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Understanding President Obama’s Student Aid Bill of Rights Initiative

March 13, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

The financial aid process can be a daunting one but if you're planning on attending college any time soon, you should know that there are tons of federal student aid options available. From Pell Grants to Perkins Loans to the FAFSA, the funding is out there but your eligibility to receive aid depends on your level of need and, subsequently, how much aid you are eligible to receive. Translation: For the majority of students, loans are inevitable. But don't fret just yet because President Obama announced the Student Aid Bill of Rights initiative to help student borrowers with the challenging student loan process.

What it does:

  • Helps borrowers keep track of their student loans. For years, consumer groups and colleges have been warning that borrowers with more than one servicer are losing track of their loans — and winding up in default as a result. The Education Department acknowledged those concerns last fall, when it adjusted some institutions' "cohort default rates," or the share of borrowers who default on their loans within a certain time frame.
  • Make it easier for borrowers to file complaints involving their student aid. Right now, borrowers can file complaints with a variety of agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Defense Department. But there isn't a centralized website where all borrowers can lodge their grievances against lenders, servicers, debt collectors, and colleges.

What it doesn't do:

  • Prevents students from overborrowing in the first place. Many of the challenges that student-loan borrowers face in loan repayment are the result of unmanageable debt. After all, if borrowers could afford their loan payments, they wouldn't have to turn to income-based repayment or deal with debt collectors.
  • Overhaul student-loan debt collection. They want the government to handle debt collection itself. But the president's plan merely talks of "raising standards" for student-loan debt collectors, and it’s pretty vague about what those higher standards would look like.

For more on the president's Student Aid Bill of Rights, head over to The Chronicle of Higher Education. . What do you think of the president's attempt to ease the financial burden associated with student loans? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget, going to college doesn't have to break the bank! Check out our Financial Aid section for more info on federal funding and while you're there, conduct a free college scholarship search where you'll get match with countless scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities!

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Education Publisher Monitoring Students’ Social Media Activity

March 17, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

The average high school student can easily spend the better part of his or her day on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram...where one more post quickly turns into another sleepless night. Hey, we've all been in stuck in that inescapable web before (no one's judging!) but what if your private thoughts turned out to be not so private?

Pearson, the world's largest education company which recently crafted the standardized tests for the Common Core curriculum, has been monitoring social media accounts to detect any security breaches during exams. News of this monitoring was revealed in a message that Superintendent Elizabeth C. Jewett of Watchung Hills Regional High School District in New Jersey sent to colleagues about a disturbing incident: An unnamed student posted a tweet referring to the PARCC exam after school hours, Pearson officials then contacted the school district to discipline the student for having said something inappropriate about the tests. She also said the child’s parents were concerned about the monitoring and confirmed that the publisher was monitoring student activity on the web. (The incident was first reported on the blog of former Star-Ledger reporter, education editor and senior columnist Bob Braun, who called the monitoring nothing less than “spying.”)

In response, officials at Pearson did not explain how they are monitoring student activity but it is believed that they are conducting keyword searches for any mention of the PARCC tests on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The company has acknowledged the monitoring, saying, "We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity and integrity of the test results." (For more on this story, head over to The Washington Post.)

What do you think of the latest breach of student privacy? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get matched with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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SOTW: National WWII Museum Student Essay Contest

March 30, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

This year, The National WWII Museum asks: How do you define a hero?

The flag-raising on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945 is one of the most famous moments of WWII. The six men who helped to raise the flag are often referred to as heroes. Out of the six men who raised the flag that day, only three survived until the end of the war. One of the surviving men, Cpl. Ira Hayes (Pima) was repeatedly asked by admirers if he considered himself to be a hero as a result of his wartime actions. Hayes replied, "How could I feel like a hero when only five men in my platoon of 45 survived, when only 27 men in my company of 250 managed to escape death or injury." This year, as the world remembers the 70th anniversary of this iconic event, The National WWII Museum asks students to think about what it means to be a hero.

In your response, use WWII as a starting point and base your essay in part on America’s involvement in WWII. But don’t stop in the past. Use specific examples from your own experiences that support your ideas. This is NOT a research paper. Your essay will be judged foremost for its originality, clarity of expression, and adherence to contest theme, as well as its historical accuracy, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Museum staff will read and evaluate entries.

