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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

by Alexis Mattera

Though it’s a day off from school and work, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year’s resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2012 for the 2013-2014 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

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How Much Is The Application Fee?!

Top 25 Highest Application Fees

January 3, 2014

How Much Is The Application Fee?!

by Suada Kolovic

Sure, we’ve discussed the skyrocketing cost of college tuition on a daily basis and considering every other add-on you’ll have to endure when it comes to paying for college – room and board, books and supplies – having to pay an outrageous application fee is downright cruel.

According to the U.S. News & World Report, the average application fee to apply to colleges is $38.39, which is a steal compared to the fees charged by the institutions listed below. At the top 28 schools with the highest application costs, the average application fee is $77! Check out the list below and share your thoughts. Let us know if these hefty fees will ultimately decide where you’ll apply.


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President, FLOTUS Push for More Access to Higher Education for Low-Income Students

by Suada Kolovic

Higher education has always been a top priority for President Barack Obama. Back in February 2009, he told Congress, “By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” Five years later, whether or not we as a nation will achieve that benchmark remains unseen but he believes that reaching out to low-income students may be just the key to getting there.

On Thursday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with more than 80 college presidents and dozens of nonprofits committed to raising the number of low-income students who attend college. “We want to restore the essential promise of opportunity and upward mobility that’s at the heart of America,” he told the group. "To that end, young people, low-income students in particular, must have access to a college education." The participating schools have agreed to take action in one of four areas: connecting young people to schools that are right for them; early intervention to ensure a larger pool of students prepare for college; more college advising and test preparation; and more on-campus remedial education. And while President Obama’s various education initiatives are ambitious, it doesn’t appear to be lost on him that there is much more work to be done to get college degrees in the hands of more American students, regardless of their economic class. (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of the President’s education push? Let us know in the comments section.


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Stock Market Recovers While Youth Unemployment Rate Remains Stagnant

by Suada Kolovic

Six years after the recession began, the stock market is officially recovering. And while that’s great news for investors, it hasn't translated into a thriving work force for recent college graduates. In fact, the unemployment rate for millennials ages 18 to 29 in the U.S. has remained in the double digits and the percentage of young workers without employment is close to double what it was when the recession first hit. But why?

The New York Times reported that with millions still out of work, companies face little pressure to add employees while productivity gains allow them to increase sales. The result: a solidified golden age for corporate profits. So while buoyant earnings are rewarded by investors and make American companies more competitive globally, they are not converting into additional jobs at home. It’s also important to note that the Federal Reserve has played a crucial role in propelling the stock market into record heights, even if that wasn’t the intention. The Federal Reserve has made reducing unemployment a top priority but in practice, its policy of keeping interest rates low and buying up the safest assets to stimulate the economy means that investors are willing to take on more risk in search of better returns. “The Federal Reserve has done a good job stimulating financial conditions and lifting the market,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “It’s been less successful in stimulating job growth.”

What are you thoughts on the unemployment rate among recent college graduates? What can be done to change the not-so-current trend? Let us know in the comments section.


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SOTW: National WWII Museum Student Essay Contest

by Suada Kolovic

This year, The National WWII Museum asks: How did you plan to achieve success in the face of the unknown?

On June 6, 2014 the world will celebrate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion to liberate Europe from Nazi rule. To commemorate the importance of this event, The National WWII Museum asks you to think about a time in your life where you have had to make important plans for success in spite of uncertainty.

For your essay, think about a time when you’ve had to plan for something important in your future. How did you plan to achieve success in the face of the unknown? How did you handle any challenges to reach your goal? How does your story connect to those of other people, past and present, who have had to face and overcome tremendous odds to obtain their goal? 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. The National WWII Museum staff will read and evaluate entries.

The National WWII Museum is accepting entries through March 28th. If you are interested in learning more about this or other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Tennessee Governor Proposes Free Community College

by Suada Kolovic

When considering the true cost of a college education, students must remember to factor in not only tuition but mandatory fees, room and board, books, supplies and living expenses. That is unless you're from Tennessee, where the governor has proposed free community college for all high school graduates. That’s right: All high school graduates in the state would have the option to attend a community or technical college for two years for free!

On Monday, Gov. William E. Haslam proposed using money from the Tennessee Education Lottery to fund an endowment that would cover all tuition and fees to two-year institutions for all graduating high school seniors. The proposal forms the centerpiece of his effort to increase the number of college graduates in Tennessee. "We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee," Haslam said. "Tennessee will be the only state in the country to offer our high school graduates two years of community college with no tuition or fees along with the support of dedicated mentors." In addition to the Tennessee Promise proposal, the governor laid out several other educational polices, including an expansion of a program meant to reduce the need for remedial math courses and a program to encourage high school students to take dual-enrollment courses. (For more on this story, click here.)

