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Debt Deal Not So for Graduate Students

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a graduate student or considering graduate school, listen up: The debt deal reached by Congressional leaders and President Obama would make graduate school much more expensive.

According to the agreement, Congress would scrap subsidized federal loans for graduate students in an effort to trim the deficits. These loans don’t charge students any interest on the principal of student loans until six months after students have graduated; if they’re eliminated, some students will have to start paying back loans while they’re still in school. And if that isn’t bad enough, Congress will also ax a special credit for all students who make 12 months of on-time loan payments. The changes would take place July 1, 2012 and would save the government $21.6 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

For graduate students who do qualify for the maximum amount of subsidized loans, this new agreement could tack on thousands of dollars to the already staggering cost of going to school. The reason behind the changes is the theory that the money saved by the student loan cuts would help pay to keep Pell Grants, which so far are maintained at a maximum grant of $5,550 a year for some 8 million poor students. “Full funding for Pell Grants is absolutely essential to fulfilling the president's goal of the U.S. once again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020," said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success.

Those considering graduate school, will these changes affect your decision to attend?


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Illinois DREAM Act Signed by Governor Quinn

by Suada Kolovic

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a law Monday that provides undocumented immigrants access to private scholarships. The Illinois DREAM Act, which passed the state Senate by a wide margin in May, will create a “DREAM Fund” – a scholarship account funded entirely by private dollars that will provide scholarships to undocumented students seeking higher education.

Quinn called the new law “landmark” legislation. The DREAM Act – which borrows its name from a similar piece of federal legislation – will also encourage counselors to receive training on educational opportunities for undocumented students, as well as open up college savings programs and prepaid tuition programs to all Illinois residents. Unlike the federal bill, however, it will not provide a path to citizenship for those students.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also attended the Monday signing. “Immigrants are a driving force in our city’s cultural and economic life, and opening the way for all Chicago students to earn an excellent higher education will make our city even stronger," Emanuel said in a statement. “I am proud that families and students across Illinois will now have a better shot at the American Dream — which starts with a great education.”

What do you think of the legislation? Should other states follow in Illinois’ footsteps or do you think passing the DREAM Act will only encourage more illegal immigration?


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Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

August 10, 2011

Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

by Alexis Mattera

A few months back, we wrote about helpful tips on maximizing merit aid, or aid based on a student’s attributes like academics, athletics and extracurriculars. For college applicants who aren’t deemed financially needy in terms of their FAFSA or EFC, merit aid can make a huge difference in the schools they can realistically afford to attend. Students and families seeking this extra financial aid boost should consider researching schools more likely to dispense merit-based awards but with so many colleges and universities in the U.S., which ones are the best financial bets?

Help has arrived in the form of U.S. News, which has compiled a top 10 list of schools that awarded the highest percentage of merit-based funding to non-needy students during the 2009-10 academic year (the stats do not include financially needy students who were given merit aid or students who received athletic scholarships or other tuition breaks). Take a look:

High school students, does this data have you looking at these schools in a new light? Current college students attending one of the schools listed above, did merit aid make the difference as to whether or not you enrolled?


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University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a rut, the unemployment rate declining at a sluggish pace and the cost of a college education rising at an astronomical rate, now is the time to consider your options. Here at Scholarships.com, we can’t stress enough the importance of applying early and often for scholarships and financial aid, but when a college education is still just out of reach, some universities are willing to go the extra mile to help prospective students out. Rising high school seniors, take note: The University of Dayton is offering four years of free textbooks to first-year students who visit the campus and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by the university’s March 1 application deadline.

According to Dayton officials, the free textbook program is an incentive for families to attend campus visits in a tight economy and as a way to urge families to complete the federal aid form, which is an essential piece of the financial aid puzzle. "Many families don't fill out the form because they believe they don't qualify or think it takes too much time. They miss out on opportunities to get affordable financing or grant funding," said Kathy McEuen Harmon, assistant vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Students who fulfill the university’s requirements will receive up to $500 per semester to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore – funds good toward new, used or rental books. According Harmon, an estimated 75 percent of the first-year class is projected to take advantage of the offer, representing a $1.5 million annual commitment by the University. "We want them to fully understand the rewards of a University of Dayton education and know that those rewards are not out of their reach," Harmon said. "This is a very tangible way to demonstrate our commitment, one they can see immediately."

What do you think of the University of Dayton’s efforts? Are free textbooks enough to get you to commit to an institution? Should others follow suit? Let us know what you think.


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Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

by Suada Kolovic

While credit card debt, mortgage debt and auto loan debt have all steadily decreased since the fall of 2008, the same cannot be said for outstanding student loan debt, which has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis. Not only has student debt increased, but more often than not these loans aren’t getting paid off on time. The problem is that students take out sizable loans to pay for tuition to only be met with bleak prospects of employment after college. Those lucky enough to secure a job can also expect lower starting salaries: The median starting salary for a member of the class or 2009 or 2010 is $27,000, down from $30,000 just a couple of years ago.

The debt ceiling deal complicated things a step further by adding additional federal loan provisions. One section of the deal changed the way interest is collected on federal loans for graduate students, meaning that borrowers will start accruing interest on their loans before they’ve graduated. That being said, earning a college degree is still a significant advantage when entering the job market. The Labor Department released a report stating that for workers 25 and over with at least a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate in July was 4.3 percent, compared with 8.3 percent for workers with "some college," and 9.3 percent for workers with just high school diplomas.

Soon-to-be college students, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?


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The Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship Has Returned!

by Alexis Mattera

Believe it or not, a lot can be said in 140 characters...and if wielded correctly, those 140 characters could be worth $1,000 or a Kindle for college. You know what that means: Scholarships.com’s Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship is back!

