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Credit Card Crack Down

SUNY Adopts Credit Card Reform Agreement

September 10, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the emergencies only credit card. Sounds great in theory but when a student’s cash flow is low, the term “emergency” can take on an entirely new meaning (some sweet new sneakers or a floor dinner at Chez Fancypants, perhaps?). If Mom and Dad aren’t too keen on the idea – maybe they’ve been there, done that and have the credit score to prove it – there hasn’t been much they could do to prevent their child from stopping by the student union during the first week of classes and signing up for myriad cards and repercussions…until Andrew Cuomo stepped into their corner.

Reuters recently posted an article detailing the State University of New York’s agreement with the New York Attorney General to adopt practices to protect students from unnecessary debt. SUNY, with 465,000 students on 64 campuses throughout the state, is the first university in the country to adopt this sort of reform, which calls for mandatory financial literacy programs to educate students on loans, credit cards and finances in general to minimize the nearly $4,100 in credit card debt and $20,000 in loans that most four-year college students graduate with. Letters have also been sent to the state’s approximately 300 higher educational facilities insisting that they evaluate any existing contracts with credit and debit card companies, prohibit the sharing of students’ personal information with card companies without authorization, limit on-campus marketing and never accept percentages of charges imposed on students.

When I began my freshman year at UConn in 2001, I made the decision not to sign up for a credit card for one simple reason: I knew that when I tired of my wardrobe or dining hall food, it would have been all too easy to bust out the plastic. That being said, I knew plenty of people who were tempted by the free t-shirts and bottle openers and they would have surely benefited from Cuomo’s reform and tips like these. Now to our readers: Have any financial wins or woes from your college days you'd care to share? Would you have made different choices if more information was available? Were the sneakers worth it?

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Grace Period for Student Loans Coming to an End

Simple Tips to Managing Your Loans

November 11, 2010

Grace Period for Student Loans Coming to an End

by Suada Kolovic

With the typical six-month grace period on student loans right around the corner, recent college graduates across the country will start making monthly payments whether they’re ready to or not . If you’re one of those students, or just starting your college career, here are a few suggestions from the Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit independent research and policy organization, on how to manage your loans.

  • Know where you stand.

    A great way to get the exact amount you owe is to visit your lender – in some cases, lenders – or you can find details of your student loans, including balances, by visiting the National Student Loan Data System, the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. If you have non-federal loans, there is a possibility they won’t be listed so contact your institution for that information.
  • When’s the first payment?

    The grace period for student loans is the time after graduation before having to make your first payment. But the length of grace periods can vary; for Federal Stafford loans it’s six months, nine months for Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Plus Loans depend of when they were issued. To find out the grace period attached to private loans contact your lender.
  • Keep in touch with your lender.

    It’s important to remember to keep your contact information updated with your lender. Whether you’re moving or changing your phone number, an updated contact sheet could save you from unnecessary fees.
  • Consider what repayment option works best for you.

    One option is the Income-Based Repayment Program (IBR), which is not available on private loans, that sets a reasonable monthly payment based on a borrower’s income and family size. Under IBR, after 25 years of qualifying payments, your remaining debt, including interest, will be forgiven.
  • Prepare for life and the unexpected.

    Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. If you can’t make payments due to unemployment, health issues or other unexpected financial challenges, you have options for managing your federal student loans. There are options to temporarily postpone your payments, such as deferments and forbearance. Contact your lender for more information and the interest attached to those options.
  • Never ignore your financial responsibilities.

    Ignoring your student loans – or any loan for that matter – can result in serious consequences that can last a lifetime. When you default, your total loan balance becomes due, your credit score is ruined and the total amount you owe increases dramatically. If you default on a federal loan, the government can garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds.
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Young Adults to Spend Less, Save More in 2011

January 6, 2011

Young Adults to Spend Less, Save More in 2011

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like a life of excess is so last year. According to a Chase Slate-U.S. News survey, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to say they want to save more, spend less, pay down debts and develop a budget in 2011 than older generations. In a national survey, 1,000 American adults were asked if they planned on changing their financial habits in 2011 and while 54 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 said yes, only 27 percent of those aged 55 to 64 and 23 percent of senior citizens agreed with that sentiment.

