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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

April 24, 2012

"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!

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Concerned About Student Debt? Choose Your School Wisely

May 11, 2012

Concerned About Student Debt? Choose Your School Wisely

by Alexis Mattera

Cost plays a huge role in many students’ college choices. Depending on their financial situation, some students dismiss the schools with high tuition in favor of lower-cost in-state schools because they think it will save them money. In actuality, they could be doing themselves an economic disservice in the long run.

Using data from U.S. News and World Report’s most recent student debt survey of 25 top-ranking public and private schools, Reuters revealed that, on average, 53 percent of students surveyed received financial aid and at least half of students at most of the institutions graduated debt-free...but it depends on what school they attended: Princeton graduates, for example, owed only $5,000 at commencement while University of Michigan graduates owed more than $27,000 despite Michigan’s in-state costs being less than half of Princeton’s. How is this possible? Numerous schools including Princeton, Caltech, Davidson College and the University of Washington have eliminated student loans from their financial aid packages and others like Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley have capped contributions for students from low- and middle-income families. (Check out the entire article here, including this handy infographic.)

While it is difficult for many students to attend college without taking out some kind of loan – especially those attending state-run institutions which don’t have the fiscal means to eliminate debt – it is possible to avoid debt if you choose the right school. Thoughts?

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How Will You Fund Your College Education?

June 8, 2012

How Will You Fund Your College Education?

by Jessica Seals

Throughout my undergraduate career, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of scholarships and grants that helped cover my tuition and other fees. Thousands of other college students across the country also rely on this free money to pay for their education and we should all be taking note of the fact that many financial aid options that we have to help pay for college are being eliminated or being heavily restricted. For example, two years ago I was able to take summer classes and receive a Pell Grant because the government allowed students to receive it during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Now, students are only eligible to receive the grant two semesters out of the year which means that a student cannot put the funds toward summer classes if they’ve already applied them to the fall and spring semesters for that academic year.

Many people already decide not to enroll in college because they do not feel like they can afford it. Cutting down on the usage of the Pell Grant can force many students to skip summer classes and send them down a slippery slope, as more students will be forced to stay in school longer and accrue more debt from student loans. Classrooms will become emptier during summer sessions and colleges hard-pressed for funds could raise tuition to compensate. The problem will continue to spiral out of control and lead to more reasons why people opt out of attending college.

We all should become more aware of the decreases that are being made towards higher education spending. The changes affect all of us and if we can all become aware of them, we’ll be able to take (and guide others along) the necessary route to make sure that paying for school is a lot less stressful.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was 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. Jessica will be back at Memphis this fall to begin working toward her master’s degree in political science this fall; she ultimately hopes to attend law school.

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Questions to Ask Your Student Loan Servicer

June 13, 2012

Questions to Ask Your Student Loan Servicer

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a recent high school graduate, chances are you’re looking forward to the surge of independence that comes with becoming a college freshman. And while anticipating all the excitement that comes with entering college – meeting new people, establishing a home away from home, sleeping in until noon, etc. – establishing how you’re going to pay for it is an entirely different story. Here at Scholarships.com, we encourage students to apply for scholarships early and often but taking out student loans might be inevitable. With that being said, knowing what questions you should ask your student loan servicer might ease the transition and U.S. News and World Report has done some of the legwork for you by compiling a list of helpful questions that financial aid officers, student loan counselors and former lenders recommend you ask:

  • When exactly will my payments begin?
  • Do you have my current contact information on file?
  • What is my interest rate?
  • Is my interest rate competitive?
  • Is there any way to get an interest rate reduction?
  • Is consolidating my loans a good option for me?
  • How do I qualify for Interest-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment?
  • Do I qualify for an economic hardship deferment?
  • What happens if I lose my job?
  • If I go back to graduate school, what are my loan options?

Can you think of any other questions you’d like answers to? If so, feel free to let us know in the comments section.

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UChicago’s New Financial Aid Initiative Targets Local Students

November 9, 2012

UChicago’s New Financial Aid Initiative Targets Local Students

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Chicago has recently announced the launch of UChicago Promise, an initiative aimed at helping high school students in the city of Chicago gain admission, pay for and succeed in college. The cornerstone of the program is the commitment from the university to eliminate loans from financial aid packages of students from Chicago who are admitted.

“Chicago, from our pre-schools to our world-renowned universities, is committed to ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality education,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The step taken today by the University of Chicago is a creative step that will help many of Chicago’s own achieve their goals and graduate without a financial burden.”

In addition to replacing loans with grants and other nonrepayable student aid, UChicago Promise includes an automatic waiver of the University’s application fee and offers a wide array of support and mentoring programs for aspiring college students. The initiative will take effect for those applying this year and will not be available to students with existing loans or who have already matriculated.

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Affording College While Avoiding Debt

Schools Eliminate Loans, Educate Students To Be Fiscally Responsible

November 14, 2012

Affording College While Avoiding Debt

by Alexis Mattera

A college education is far from cheap but some students are able to graduate with far less debt than others. How? Scholarships and grants play a huge role in keeping expenses low but some institutions are lending a helping hand by revising their financial aid packages and educating their students on the importance of fiscal responsibility.

Davidson College, for example, instituted a “no loans” financial aid policy in 2007 and now addresses need through grants and student employment. Others, like St. John's College, Elizabeth City State University and the SUNY schools, are doing their part by providing tailored support services to students through graduation - the latter, in fact, have launched a system-wide effort to prevent student borrowers from defaulting on their loans by offering net price calculators and communicating early and often with borrowers.

You can read more about what’s being done to combat student debt here but we want to know if your college (or intended school) has similar initiatives in place. If not, what kind of services and information should they be providing regarding student debt?

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College Student Tweets Oil Tycoon for Tuition Assistance…and Gets a Response!

January 9, 2013

College Student Tweets Oil Tycoon for Tuition Assistance…and Gets a Response!

by Suada Kolovic

Chances are if you’re a college student, you have a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and/or Reddit account and with all that social media at your fingertips, you have a few options: 1. Repost a someecard that your friends have seen no less than 20 times (it’s still hilarious to you!) 2. Spend some time analyzing Taylor Swift’s latest breakup 3. Catch up on Grumpy Cat memes or 4. Tweet billionaire oil tycoons for some financial assistance. Well, you wouldn’t be the first to partake in the latter pastime.

Seth Samuelson, a current freshman at Oklahoma State University, had been hounding billionaire T. Boone Pickens on Twitter since September asking for help in paying for his college education. Last week, he finally got a response...though not one that he was hoping for. The social media-savvy billionaire tweeted back, “Give me 10 good reasons why I should do it,” following up a day later with, “Admire your guts but unless your [grade point average] is 3.0 or better, don’t worry about the 10 reasons.” Although getting a response at all was quite a shock, we should mention that Samuelson had tweeted Pickens a total of 68 times. “He’s a generous man, so why not ask?” Samuelson, an 18-year-old sports media major, told FORBES on Monday. Alas, Samuelson did not reply because he does not meet the GPA requirements. Jay Rosser, a spokesman for Pickens, wrote in an email that the billionaire “appreciated Samuelson’s persistence and wished him the best.”

Do you agree with Samuelson’s attempt to coax a billionaire into paying for his college education? Let us know in the comments section. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a different route in financing your college degree, Scholarships.com is a great place to start!

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