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Ivy League Students Avoid Student Debt Crisis

September 11, 2013

Ivy League Students Avoid Student Debt Crisis

by Suada Kolovic

Despite the hefty sticker price associated with all Ivy League institutions, estimated yearly costs are actually quite affordable. In fact, Ivy Leaguers graduate with less debt than their peers who attended less prestigious schools. How? Turns out healthy endowment funds play a huge role in aiding low-income, middle-income and even upper-income students with tuition costs. Score!

According to statistics from U.S. News & World Report, many of the best colleges in the county are relative steals for the lucky few who earn admission. For example, Princeton University students graduate with about $5,096 of debt for all four years – the lowest sum for alumni leaving a national university with debt. Amy Laitinen, a former White House education adviser now at the New America Foundation, said, "Folks look at the sticker price and assume that's what everyone is paying. The truth is that the more elite schools have more resources."

But with acceptance rates hovering at less than 10 percent, gaining access to those Ivy League dollars is fiercely competitive. Do you think it’s fair for students who don’t meet the Ivies’ steep admissions standards to be saddled with crippling debt or should the few that do be rewarded with an affordable, brand name education? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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Student Debt Forgiveness Programs Skyrocket

May 6, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Unless you plan on paying for your college education out-of-pocket, completing the FAFSA and applying for scholarships are essential in your quest for financial aid. But have you considered federal programs that forgive student loan debt almost entirely? It’s an increasingly popular option: According to reports, government officials are trying to rein in federal programs that forgive some student debt, amid rising concerns over the plans’ costs and the possibility they could encourage colleges to push tuition even higher.

The fastest-growing plan requires borrowers to pay 10 percent a year of their discretionary income in monthly installments. The unpaid balances for those working in the public sector or for nonprofits are forgiven after 10 years while those private-sector workers see their debt wiped clear after 20 years. And while there is currently no limit on such debt, the Obama administration has proposed to cap the amount eligible for forgiveness at $57,500 per student. The cost? A report last week from the Brookings Institution estimated that the plan could cost taxpayers $14 billion a year! “Loan forgiveness creates incentives for students to borrow too much to attend college, potentially contributing to rising college prices for everyone,” the study said. The authors went on to recommend the forgiveness provisions to be scrapped entirely. (For more on this story, click here.)

Share your thoughts on federal student debt forgiveness programs in the comments and check out our financial aid section for more information on how to fund your college education.

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Consider Consolidating Your Private Student Loan Debt

May 13, 2014

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 them back. So while keeping track of the multiple loans you've accrued during your college career is tasking, it's important to understand your options. An often overlooked possibility is private loan consolidation. Aren't familiar? Allow me to explain.

A consolidation loan can simplify the loan repayment process by allowing the borrower to combine several types of loans into one. And often, the interest rate on a consolidation loan is lower than the rate on a typical student loan. Until recently though, few banks have offered consolidation loans for private student debt. Why? According to a report last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, part of the problem was the high cost of marketing to potential borrowers and finding adequate financing to provide the loans. But that may be changing: In January, Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Bank said it would begin offering private consolidation loans which could signal that change is afoot nationally. Wondering who should consider a consolidation loan? It's an ideal option for students who have finished school, are gainfully employed and have been making on-time payments on your private student loans for at least a year or two. The real advantage of refinancing is the chance to get a lower interest rate on your debt and to simplify their monthly payments into a single bill. (For more on this story, click here.)

For more information on student loan consolidation, borrowing responsibly and tips on repaying your student loans, head over to Scholarships.com financial aid section.

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Legislation Seeks Student Protection on College Debit Cards

May 23, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With graduation season in full swing on college campuses across the country, many of you are well-prepared and excited for this new chapter in your lives. So whether you've snagged a position in your field (way to go!) or have a coveted internship lined up, it seems as though things are all finally falling into place...until you realize that along with the crippling student loan debt you’ve accrued the past four years, you also have a ton of debit card debt. Yikes! Fortunately, Congress seems to be tackling predatory college debit card programs head-on.