The National WWII Museum is accepting entries through March 31st. If you are interested in learning more about this or other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com where you'll get matched with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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New York Teen Accepted to all Eight Ivy League Schools

April 6, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Applying to some of the top schools in the country is unquestionably unnerving but after months of stress, sleepiness nights and chronic stomach pains, it all seems worth it when you read those magical words, "Congratulations! You've been accepted." Most would celebrate such an occasion with screams of triumph, followed by an immediate Facebook update or witty tweet sharing their enthusiasm...but what would the proper celebration be when you've been accepted to not one but all eight Ivy League schools? Ask Harold Ekeh.

Ekeh has hit the admissions jackpot, receiving acceptance letters from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. This outcome, however, wasn’t just luck, for Ekeh is quite the accomplished and well-rounded student: The Elmont Memorial High School senior founded a college mentoring program, was names a 2015 Intel Science Talent Search semifinalist, directs a youth choir at his church, plays the drums, is part of Key Club and Model UN and was elected to the homecoming court. And although he’s yet to make a definitive decision as to where he will enroll this fall, there seems to be a frontrunner. "I am leaning toward Yale. I competed at Yale for Model UN, and I like the passion people at Yale had,” he said. Ekeh will spend the coming weeks visiting all the schools before making his final decision. (For more on his story, head over to New York Post.)

Share your thoughts on Harold Ekeh's story in the comments section and be sure to let us know where you're headed this fall. And for information on the Ivies or countless other universities, use our College Search tool today! And don't forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get matched with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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On the Prowl for Scholarships

Check Out This Scholarship of the Week from College Prowler

March 24, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Finding enough funding for college is hard but that task is made even more difficult when college scholarship committees require applicants to meet countless requirements, fill out stacks of forms and write lengthy essays to even be considered. Well, College Prowler isn’t most scholarship committees and it's doing things a little differently with its $2,000 No Essay Scholarship.

The folks at College Prowler know students are busy and that times are pretty tough for a lot of people right now…but that’s precisely why they’ve created an incredibly easy way to give back to those who need it. All applicants have to do is complete a brief profile, hit submit and voila, they could win $2,000 to put toward tuition, housing, meal plans, books, computers or any education-related expenses. To apply, please visit College Prowler or complete a scholarship search to find additional opportunities.

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Five Celebrities Who are Helping Shape the Future of Education

March 12, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Being a celebrity certainly seems have its perks: countless adoring fans, a lavish lifestyle, hefty paychecks and, for some, the opportunity to support worthy causes. And while we've seen celebrities fight for starving children, encourage environmental causes and even join the UN, promoting education is a soft spot for quite a number of them as well. Check out the five celebrities below who have opened schools in recent years. (For the complete list, head over to The Huffington Post):

  • Shakira: Using funds from her nonprofit organization, she has opened eight schools in her native country of Colombia. She has also lobbied Latin American leaders to support early childhood education.
  • Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2007. While the school has suffered from its share of controversy, it is still up and running. The media mogul has also donated heavily to American charter schools, giving $6 million in 2010.
  • Angelina Jolie: The actress and notorious humanitarian opened an all-girls school in Afghanistan in 2013. The school was funded by proceeds from Jolie's jewelry collection, Style of Jolie; she reportedly hopes to use further proceeds to build more schools in impoverished areas, according to Forbes.
  • Magic Johnson: Former NBA star and sports analyst Magic Johnson has opened several alternative high schools for students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school. Currently, there are four Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies in Georgia, two in Illinois, one in New Jersey, one in North Carolina and eight in Ohio. According to the Bridgescape Academy website, the alternative schools' "student-focused program provides an opportunity to earn a high school diploma at a pace suitable to their schedule, lifestyle and learning needs."
  • Madonna: In 2013, Madonna opened several community schools in Malawi. According to the Associated Press, her work there provided classrooms for thousands of students who were previously learning outdoors.
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Top 10 Worst College Majors

July 18, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With recent college graduates facing an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent and substantially lower starting salaries, we have to ask: What path should students take in order to flourish after graduation? And while there isn't one direct route that translates into post-collegiate success, H&R Block has compiled the top 10 majors with the highest unemployment rates for recent college graduates:

