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Hello and from all of the staff members here at EducationGrant.org, have a Happy New Year and all of the best in 2012! Now, while the most important part of the new year is the celebrations, it’s important to remember that high school seniors have a long road ahead of them to college. One of the critical action steps that needs to be completed soon is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or “FAFSA”, which is the single form that the federal government and most colleges and universities use for handing out education grants, college scholarships and other items. Let’s take a quick look at the FAFSA and remind you of some key points.
The FAFSA is Required for Pell Grants
The first – and probably only – thing you’ll need to hear to motivate you to complete the FAFSA is that you cannot receive Pell grants without sending the form in. Pell grants are federal government education grants that are worth up to $5,550 per year, and they are renewable throughout each year of your undergraduate studies. So… just by completing the FAFSA, you can gain access to $22,000 of federally-funded education grants over the span of a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Another great reason to get on top of the FAFSA and get it submitted is that many colleges and universities now make use of the form for determining the financial need levels of their students. If you are late or simply forget to get the FAFSA done, you can miss out on guaranteed college scholarships and grants that your school disburses based on financial need.
Many schools have student financial aid staff members that can help you complete the form. Some schools even have tour days where prospective students and their parents complete the FAFSA as part of the tour! Even if you are not sure that you want to attend college next fall, complete the FAFSA anyway. Just in case you end up changing your mind!
Have your Parents on Hand and An Hour to Spare
The FAFSA can take up to an hour to complete, depending on the complexity of your financial situation, how many details you have quick access to, and more. Don’t try to cut the FAFSA short as you might make a mistake or miss one of the boxes which could lead to your FAFSA being denied or sent back for further information.
If you haven’t completed the FAFSA yet, quit wasting time! Once you get this form complete you can rest assured that you are entered into the system for Pell grants, and whatever school you decide to attend can issue you scholarships. It’s a single form, it shouldn’t take long, and it can result in tens of thousands of dollars in education subsidies over the next few years. What’s not to love about the FAFSA?
Back in August, the federal government made some significant changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which provides funding for education, housing and costs once a veteran returns home from active duty. Effective August 1, the GI Bill pays full tuition for all in-state public colleges and universities, and caps private school benefits at $17,500 per year. However, as many soldiers were on tour when the changes were implemented, the changes didn’t mean a whole lot. Now that active duty servicepeople are finishing their tours and heading home, changes to these education grants are about to start affecting thousands of veterans who plan on heading off to college.
Main GI Bill Change: In State Tuition Only
The main change in the way that GI Bill education grants work is that student veterans will now only qualify for in-state tuition payments to college and universities. This took effect in August, but is really only starting to affect those who have recently ended their tours in Iraq or other areas of the world and have headed home. With the change, those who have not lived in their home state long enough to qualify for residency – which is typically a year – will not be able to use GI Bill benefits to pay for their tuition and other expenses.
The upside is that the federal government can work to reduce costs and make the GI Bill more efficient, which is good. The country is obviously in a huge budget hole and anywhere that savings can be had, they should be scooped up. However, the downside is that potentially thousands of student veterans will now have to wait up to a year to attend colleges and universities in their state of residence – if it’s not their “home” state. This can be a huge downer for some, who will have find jobs to make ends meet in the meantime, and delays getting their education started.
DVA Retracts Recent Changes to Placate Schools
The Department of Veterans Affairs had recently changed their policies to allow them to deduct debts that student veterans owed the federal government from their GI Bill benefits, and had originally planned to simply take this money before forwarding on payments to colleges and universities. This puts schools in the difficult position of essentially being the DVA’s debt collector, and could have had disastrous consequences for student veterans who were simply looking to finish their education so that they could get out and work.
Thankfully, the DVA decided to retract this position and let schools off the hook from having to withhold money from student veterans’ education grants. In a statement, the DVA stated that “System changes installed this week allowed for collection of Post-9/11 Bill debts from all education benefit payments issued to or on behalf of the student. However, because these changes had not been fully vetted, they have been withdrawn effective today.”Continue Reading GI Bill Changes Set to Affect New College Students
Last month, Robert Champion – a 26 year old student and drum major at Florida A&M University – died as a result of a severe beating that he took as part of a hazing ritual. As it turns out, further investigation into the marching band showed that there have been a number of incidents throughout the past few years. While criminal charges will surely result for those that took part in the killing of Robert Champion, the question remains… should students that take part in hazing – whether it’s for a fraternity, sorority, athletic team or club – lose their college scholarships when they are caught?