The legislation – known in the Senate as the Protecting Aid for Students Act and in the House as the Curbing Abusive Marketing Practices with University Student Debit Cards Act – would prevent "revenue-sharing" deals between college and banks for college-issued deposit accounts/debit cards and would require that banks pay colleges at "market rate" to provide and promote their banking services. The bill also calls for a "code of conduct" for colleges that bans banks from giving gifts to college officials. "Many of today's college students are being strong-armed into using financial products that are endorsed by their university," lead House sponsor Rep. George Miller of California said in a written statement. "These products often carry unnecessarily high fees that chip away at students' federal grants and loans, which should be helping pay for classes, not lining the pockets of banks. In reality, these ‘preferred’ products aren’t preferable at all." (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of the proposed legislation? Were you tempted by every credit card promotion with a free t-shirt incentive while on campus? If so, check our Campus Life section for tips on credit card money management, resisting the urge to splurge and recognizing want vs. need to get back on track!

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Attention High School Seniors: Free College in Tulsa, Oklahoma!

June 13, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Understanding the true cost of college is essential when finalizing the decision on where you’ll pursue your post-secondary education. Remember that amid all the literature schools send out, take more than a gander at the teeny-tiny font listing “sticker price” because that number probably doesn’t include room and board, books and myriad other fees you’ll be have to pony up while attending. And while the majority of students won’t pay anywhere near the sticker price, the average cost of college has steadily increased to $20,000 at public colleges and topped $50,000 at private colleges, which has left many families wondering how they’ll afford these astronomical amounts. Unless, of course, you’re a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma: Eligible students there get the first two years of college for FREE!

Tulsa Achieves is a gap-funding program that provides up to 100-percent tuition and fees to Tulsa County high school graduating seniors who enroll at Tulsa Community College the fall after they graduate. Who’s eligible? Every high school graduate living in Tulsa County, including public, private or home-schooled students with a 2.0 or higher grade point average. The program pays for up to 63 college credit hours or up to three years of college, whichever comes first; students are also required to complete 40 hours of volunteer service each academic year. The total cost is $3,400 per student per year and is mostly paid for with local property taxes. "We established Tulsa Achieves seven years ago because we no longer believed that a high school diploma was sufficient in terms of the jobs of the future," said Tom McKeon, Tulsa Community College’s president. "I think we're seeing kids that never, ever dreamed that college was a possibility for them because parents didn't think it was within their realm," he added. (For more on this story, click here.)

Let us know your thoughts on Tulsa Achieves program in the comments section. And if your state doesn't offer a deal as sweet, head over to Scholarships.com to find financial aid that’s tailored to you – create a profile and conduct a free scholarship search today!

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College Tuition Increases Slow, Government Aid Falls

October 25, 2013

College Tuition Increases Slow, Government Aid Falls

by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors heading to college in the fall, listen up: The average cost at the nation’s four-year public universities rose 2.9% this year, the smallest annual increase in more than three decades (yay!) but the slowdown in tuition increases have been offset by reductions in federal grant aid (boo!).

According to a new report from the College Board, public colleges have raised tuition prices so sharply in recent years not to gouge students but to bank on the increased state aid. And although the increase is moderate, "this does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable," says economist Sandy Baum, co-author of Trends in Higher Education reports on tuition and financial aid. "It does seem that the [upward tuition] spiral is moderating. Not turning around, not ending, but moderating." Unfortunately, students continue to suffer from the constant cycle of rising costs and serious college debt. Shrinking state aid for public colleges and universities has translated into the cost of public schools to jump $1,770 in inflation-adjusted dollars. The amount of government aid received last year fell $6,646 for every full-time student at those institutions while just five years ago, each student received $9,111 in today’s dollars. (For more on this report, click here.)

If college is in your forecast, what do you make of the report’s findings? Let us know in the comments section.

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Study: Majors Are More Important Than Where You Went to College

September 10, 2013

Study: Majors Are More Important Than Where You Went to College

by Suada Kolovic

With fall semester in full swing, high school seniors are mere months away from deciding where they’ll spend the next four (or more) years. And while there are multiple factors to consider when making such a major decision, most would argue that prestigious universities and high-earning salaries are intrinsically tied...or are they?