  1. Anthropology & Archaeology – 10.5%
  2. Film/Video & Photographic Arts – 12.9%
  3. Fine Arts – 12.6%
  4. Philosophy & Religious Studies – 10.8%
  5. Liberal Arts – 9.2%
  6. Music – 9.2%
  7. Physical Fitness – 8.3%
  8. Commercial Art & Graphic Design – 11.8%
  9. History – 10.2%
  10. English Language & Literature – 9.2%

What are your thoughts on the majors that made the list? Do you agree with the sentiment that these majors that aren't in high demand should be avoided or should students be encouraged to pursue their passion regardless of potentially high unemployment rates? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section. For more information on how to choose a major,the most popular college majors and 10 things to consider before choosing your major, head over to Scholarships.com’s College Prep section.

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Win $10K in this Scholarship of the Week!

This SOTW is Accepting Entries Through October 31st

October 13, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Looking for a scholarship that doesn't require an essay? Well, look no further than ScholarshipPoints for your chance to win a $10,000 scholarship. ScholarshipPoints is free to join, fun to participate in, and provides you with the opportunity to win thousands of dollars in scholarships every month. Members earn scholarship points for doing what they already do online: shopping, reading blogs, playing games, searching the web, taking surveys and more! The more you do – the more points you earn – the more chances you have at winning a scholarship. Join today and you could be their next scholarship winner!

For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today! By creating a Scholarships.com profile, you'll be matched with funding opportunities that are unique to you. These days you don’t have to be a star athlete or valedictorian to land scholarships. Many are based on characteristics like need, community service and your intended field of study, or if you dig even deeper, you’ll find a wide array of awards based on more specific characteristics. Chances are you qualify for more scholarships than you thought you did, so conduct a free scholarship search or browse through our site to see awards you may be eligible for and start earning money toward college.

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College Students, Grab Those Scanner Guns: College Registries Are Becoming a Thing!

August 1, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

To my understanding, the general rule of thumb for a creating registry is as follows: any event marking a significant life change (marriage, baby, new home, etc.) warrants one. And while no one would argue that heading off to college would fit that description, only recently have college-bound students been encouraged to register for items that would smooth their transitions to college life.

Once reserved for brides and moms-to-be, big box retailers are opening up their gift registries to college students. Target rolled out a college registry in June and already thousands have signed up. "Our college-bound guests were looking for an easy way to manage lists and share them with friends and family online," said Jenna Reck, public relations manager for Target. "When we looked at the registry experience we already offered through the Target Wedding and Target Baby registries, we quickly realized that it was the right solution." The registry will be accessible year-round and is geared toward students in every stage of their campus lives. Other retailers including Bed Bath and Beyond, The Container Store and Walmart also have registries that cater to college students. (For more on this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on college registries? Do you think they’re practical or tacky? Share your thoughts in the comments section. For more information on preparing for college and what to expect once you get there, look over our College Prep section.

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Five Unique College Majors to Consider

August 5, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

If you're heading to college in the fall, you'll be faced with a serious decision in the coming months: choosing the right major for you. And while there are myriad factors to consider when making your decision, reviewing the most popular college majors and the majors with the highest earning potential aren't bad places to start. But for those of you interested in something unique, USA Today has complied the list for you:

  1. Puppet Arts, University of Connecticut: If you're interested in an undergraduate degree in puppetry, UConn is your only option in the U.S. Getting in might be tough – enrollment is limited to 22 students – but graduates have gone on to work and perform in theatres, television shows and films.
  2. Bakery Science and Management, Kansas State University: KSU offers the only bakery science undergraduate program in the nation and graduates can pursue several jobs within the business. The school's website says bakery students can prepare themselves for "administrative, research, production, and executive positions."
  3. Viticulture and Enology, Cornell University: Though it only recently became an official major, students in the school’s viticulture program typically go on to work in wineries all over the nation.
  4. Secular Studies, Pitzer College: Phil Zuckerman, the school’s founder of the Secular Studies program, explained the degree’s main focus is about understanding secularity, secularism and secularization and how they relate to religion.
  5. Canadian Studies, Duke University: Duke is one of the few colleges in the nation to offer such a program and it’s operated like most history tracks.

Would you consider any of these far-from-mainstream majors? Do you think said majors would translate into success in the real world? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And for more advice on how to choose a college major and 10 things to consider before finalizing your decision, check out Scholarships.com College Prep section.

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