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Study: Pell Grant Restrictions Affect Enrollment at Community Colleges in the South

by Scholarships.com Staff

Community colleges across the country have seen a steep decline in enrollments this year for a few reasons. A recovering economy steering students toward jobs and budget cuts that have led to fee increases have played key roles but changes to federal Pell grant eligibility are most notable. According to a new study, community colleges in the Deep South have been hit hardest by the changes that took effect last year.

The study, by Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama director Stephen Katsinas, argues that community college enrollments in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi are highly sensitive to changes in the federal grant program. Enrollment in 47 of the 62 two-year colleges across the three states declined this past fall and more than 5,000 students lost Pell grants – a change that the report's authors say can be directly attributed to the changes in eligibility. Students are now limited to just six years of Pell grants, fewer students automatically qualify for the maximum grant because of a lower income cap for receiving an “automatic zero” expected family contribution and students without a high school diploma or GED are no longer eligible.

While many states have started to see their economies improve, that’s not the case for the three states included in the study. In fact, not only have their economies not recovered but state-supported student aid programs are much smaller, so colleges have fewer resources for low-income students who no longer qualify for Pell grants. Both Pell grants and community colleges are "vital to enhancing college degree completion in the Deep South, for it is the community colleges where economically disadvantaged students begin higher education," the study noted. The enrollment numbers were based on surveys of community college officials. All of the two-year colleges in the three-state region responded. However, the national enrollment data for 2012 hasn't been compiled yet, said David Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education.


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Cornell Student Organization Gives Financial Solace to Undocumented Students

by Carly Gerber

Undocumented students are ineligible for federal aid or loans and as a result, many of these students have a difficult time paying their way through college. Accruing enough funds to turn a collegiate dream into reality isn’t easy but one appropriately-named student group at Cornell University is certainly doing its part to ease the financial burden.

The DREAM Team is attempting to make the American Dream a reality for Cornell’s undocumented students, thanks to a $5,000 reward from the Perkins Prize. Though the initial plan was to give out $2,500 in scholarships and put the remaining $2,500 to DREAM Team events and trips, the group decided it was more important to allot the entire amount to undocumented students in need. The scholarships will be on the smaller side – the DREAM Team receives a minimum of 10 applicants, meaning that awards will be $500 each – but the funds could help awardees purchase the basic necessities to succeed in college. Every little bit helps!

Cornell President David Skorton is proud of his students for being proactive and has said, “Many of us have lost sight of the important contributions immigrants have made – and are making – to our culture and our economy. Their continued contributions are critical to our country’s success.” Yet, along with encouragement comes negative feedback. Conservatives routinely discourage reform that will give undocumented residents a pathway to citizenship, arguing that allowing illegal immigrants to stay in America will burden taxpayers and increase illegal immigration.

Ultimately, the DREAM Team wants Cornell to expand the financial aid it can offer undocumented students and realize the American Dream for deserving students. Other private organizations are offering similar programs and interested students can find these awards via Scholarships.com. What do you think of the work these groups are doing?

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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Light Up...and Send a Student to College?

by Carly Gerber

Imagine a place where every time you bought a pack of cigarettes, you would be funding a college student’s education. In the near future, that place could be California: The California Residents College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 would increase tax by $1 for every pack of 20 cigarettes and the money would be deposited into a fund for financial aid.

The California Residents College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 has a projected revenue of $800 million but there is an estimated loss of $70 million of proceeds that go to existing resources. The taxes on tobacco that already exist go to programs for tobacco education and prevention, tobacco-related disease research, breast cancer screenings for uninsured women and early childhood education. (The California Residents College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 would still receive $730 million from its excise on tobacco.)

The tax on tobacco that the California Residents of College Accessibility and Affordability Act of 2014 wants to initiate has to be reviewed by the Board of Equalization. The Board’s job is to estimates the impact the tax would have on other programs that already use taxation on cigarettes. Cal State Northridge senior and sociology major Debra Hendricks said she would vote for the taxation because she has lost many people to cigarette smoking and she likes the idea that the money would be used to support students who want a college education. Junior biology major Jessica Fuentes, however, isn’t sure if another cigarette tax proposal would pass but she thinks the financial aid aspect of the proposal makes the excise appealing.

Personally, I think taxing cigarette smokers again is unfair because they are always the ones getting taxed for their activity. I don’t promote smoking but smokers shouldn’t be the ones to shoulder the burden of spending more because of a societal view on cigarettes. Maybe the California tax should be on alcohol instead – the state would make more revenue that way! What’s your view about this taxation proposal on cigarettes?

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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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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FAFSA to Recognize Same-Sex and Unmarried Parents by 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The Department of Education has recently announced that the FAFSA will soon undergo a few changes to accommodate students with same-sex or unmarried parents who cohabit in order to more accurately ascertain an applicant’s financial situation.

The forms, which will be introduced for the 2014-15 school year, will allow students to designate their parents as “Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)” and “Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)” rather than just mother and father. “All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These changes will allow us to more precisely calculate federal student aid eligibility based on what a student's whole family is able to contribute and ensure taxpayer dollars are better targeted toward those students who have the most need, as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity of American families."

The department has said that the changes will not impact a vast majority of applicants but it could potentially (read: very likely) translate into reduced aid for students with same-sex or unmarried parents. Why? Those parents who do not benefit from filing joint tax returns will likely disqualify their children from financial aid if it’s found that jointly they are above the income threshold. So while the changes are considered progressive, they’re just slightly off the mark when it comes to helping “unique family dynamics.”


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