Hazing is a widespread phenomenon that occurs on virtually every college campus across the country. It ranges in severity from minor humiliation, such as running around campus naked or wearing a diaper, to physical violence such as that which killed Mr. Champion last month. When one hears of the word hazing they typically think about fraternities, sororities or sports teams, but in truth hazing occurs in a wide variety of social groups.
Threat of Losing College Scholarships is “Preventive Medicine”
Colleges and universities struggle with the impossible task of trying to prevent hazing from occurring. Short from an outright ban of all social organizations and sports teams on campus – which is never going to happen – it’s nearly impossible to prevent hazing and “initiation rituals” from taking place. Therefore, schools are left with punishment measures which are meant as a deterrent, but in truth typically do little at all to prevent hazing from taking place.
The fact that one would participate in any club where physical beatings are the norm is beyond comprehension, but sadly tens of thousands of college students each year do just that. As if taking these beatings weren’t bad enough, many then see it as their privilege to dish them out in the following years once they are a full member of their fraternity, team or club. If the idea of college scholarships is to facilitate education and growth in these individuals, then the punishment for such egregious violations of another’s humanity should be immediate revoking of all scholarship funding.
College Scholarships should be Reserved for the Decent
For first offenders, a warning is simply not necessary; their college scholarships should be revoked and the student can pay their own way through as a lesson. Some schools may go the extra mile and expel the student, but that measure should be reserved for the most serious violations or for repeat offenders as it does make it extremely difficult for the student to complete their college education (many schools will not take students who have been expelled from other schools). Hopefully, the threat of losing their scholarships will keep these students from taking part in hazing in the first place.Continue Reading Should Those Involved with Hazing Lose their Scholarships?
When the NCAA voted in October to allow colleges and universities across the nation to increase athletic scholarships by up to $2000 each year, it was seen as a win by many, including the thousands of student athletes that typically live at or below the poverty line while their athletic programs rake in millions off of their efforts. Unfortunately, this increase is now on hold until the NCAA Board of Directors meeting in January, and may fail altogether.
125 Schools Call for Override
Last week, the 125th school called for an override of the new rule, which under NCAA regulations triggers an automatic suspension and review of the new legislation. The schools have taken issue with the $2000 “expense allowance” for a number of reasons, including the speed at which it was implemented, the possible impact on competitive equity throughout the NCAA, gender-equity issues and how the allowance will be handed out through each of the NCAA’s many sports.
According to NCAA President Mark Emmert, there might not be a whole lot for student athletes to worry about. Commenting on the override, Emmert stated “Based on conversations I have had, I am confident that there remains a very high level of support for this permissive legislation to provide better support for our student athletes. I am also confident that we can develop implementation changes that will address most of the concerns raised by many of our campus leaders. It is absolutely critical that we implement this legislation, for example, in a way that supports Title IX and women’s athletic programs.”
NCAA has a Number of Options to Choose From
The NCAA Board meeting is currently scheduled for January 14, 2012 at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. At the meeting, the board has a number of options in how it can handle the override and get this issue sorted out: it can do nothing and allow for a vote amongst member schools, it can reconsider and get rid of the rule entirely, or it can make changes that essentially create a new piece of legislation, and the 60 day override period starts over.
According to a NCAA media release, most of the schools who signed the override did so because of the speed at which the NCAA adopted the new rule changes. The rule was brought forward after the NCAA Presidential Retreat in the summer, passed in October and set to take effect next year. Many of the schools who signed the override are concerned that they cannot immediately afford the expense of paying an additional $2000 per year for those who are on full-ride athletic scholarships. Of course, richer schools are certain to use this as a recruiting tool so the playing field has to be level for it to be an effective change for the NCAA and not a complete disaster.
We’ll keep you posted on how things end up with the NCAA and its athletic scholarships.Continue Reading $2000 NCAA Athletic Scholarship Increase on Hold until January
It might not come as a surprise to those who attend colleges and universities with large football or basketball programs, but the partying that comes along with winning big games might just be taking its toll on students’ grades.