So why the shift? According to David Weliver, founder of the Money Under 30 blog, the recession taught 20-somethings to create a financial safety net for themselves. "We're starting our adult lives knowing the importance of having savings to fall back on in the event of job loss, and that we cannot simply buy a home and ride its perpetually increasing value to retirement. We're more goal-oriented about our finances—because we have to be." The report also noted that young adults are more optimistic about their finances and the economy overall and more likely to use online money management tools to help them stay on track.

Did your list of New Year’s resolutions include changing your spending habits? Let us know what you’re doing to avoid debt.

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Seven Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans

May 19, 2011

Seven Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a recent college graduate, chances are you’ll have to start paying off your student loans sooner than you think. And even with the economy in a slump, don’t expect a free pass on not paying your loans. Are you starting to panic? Well, don’t! There’s a ton of advice out there to help students stay on track and courtesy of the U.S. News and World Report, here are seven tips for repaying your student loans.

  • Repay you student loans automatically. Make things easier on yourself by setting up automatic withdrawals from your bank account. This reduces the chance of late or missing payments.
  • Aim for 10 years. The traditional repayment period for student loans is 10 years and ideally you'll be able to pay off all your debt within that time period. If you end up struggling with your monthly payments, however, you could stretch out your loans to 20 or even 30 years. Your monthly payments will become more manageable but you will end up paying a lot more in interest.
  • Stay organized. Having multiple student loans can be a challenge to keep track of but with the government's National Student Loan Data System, you’ll be able to track all your federal student loans in one place.
  • Pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first. A high interest rate costs you every month and compounds that amount you owe every month you aren’t paying off the entire balance.
  • Consider IBR. The IBR is a federal Income-Based Repayment program that allows a borrower to repay his or her federal loans based on what is affordable and not what is owed.
  • Keep abreast of student loan developments. Staying informed is just as important as making your payments. Familiarize yourself with websites that are devoted to college debt issues like Project on Student Debt and the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project.
  • Contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman. Sometimes your relationship with a lender can go belly-up. If you end up in a dispute, the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman may be able to help resolve the issue.
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Not Enough Financial Aid? You Still Have Options!

May 25, 2011

Not Enough Financial Aid? You Still Have Options!

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many factors that affect where, when and if students attend college, the most important being financial aid. So what can a student do when he or she hasn’t received enough funding?

If you need financial aid to make college a reality, contact the financial aid offices at the schools you’re considering before applying. Find out the costs of tuition, room and board, and other college living expenses and defray these costs by applying for as many scholarships and grants as you can. The college will be more likely to help fill any financial gaps if you’ve shown initiative and determination.

Another method is writing formal letters to financial aid administrators. Describe your financial aid situation (including hard numbers), your home life, factors affecting your ability to pay for college and things that you could not put on the FAFSA such as a home mortgage or other payments that your parents need to make. Fax this letter, mail it by certified mail and email a copy to each school as well. If the school cannot offer you free money, they can sometimes offer an additional loan of some sort.

If all else fails, call the colleges and schedule appointments with the deans or heads of the financial aid offices. Some colleges have tuition waivers which allow students with special conditions to be exempt from paying tuition. If the school does not offer this option, you can still seek out non-school loans through banks or private companies. These loans often have higher interest rates, require co-signers or do not have grace period to pay off loans after graduating; in my opinion, however, the cost of not getting a college education is much higher than amount of these loans.

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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High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

August 15, 2011

High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, senior year. It’s a time chock-full with to-dos, from finalizing your college choice and filling out applications to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order. And with summer slowly coming to a close, it’s a good time for rising high school seniors to realize that some deadlines are just around the corner. So rather than let the last weeks of summer slip away, avoid the fall time crunch and consider U.S. News and World’s top suggestions of five simple things you can do now:

