardize federal aid among colleges are also being proposed.
  •  
  • A new study indicates that what you get out of a college experience might be less dependent on where you go to college than on how you choose to approach your education.  Researchers found more variance among learning outcomes and student satisfaction within institutions than among them.  In fact, 90% of the difference in quality reported by students occurs among individual students attending college on the same campus.  So if you do find yourself having to take a pass on your dream college, a positive attitude can make your experience at your safety school just as rewarding.
  •  


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by Emily

Are you considering a career in public service, such as working for the government or a non-profit organization, but more than slightly overwhelmed by the thought of repaying your student loans with an often minuscule salary?  Realizing that you may actually be taking a pay cut to transition from your summer job to your "grown up" career can be demoralizing, and dealing with debt on top of that certainly doesn't help.  While many noble individuals certainly make this sacrifice, perhaps you were hoping to forget where the grocery store kept its "manager's special" items after you graduated.  And who can blame you?  The college budget diet, and the accompanying lifestyle of cramming half a dozen people into one run-down apartment, eventually does get old.  Luckily, there are forms of financial aid out there to minimize or relieve your debt and help you stretch that public servant salary a little further.

Some of the most well-known career-based assistance programs are designed for teachers.  The TEACH grant contributes $4000 a year towards the tuition of students who agree to teach a high-need subject at a low-income school for four years. Other programs such as Teach for America offer teaching certification, a stipend, and assistance with student loan repayment to individuals agreeing to teach in certain schools.

Teachers and other public servants can also qualify to have their Federal Perkins Loans canceled, saving up to $16,000.  Nursing students and other medical students can get in on this program, as well.  The federal government also launched a public service loan repayment program a year ago that will forgive qualifying federal student loan debt for those who commit ten years to public service.  In addition, a variety of government scholarships provide incentives for students in various majors to consider federal work.

An article appearing in USA Today this week also mentions some university-specific programs to help steer students towards public service careers.  Harvard Law School will waive tuition for one year for students who commit to five years in government or non-profit fields, and Princeton University will provide free master's degrees to eight 2008 graduates who first put in two years in federal jobs.  Tufts University is also helping its undergraduate students pay down debt or pursue graduate degrees if they commit a few years to public service work.

If you're leaning towards a career with a government agency or non-profit organization, be aware of the scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, and loan repayment programs out there.  Include a free college scholarship search in your research to find out about many of your options for funding your education and minimizing your debt.


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