With school starting up again, we know your academic and extracurricular calendars are filling up but that doesn’t mean your search for college funding should suffer. That’s why we made the Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship so easy: No lengthy essay, no pile of paperwork – just your thoughts, in real time. To enter, simply log on to Twitter (create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us, then @reply us (aka include @Scholarshipscom in your tweet) and explain what an extra $1,000 for college would mean to you as creatively and meaningfully as possible. Got that? Great...now start tweeting!

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: @reply us (aka include @Scholarshipscom in your tweet) answering the question “What would an extra $1,000 for college mean to you?” Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles!

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to a reasonable amount per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom or are submitted after the September 30th deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which tweets are most deserving of the awards.

Starts: August 25th

Ends: September 30th

Number Available: 3

Amount: $1,000 for one first-prize winner; second- and third-prize winners will be awarded one Kindle each.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here.


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No Need to Wait - Start Your Scholarship Search NOW!

by Shari Williams

I am your average student. I got decent grades in high school, applied to college, got accepted to college, and paid for my education with multiple student loans. I have taken classes I loved (and didn’t love), been involved in extracurricular activities and clubs, and have truly grown as a person during my time in college. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive prestigious grants or scholarships to limit the debt I’ll surely incur after graduation.

There are many college students who are in the same boat...so what can we do? How can we afford the education we deserve? How can we make sure we have enough funds for books and food? How can we buy those super trendy shoes Kim Kardashian was just spotted wearing when we have loan payments looming? Okay, maybe the last question isn't as important but if you want to avoid student loan debt, start searching for scholarships.

And don’t just search – search early! There are plenty of scholarships out there and the more you apply to, the better your chances are of winning one. All awards are different but many scholarship providers begin their application processes at the beginning of the fall semester so start looking now to avoid missing important deadlines. I learned this the hard way: I found lots of perfect scholarships...after the deadlines had passed.

Whether you’re still in high school or a super senior in college, do me – and yourself! – a huge favor: Make scholarships a priority. You can do this easily by creating a Scholarships.com account; not only will you have access to an entire database of awards but you’ll also receive regular email reminders about new awards and due dates. With the college costs showing no signs of decreasing, every penny counts – just make sure they come without interest if you can!

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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Clipping Coupons for College?

Groupon and NLU Offer Discount to Boost Student Interest

September 6, 2011

Clipping Coupons for College?

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you’re in the market for discounted feather extensions or oil changes, odds are pretty high there’s a Groupon for what you seek...but what about reduced-rate college tuition?

The Chicago Tribune reported National-Louis University is offering a Groupon today for 57-percent off a three-credit graduate-level introduction to teaching course at its Chicago campus. (Regular tuition for the course is $2,232 but Groupon will offer it for $950.) According to Groupon’s communications director Julie Mossler, this is the first time an academic university has used the website as an effort to boost student interest. "There are all kinds of factors in the K-12 world that are really discouraging teachers and people seeking teaching degrees," said Jocelyn Zivin, NLU’s vice president of marketing and communications. "We'd like (potential students) to understand what the realities are, whether you are committed to this profession...and see if you have what it takes."

Every little bit of tuition assistance does help these days but what do you think of NLU and Groupon’s deal? Is it something that you think other schools should consider offering as well?


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What National University is the Best Value?

U.S. News Reveals Sneak Peek at Latest List

September 8, 2011

What National University is the Best Value?

by Alexis Mattera

With college costs at an all-time high, the likelihood of college applicants and their parents selecting the school offering the most financial assistance is pretty high. But what national schools provide the highest quality education for the lowest price? Just ask the experts at U.S. News.

Though the official ordered list will not be revealed until next week, U.S. News published a sneak peek of its top 10 best value schools in the National Universities category today. (Keep in mind the schools are only listed in alphabetical order at this point.)

Is your dream school represented? Excellent! What school do you think will be named the best value and why?


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Scholarships.com’s Awkward Back-to-School Photo Contest

by Scholarships.com Staff

Ah, the first day of school. You meticulously selected your outfit, you styled your hair just right but when you smiled for the camera, all that awesomeness translated into...complete and total awkwardness. It may be tempting to dispose of the evidence but don’t burn those negatives or delete those jpegs just yet: Those images could earn you $1,000 or a Kindle for college through Scholarships.com’s Awkward Back-to-School Photo Contest!

To enter Scholarships.com’s Awkward Back-to-School Photo Contest, simply “like” Scholarships.com on Facebook and upload your amateur, school-related photo (first day, class, prom, graduation, etc.) to Scholarships.com’s Facebook wall, making sure to tag yourself and Scholarships.com in the image. Following the October 31st deadline, the Scholarships.com Team will post our top finalists and users will have one week to vote for their favorite photo via comments and likes. The person who submits the photo receiving the most votes will win $1,000 and the individuals who submit the second and third highest-scoring images will receive one Kindle each.

Starts: September 15th

Ends: October 31st

Number of Awards: 3

Amount: $1,000 for one first-prize winner; one second- and one third-prize winner will be awarded one Kindle each.

Step 1: “Like” Scholarships.com on Facebook.

Step 2: Post your school-related to Scholarships.com’s Facebook wall, making sure to tag yourself and Scholarships.com in the image. These photos must be amateur (i.e., not professionally taken), can be current or from years past and must feature the person submitting the photo.

Step 3: The Scholarships.com Team will select the top images submitted and let our fans choose a winner via their comments and likes.

Step 4: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your photos to one per day. Those who do not observe this step or who do not tag themselves and Scholarships.com in their photos will be disqualified. You must also adjust your Facebook privacy preferences to allow Scholarships.com to message you should you win.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

For more information and official rules, please click here.


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