The athletic departments of schools across the nation are generally focused on winning games and extracting the maximum performance from their athletes, but they are still responsible for student athletes’ academic success and are mandated to ensure that these students are focusing on their studies. However, a new report released this week entitled “Are Big Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?” (warning: PDF link!) indicates that schools may be failing in this regard, as they have found a correlation between winning football games and declining grades.
Study shows Lower GPAs when Football Teams Win
The study, conducted by an economics professor and a couple of graduate students from the University of Oregon, looked at the grades of male students at Oregon from 1999 through 2007 to see if there was any change associated with how the football team was performing. As it turns out, the authors were able to find a “25 percent increase in the football team’s winning percentage (or three additional wins) leads males to earn GPAs as if their SAT scores were 27 points lower.” Oddly enough, this was consistent throughout the decade that the authors looked at and wasn’t just a statistical anomaly.
On top of this, the study showed that males saw a huge drop in grades compared to female students when the football team was performing well. As above, if the team won an additional three games per season, the collective GPA of male undergrads sank about 8% compared to female students in the same programs.
Partying the Root Cause of Sports-Related Grade Declines
Once they had stumbled upon the data, the authors wasted no time interviewing students in order to try to uncover exactly why their grades had dipped when the football team performed better on the field. Unsurprisingly, the students that were interviewed indicated that they were more likely to drink when the team was winning than they were when the team was losing. Although both men and women were equally as likely to be out partying to celebrate a big win, males are the ones that drink to excess more often, and therefore are more likely to be suffering from partying-related studying and test issues.
Hopefully no one will take this report and go crazy trying to have athletic scholarships or education grants for students who are known partiers revoked. Love them or hate them, big football programs do bring a lot of positives to their respective campuses and at the end of the day, there are many students who aren’t seeing their grades suffer when their team is successful. Hopefully this study can be a lesson to those who are concerned about their GPAs: don’t party too hard!Continue Reading On-Field Success Proven to Lower Grades of Student Athletes
With Christmas just eight days away, we thought it would be nice to list off a few gifts that college students could hope for from Santa Student Financial Aid. If you’ve been all been good college students this year, perhaps you’ll arrive back at campus in January to some of these wonderful gifts!
Fully Funded Pell Grants for the Rest of the Decade – They are likely to be spared for the coming year, but Pell grants are continually in the crosshairs of the budget snipers in Washington. Since a total of nine million college students rely on them each year to help afford the costs of tuition, room and board and textbooks, Santa Student Financial Aid should find this an easy gift to prepare that will be loved by many.
Increases to Athletic Scholarships – the scrooges at the NCAA finally announced that they will be allowing about $2,000 more to be added to the athletic scholarships that schools hand out to student athletes. However, January’s NCAA Board of Directors meeting is likely to hold news that the total amount of athletic scholarships for football and basketball programs will be cut, which basically balances everything out and makes the tiny increase rather pointless. If the NCAA had any heart at all, they would share some of the billions of dollars that are generated from college sports with the athletes that are at the heart of the programs. We have an idea who might be receiving a lump of coal in their stocking this year!
Education Grants for Juniors and Seniors – Those who have already done a couple of years of their degree know that finding education grants and college scholarships when you’re not fresh out of high school is nearly impossible! That’s why Santa Student Financial Aid needs to consider leaving more education grants for mid-degree students under the tree. After all, tuition gets more expensive – not less – when you’re working through to graduation. Why should a student’s amount of funding decrease when costs are going up?
Protection for Student Loan Subsidies – The final gift that would be very warmly received if it was found under students’ Christmas trees is an indefinite extension for subsidies to the interest paid on student loans. While graduate students will unfortunately are guaranteed to start paying in July 2012, undergraduate students are currently being spared. However, this is a huge target for future budget cuts, so perhaps Santa Student Financial Aid will see it in his heart to leave future subsidies as a nice present for the millions of students who rely on these subsidies to help keep their heads above water while they are attending school.
As to whether or not Santa Student Financial Aid will be bringing these gifts around for 2012 is anyone’s guess. Students will just have to keep on being nice – while politely pressuring administration and politicians, of course!
