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Amazon Launches Digital-Textbook Rental Service

by Suada Kolovic

Broke college students across the country have reason to rejoice: Amazon has unveiled an e-textbook-rental program which has the potential to save students up to 80 percent on textbooks!

The program will provide students with the opportunity to download temporary copies of textbooks from Amazon’s website for reading on a Kindle e-book reader, computer, tablet or smartphone running free Kindle software. The system allows customers to specify rental periods lasting anywhere from a month to a year. Students will have the option to purchase the e-book during or after a rental period, or extend a rental period in daily increments. Still not sold? Let’s use a real-life example: Intermediate Accounting retails at $197 in print and $109 as an e-book but with Amazon’s program, a student can rent the e-book for three months at the low price of $57!

And what about the students who scribble notes in the margins and saturate textbooks with fluorescent ink? Well, Amazon’s got that covered, too! Not only can students highlight and take notes in their digital textbooks but they’ll be able to refer to any margin notes and highlights made after the rental period is over. And with the cost of traditional print textbooks ranging in the thousands over the course of a college career, odds are rental programs like these will undoubtedly take off.


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What Are My Housing Options?

by Thomas Lee

There are many options for living on or off campus but what’s the best housing option for you?

The most common housing option for a full-time day college student is an on-campus dormitory. As a freshman, I was permitted to join a program called “First Year Experience” or FYE. FYE was for incoming freshmen who had a 3.0 or above grade point average and filled out an application in advance. I stayed in a nice suite-style, co-ed dorm called Pearce Hall but not all on-campus accommodations are this cushy: The following year, I stayed in an all-male dorm where the conditions weren’t all that great but it was less expensive. As an upperclassman, you may have access to on-campus apartments. Here, you could have your own bedroom and restroom and a shared kitchen and living space but this option is usually the most expensive on-campus choice. You just need to decide what’s more important: paying more for a newer dormitory or saving by living in an older residence hall or living with both sexes versus just one.

Off-campus housing is another option, which, like on-campus apartments, is popular among upperclassmen. I rented a room for three months at a house leased by one of my fraternity brothers during a summer semester and can tell you this option isn’t for everybody. Before deciding to live off-campus, make sure you have an agreed upon price with a signed and printed contract so that you aren’t cheated out of any money; this is especially important if you are paying rent to a friend if you want to preserve your relationship. More than a few college students fall prey to rent gouging or don’t carefully read their apartment contract – don’t be one of them!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Rationing Your Refund Check

by Jessica Seals

The first day of classes means new professors, new classmates and a completely new routine. It is also about the time that universities distribute refund checks to students. Refund checks are extra funds that are left over after all school fees have been paid. These funds are the result of excess scholarships, grants and loans. Refund checks can come in handy, as students can use the extra money to buy a laptop, food, books or to pay off another loan. Some students, however, are not wise with their money and are left scrounging for pennies before the end of the semester.

I always hear students complaining about how they do not have any money left from their refund check long before finals roll around. They chose to splurge on clothes, the newest Droid phone, expensive restaurants or they spent money on friends. Buying a few extra “fun” items is not something that should necessarily be avoided but you should maintain a budget and be conscious about how much money you are spending. I have taken money from my refund check and separated it into two separate bank accounts. The money in my savings account rarely gets touched unless it is an emergency and the money in my checking account is what I use on a daily basis. I keep less money in the checking account so I am not tempted to spend more than I intend to.

While in college, it is especially important to learn how to manage your money. If you get a refund check back from the school, this could be your chance to start learning how to do so. You will feel great knowing that you will not be labeled a broke college student!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Discounts to Take Advantage of While in College

by Aaron Lin

Being a college student has a lot of perks in terms of accessible facilities, discounts and resources. Here are a few tips on what to take advantage of while you’re a student:

I hope some of you have ideas to add, too. Feel free to comment!