According to a recent study by College Measure, students who earn associate degrees and occupational certificates often earn more in their first year out of college than those with traditional four-year college degrees. Examining schools in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the study found that short-term credentials such as two-year degrees and technical certificates were worth more than bachelor’s degrees in a graduate’s early years. College Measures President Mark Schneider said, “The findings challenge some conventional wisdom, showing for example that what you study matters more than where you study. Higher education is one of the most important investments people make. The right choices can lead to good careers and good wages while the wrong ones can leave graduates with mountains of debt and poor prospects for ever paying off student loans.” (For more on this study, click here.)

It’s important to remember that the study focuses on short-term gains as opposed to long-term/lifelong earnings. It’d be interesting for College Measure to reexamine their findings over the next few years but what do you think of its current report? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

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California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

October 11, 2013

California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and you don’t think a traditional four-year university is for you, attending a community college does have its perks. Whether you’re interested in completing your general courses or testing the waters with a major that you're not absolutely set on, community colleges offer students the luxury of figuring out their educational path for a fraction of the cost...or at least they used to: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow a handful of community colleges to charge inflated prices for in-demand courses. Let’s say it all together now: Booooooo!

The higher costs – $200 per unit instead of $46 – would only affect the shorter summer and winter sessions. Supporters insist that the pilot program would prevent more students from being shut out of courses they need to graduate but critics said that lower-income students would be denied the opportunity to obtain course credits essential to their educational success. "The state would be shifting the burden for funding access from the state general fund to the backs of students," said Vincent Stewart, the community college system's vice chancellor for governmental relations, after the California Legislature approved the measure. "Creating a pay-to-play fee structure, where students who have greater wealth and means can get on a fast track, is patently unfair."

Even with the rate per unit almost quintupled, the overall cost of studying at a community college is still considerably less when compared to traditional options but is it fair to charge more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Pay It Forward Plan Draws Serious Criticism

July 21, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to paying for a college education, it seems as though students have two options: deal with impossibly high payments while they're in school or crippling debt for years afterwards. Well, Oregon students were provided a third option last year when legislators approved the Pay it Forward plan that would allow students to attend state colleges without paying tuition or taking out student loans but would instead commit a small percentage of their future incomes to repaying the state. It turns out, however, that said plan isn't the saving grace for college students afterall.

First proposed by students at Portland State University, Pay It Forward has drawn serious criticism since Oregon passed a law to study the idea. According to a report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, analysis shows that the plan would leave most graduates deeper in debt than if they had taken out loans and would throw colleges’ balance sheets into uncertainty. Here are some of the more prevalent points in the association’s report but for a more detailed look, click here:

  • Pay It Forward does not account for non-tuition costs like room and board.
  • Students who generally rack up the most debt – those at for-profit and private nonprofit institutions — would not be eligible for the program.
  • The program would have “enormous” start-up costs.

Early estimates suggest that Oregon would have to take about 3 percent of a former student’s earnings for 20 years for it to work. With that being said, what are your thoughts on Pay It Forward? Do you think it’s too soon to tell if this is a viable option for other states to adapt?

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Top Issues Millennials Want Discussed in State of the Union Address

January 28, 2014

Top Issues Millennials Want Discussed in State of the Union Address

by Suada Kolovic

For those of you that don’t closely follow politics, tonight President Barack Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address. If you aren’t familiar, the address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the President to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities. And with potentially millions of young Americans watching, we wondered what issues mattered most to Millennials? Fortunately, Generation Progress asked them just that! Check out some of the top responses below: (For the full list, head over to Generation Progress.)

  • A solution to the student debt crisis. With 40 million Americans shouldering $1.2 trillion dollars in educational debt, Millennials want to see President Obama call for ways to address this crisis.
  • Create a fair economy that shrinks the income inequality gap by raising the minimum wage to $10, maintains federal government programs like unemployment benefits, expands the U.S. apprenticeship system, supports young entrepreneurs to create new business and reinvest in national service programs like AmeriCorps.
  • Every state needs to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so young Americans can purchase affordable health care plans with subsidies Medicaid provides via the law.
  • Invest in green jobs while addressing the effects of climate change.
  • Enact common-sense gun legislation such as mandatory background checks.

What do you think of the top issues that Millennials want discussed? Any you would add? Let us know in the comments section.

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