With the cost of a college education still on the rise, what do you think of Haslam’s proposal? Should all states that participate in the lottery consider this option? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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Colleges Accused of Misleading Students About Financial Aid Applications

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how you're going to pay for your college education can be daunting. And while no one would argue that filling out the FAFSA is an important piece of the financial aid puzzle, it seems that some colleges might be making the process more complicated...and costly.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland alleged this week that more than 100 universities – including dozens of elite and Ivy League institutions – may be violating the law by telling potential applicants that they have to spend money filling out an unnecessary form. In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Cummings said 111 universities required a financial aid form developed by the College Board to be considered for any financial aid. Fifty-eight of the schools told applicants that they had to submit the $25 PROFILE form "in order to secure any type of financial aid, including federal student aid," Cummings wrote. The other 53 directed applicants to "submit both the FAFSA and the PROFILE to obtain federal financial aid, although they do not clarify what each form is used to assess." And while Cummings insists that these schools appear to be in violation of the Higher Education Act, some college officials have defended their use of PROFILE, stating that because it takes into account factors the FAFSA doesn't — like home equity and some business income — it allows universities to make fairer decisions on who needs aid the most. Meanwhile, Cummings has requested a meeting with Duncan to figure out what steps need to be taken to ensure that colleges are not creating unnecessary barriers to federal assistance. (For more on this story, click here.)

With all the outrageous fees students already must endure, what do you think of universities adding an additional one? Are you for filling out a form that costs you $25 if there is a chance you might get additional aid or against forking up more money than necessary? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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How to Maximize Your Financial Aid Package

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out the bottom line when it comes to the cost of your college education is definitely a stressful part of the process. With everything that goes into determining your financial aid package (your parents’ income, your earnings and your family’s net assets), it’s important to understand that merit aid – aid based on a student’s attributes (academics, athletics, extracurriculars, etc.) – is available to student regardless of their “need.” New federal rules are blurring the distinction between scholarships awarded on merit and grants awarded because of a student’s financial need – for instance, a growing number of colleges now award “need-based” aid to students from families earning six figures! Who would have thunk it?! So, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to maximize your chances for merit aid and increase your overall financial aid package.

  • Fill out the FAFSA. Federal rules have changed. College aid officials are now allowed to award need-based aid to students whose parents earned decent salaries last year but have recently been laid off, as well as make accommodations for a family’s unique circumstances, such as high medical bills.
  • Apply to schools where you’d rank at the top. While your dream school might be an Ivy League, you should apply to at least a few colleges where your GPA would put you in the top 25 percent of the student body.
  • Apply to schools that offer generous need-based aid. In the 2009-10 academic year, Louisiana College reported that 88 percent of students were receiving non-need based financial aid. Do the schools you’re considering boast the same kind of aid?
  • Do the research. If you’re interested in a college, find out what it has to offer when it comes to merit aid. You might qualify for more awards than you think!
  • Before making a final decision, compare net prices. Consider the cost of attendance in its entirety including tuition and fees, room and board, books and transportation. The school that offers the most in merit aid might not be the best choice; sometimes the college offering the largest merit scholarship might have the highest net price because its tuition is higher.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Believe it or not, you have negotiating leverage when it comes to your merit aid package. If you have received admission letters from two or more universities and your first choice has a higher net price than your second choice, contact that institution! Some schools might be willing to match the merit aid offered, which would provide you the opportunity to attend your first choice school for less money!

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Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

Colleges with the Highest Return on Your Investment

March 28, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With all this talk about possible Pell Grant cuts, acceptance rates plummeting and universities facing serious tuition hikes, which schools are worth the outrageous sticker price of about $200,000? According to PayScale.com’s annual survey of colleges with the highest return on investment rates, Harvey Mudd College tops the list with a 8.8% annual return. PayScale.com’s data is pulled from 1.4 million pay reports from persons who obtained bachelor's degrees in the last 20 years, for more on their methodology click here. Check out who made the cut below:


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by Suada Kolovic

High school students, as you move further into your senior year and really start making decisions that will shape your future – what college you'll attend, how you'll fund this endeavor and what you’ll possibly major in – it dawns on you: “OMG, I’m officially an adult.” And with that realization comes the fact that very soon, you'll no longer (legally) be the responsibility of your parents. Well, not everyone is willing to accept that as their reality: A New Jersey teenager who was financially cut off following her 18th birthday is suing her parents for immediate support, current private school fees and future college tuition.

For months, Rachel Canning has been living with the family of her best friend and classmate, Jaime Inglesino, whose father, attorney John Inglesino, is bankrolling Rachel's lawsuit. Rachel, an honor student who plans on becoming a biochemical engineer, has asked the court to order her parents to pay an overdue $5,306 bill from Morris Catholic High School, finance her living and transport expenses, and grant her access to an existing college fund. Her father, Lincoln Park town administrator and retired police officer Sean Canning, says that his daughter would not abide by a set of household rules and was therefore cut off financially. "She's demanding that we pay her bills, but she doesn't want to live at home. We're heartbroken, but what do you do when a child says, 'I don't want your rules, but I want everything under the sun and you to pay for it?'" (For more on this story, click here.)

While it's not unheard of for young adults to take legal action against their parents, what do you think Rachel's case? Should parents be financially responsible for their child's college education? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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