Aaron Lin is a chemistry major at Louisiana State University but has plans to transfer to LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to pursue a medical laboratory science degree and further feed his interest in the application of scientific and medical knowledge. In his free time, Aaron likes to eat food, read and write about food, exercise to work off that food and play the occasional computer game. He also enjoys footbiking, running and Frisbee.


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Lending a Helping Hand Pays Off

by Shari Williams

Community service is something most of us have done at one point or another. For some high schools, it’s a graduation requirement but I believe serving your community is vital whether it’s mandated or not. The good news for college students is that not only does community service help others but it can also translate into money for school.

One renown program is AmeriCorps. Several colleges and universities take part in this program, providing information and opportunities for students to get involved. Each year, AmeriCorps gives students opportunities to participate in year-long service-learning programs. If a certain amount of community service hours are acquired by the end of the year, the student is granted a stipend.

Another option is the Fulbright Program. Fulbright has an array of grants included in their U.S. Student Program to students who have studied or are studying foreign language, music, business, journalism and public health, to name a few. Fulbright is an opportunity geared more toward soon-to-be or recent college graduates looking for more experience in their fields. Students live outside the U.S. with most expenses paid and full or partial tuition awarded. A special program opportunity that Fulbright offers is the Fulbright-mtvU Awards, which provide four grants to recent graduates studying outside of the country who will conduct research on international music culture. If that sparks your interest, they have many more opportunities to apply for.

Both AmeriCorps and Fulbright are awesome opportunities and are great ways to gain valuable experience. For more information on Americorps or Fulbright, visit www.americorps.gov and US.FulbrightOnline.org, respectively, or contact your college.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Finding College Employment ASAP

by Darci Miller

In college, money becomes a legitimate concern. For the most part, parents have taken care of finances until now and unless you’re lucky enough to come from a wealthy family, college is the first time you’re largely on your own financially.

In the weeks leading up to my first semester as a college student, my dad was adamant that I get myself a job. I’d failed in my attempts to get one that summer and was beyond broke. After many a stern talking to, it was decided for me that I’d apply for jobs at my campus’s wellness center because not only was it right next door to the freshman dorms, but it was related to my sports administration major. At least two weeks before even leaving for Miami, my dad told me to get my application in. Right then. At that moment.

I thought that applying for an on-campus job weeks before I even set foot on campus as a student was a bit of overkill, but I listened to him and shot off an application. I got a phone call from them the next day, had an interview set up for a day or two after I arrived and had a job before classes even started.

Getting this job was one of the smartest decisions I (or my dad) made that first year in college and I encourage all of you to follow the same advice. On-campus jobs understand that you’re a student before you’re an employee, so they let you do homework during down time and have very flexible scheduling. Being on campus, they’re conveniently located and often offer the potential for promotions and pay raises. They’re a great way to meet new people and, well, hello spending money!

However, on campus jobs aren’t always easy to get because they’re so in demand. If you’re heading to school for the first time or returning for a new year, start scouting the field and getting applications out within the next few weeks. Employers are always looking for people before the semesters start or during summer/winter breaks, when most students are away. Good luck and happy job hunting!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Head Out of State for an In-State Price

by Alexis Mattera

Scenario: Your dream school is beyond state boundaries but your college fund is more suited to a college closer to home. Don't fret: If you know what and where you want to study, you could score an impressive tuition break through a regional discount program. Here's the breakdown:

New England Regional Student Program: Students living in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont could be eligible for average savings of $7,000 per year through this program if they enroll in a degree program not available at public schools in their home state. One drawback – if majors are changed, recipients may no longer be eligible for the tuition break.

Academic Common Market: Southerners (aka those living in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia) follow the same guidelines as the NERSP but with some additional restrictions. For example, schools in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas only offer tuition reductions at the graduate level.

Western Undergraduate Exchange: Do you live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington or Wyoming and want $7,500 per year in average college savings? WUE requirements vary from state to state and campus to campus but more than 26,000 residents took advantage of the program last year...so, interested students, apply early to ensure funding.

Midwest Student Exchange Program: Students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota or Wisconsin can save an average of $4,274 per year on tuition without being restricted by majors. The catch is that schools (public and private this time) can limit what degree programs qualify for this discount.