  1. Examine school prices: Relying on just the sticker price when making your college selection is a huge mistake. For the most part, sticker prices are often meaningless. Take the time to do some serious research and understand the real cost of the institutions you’re interested in.
  2. Know deadlines: Keeping track of the various deadlines you’ll have to meet is essential for a successful senior year. In order to make things easier, use Scholarships.com’s calendar as a reference!
  3. Get started on your college essay: Writing a college essay is one of the most nerve-wracking chores high school seniors face. To relieve some of the pressure, start early. Think about it: If you start now, you’re more likely to be able to devote the time needed to do a great job.
  4. Consider supplemental materials: If you’re an artist, musician or actor, applying for colleges (and scholarships!) may be more time consuming. In some cases, you’ll have to audition and have an impressive portfolio to standout. Some schools also require SAT Subject Tests so find out and book exam dates now.
  5. Research: If you haven’t begun researching schools, get started now. Check out schools online, take virtual tours and really consider what qualities are most important to you. Think about what you want out of your college experience – whether it’s a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services – and take a hard look at whether you’re applying to schools for the right reasons.
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Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

August 19, 2011

Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like just yesterday that your kid was, well, just a kid, asking for a ride to the movies and throwing a tantrum on the floor. Now your child has walked across their high school stage, tossed that mortarboard in the air and is heading for college in the fall. If this is the first child you’re sending off, it’s normal to be apprehensive about letting go but remember, this is their moment. College is a time for them to discover who they are and figure things out for themselves. That being said, you can help financially prepare your student for college. Check out the four tips from U.S. World and News Report on finding the balance between supplying enough funds and when letting your child struggle is okay:

  • Don’t deposit and dash: Some parents might opt to supply their student with extra spending money for the upcoming school year but it has the potential of backfiring almost instantaneously. If you’re doling out a year’s worth of funds without a framework about budgeting, they’ll be calling for pizza money by October. Take the time to discuss the importance of month-to-month budgeting and understanding the reality of unexpected expenses.
  • Embrace – and limit – financial slip-ups: Once you’ve discussed a budget, step out of the process and leave it up to your child to make it work, recommends clinical psychologist Jerry Weichman. "One of the best things parents can do is to allow your kids to struggle financially for a little bit if they mismanage their money, because the consequences are so much easier for them now versus what that would equate to when they're adults. You learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes."
  • Encourage financial freedom: Having your child work in college is a great way to lower the potential of student loan debt as well as understanding the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Allow your child to allocate earnings, providing them the opportunity to make a connection between money earned and money spent.
  • Utilize web resources: Letting go might be easier said than done, but neither you nor your student need to tackle the upcoming challenges alone. A bevy of financial aid resources is just a click away. Check out Scholarships.com for tips on everything from balancing work and college and where to work on campus to money management skills and tips for going on a budget diet.
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Scholarships.com’s Awkward Back-to-School Photo Contest

September 15, 2011

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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Simple Saving Solutions for Students

February 9, 2012

Simple Saving Solutions for Students

by Angela Andaloro

The last few weeks of the fall semester are a stressful time with finals, travel and the holidays to handle but you survived – congratulations! You may have made it into 2012 in one piece but your checking account may not be so lucky. The good news is that there are many ways for college students to save money and make living on a tight budget feel downright comfortable.

Discover discounts. You would be surprised at how many restaurants, clothing stores, hair salons and other businesses have special offers for students! Even some cell phone carriers offer student discounts, which is perfect for the college student who can’t live without his or her phone.

Plan ahead. Mapping out your week – specifically planning your meals – will help you save a lot of money: Stopping at convenience stores and fast food restaurants for snacks adds up fast!

Get a Student Advantage Card.. For $20 a year, the Student Advantage Card gets you extra discounts of up to 25% at a variety of retailers including textbook rental sites and movie theaters.

Enjoy student perks. You can often get free pens and USB drives from companies visiting campus for career fairs. Speaking of campus events, they are often stocked with free food and other swag – what’s better than getting to meet new people and grabbing a bite at no cost? If you can’t make it but still want to take advantage of gratis goods, grab your smartphone or comp to snatch up some samples of your favorite products from sites like SampleStuff.com.

Saving money in college is very important but we would also like to have money to do the things we want. These tips will get you on track to having a few extra bucks when you need them and learn valuable money management skills for your future.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.

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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who 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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