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Learning to Live Off Campus

by Thomas Lee

Sometimes on-campus living is not an option. Dorms are too expensive or overfilled, or housing may not be provided to transfer students. Well, off-campus housing it is!

One of most efficient ways to live off campus is to find a friend, relative or even a parent’s friend who lives near the campus to see if they would allow you to stay with them. If you choose this option, make sure the person you’re renting from writes up a signed agreement that lists the duration of your stay, the set fee per week or month and the conditions to stay. A verbal agreement isn’t set in stone and may leave you without housing if something should go wrong.

Another option is finding an apartment but this may be even more expensive than a dorm. Apartment and condominium rates vary wildly, as so do their living conditions. If you find an apartment that fits your budget, make sure it’s in a reasonably safe part of town and read your lease or contract so you won’t be cheated by the landlord.

Off-campus living also may have stipulations not necessarily found in an on-campus dormitory. Make sure you fully understand the terms and agreements your friend or landlord and don’t assume you can do things you may have normally done at home. Loud music, wild parties and maybe even leaving the toilet seat up are grounds for eviction. If you’re living with a friend, he or she may also expect you to help out with buying groceries or cooking.

One way to cut down on the costs of off-campus living is find a group of friends or roommates and share rent in a large apartment or leased house. Again, a written contract signed by all members is the best way to protect your and your friends’ interests. Be sure to keep your dreams of finally being away from your parents from turning into nightmares!

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Fees Fatten College Costs

by Alexis Mattera

Take a look at your bills for next semester. If the costs seem a little higher than usual, don’t be quick to blame tuition. It could be fees plumping up your payments.

In an attempt to combat diminishing state funding, many public colleges have elected to raise student fees in lieu of increasing tuition. Though many schools have been quick to point out that the fee increases – $180 for repairs and maintenance (Indiana University-Bloomington), $150 for matriculation (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale) and a whopping $1,088 “special institutional fee” (public universities in Georgia), for example – are temporary to make up for budget shortfalls, it doesn’t change the fact that college students and their parents need to secure additional funding.

Not only are students questioning the rationale behind these various fee hikes but laws have been proposed to allow legislators to better examine how fees are justified and, later, spent – much like the Department of Education’s tuition report mandate from earlier this month. New Jersey legislators have proposed that state schools be required to detail on tuition bills how fees are allocated and, starting in August, state schools in North Dakota must publish an online breakdown of where the mandatory fees go.

Has your school increased its fees? If so, which ones? Are you happy to hear some states are taking steps to combat potentially unnecessary fee hikes?


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Repaying Student Loans

July 28, 2011

Repaying Student Loans

by Radha Jhatakia

Even before college applications are due, many students are worried about how they will afford their postsecondary educations. Once the enrollment deposit is in and the initial stress of finding funding has passed, however, it’s easy to forget about how some forms of financial aid – namely, student loans – require repayment starting about six months after graduation. Here are a few tips to follow so you’re prepared when this time comes.

When applying for loans, there are three standard loans you can receive. There is the Direct Subsidized Stafford loan (which doesn’t charge interest while you are in school), the Direct Unsubsidized Stafford loan (which does charges interest while you are in school) and the PLUS loan (which requires a parent or co-signer. Repayments for both Stafford loans begin six months after graduation but PLUS loan repayments begin as soon as the last disbursement is made unless you submit a deferment form.

The next step is choosing a repayment plan. There are quite a few plans to choose from and, depending on how much you borrowed, they differ in the amount you will have to pay per month and how many years you will be paying it off. Choose a plan that best suits your needs, and remember you can always change the plan if your financial situation changes.

The most important tip of all, in my opinion is to create an account with a site like myfedloan.org. This is the website used by the loan service for repayments. Sign up for it while you are still in school so you can keep track of your balance and interest. Pay off part of the interest whenever you can to avoid capitalizing on it and sign up for quarterly statements to stay informed.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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