Merry Christmas!Continue Reading Four Financial Christmas Gifts College Students Can Hope For
After a furious round of negotiations by members of both parties in the House of Representatives, it now appears that Pell grants may be spared from vicious budget cuts – at least for the immediate future. Inside Higher Ed reported today that Congress had reached a compromise in funding Pell grants through 2012-2013, and as long as nothing changes college students will be able to receive the maximum amount of $5,550 when they apply or reapply next year.
Changes to Pell Grants Eligibility will be Coming
While the maximum funding amount for Pell grants will be preserved, there are still likely to be a few changes made to the Pell grants program in order to bring the costs in line with what Congress can afford. First, eligibility will likely be tightened in order to weed out a few hundred thousand (of the 9 million total) college students that simply don’t need the money that Pell grants provide. These students typically have parents that can easily afford to chip in the $5,000 to replace the money that would be lost if the student didn’t win education grants.
Also, it’s likely that the Pell grants program will have its total length shortened – both to save money and to encourage college students to hurry up and graduate. Currently a student can receive Pell grants for 18 straight semesters, which can stretch an education out for a very long time. This is most likely headed down to a more reasonable 12 semesters, which should certainly be sufficient for all but those who are lifetime academics or trying to rely on Pell grants to fund multiple degrees.
What’s Next for the Pell Grants Program?
Having funding secured for another year certainly doesn’t give much hope that a long term solution for saving Pell grants in their current format will be found. This small band-aid solution pushes off the real challenge of fixing Pell grants for another year, hopefully during which time some priorities towards student financial aid will be laid out by each presidential candidate in the run up to the election. Until then, college students will have to be happy with the fact that they can still receive the maximum Pell grant without having to beg their congressional representative.
There are many in Congress that believe that Pell grants aren’t going to be around for very much longer. The 40 year old education grants program has been a cornerstone in the federal government’s contribution to the student financial aid pool, but has not risen in worth anywhere near as fast as tuition costs have grown. Combined with the fact that the program would soon cross a total of 10 million college students enrolled each year and it’s easy to see that funding Pell grants in their current form is unsustainable over the long term. Hopefully a solution can be found to save this valued program and keep students in school.Continue Reading Pell Grants May be Spared for 2012-2013
A new study by the combined forces of the University of Arizona and Johns Hopkins University has taken a look at how prepared most high school students are when they graduate, and the numbers unfortunately don’t look too good.
According to the study, which is titled “The Underserved Third: How Our Educational Structures Populate an Educational Underclass” (warning: PDF link!) more than 40 percent of high school seniors graduate without the adequate preparation required for success when they move on to colleges and universities, or the training and skills necessary to go straight to the work force. Is this the normal way of things, or are high schools not doing enough to get teenagers ready to face the world?
The “Virtual Underclass of Students”
The study authors – Regina Deil-Amen at the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education and Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins – show that around the nation, many high school seniors end up graduating with a laundry list of easy, general classes and without going through any form of college prep. This massive underclass is then not ready to face college, and has few job prospects waiting for them in the “real world”.
Studies like these are incredibly important, as they can help to show whether or not the billions of dollars that the federal government is spending on education grants like Race to the Top are actually having any real impact on national education levels. Also, data like this can help to sort out the student financial aid mess that the nation is now in as high school students can hopefully be better trained for the rigors of college, which avoids unnecessary dropouts and therefore unnecessary student loans and wasted money in Pell grants.
High School Seniors Follow Three “Tracks” to Future Prospects
The study’s authors point out that there are three different tracks that a high school student can take as they progress through the system. The advanced placement (AP) or international baccalaureate (IB) students are the “college prep” track, and generally end up very well prepared to face undergraduate studies at the school of their choice. The “career prep” track students move through career programs in high school and unless they need some minor upgrading at college before they head out into the work world, they are good to go. The final track is the other 40 percent of students, which does neither and then has very little future opportunity.
The authors suggest that a solution is to eliminate this system of “tracks” entirely, and focus on preparing all high school students for both college and the workforce. Ideally, high school students would be steered through general preparation for both, and then specialized pathways which challenge them in fields of interest. This way, all high school students would be prepared for the future.
Will this work? It’s certainly possible. Anything to avoid college dropouts is of course, a huge plus.Continue Reading Are Unprepared High School Students Burdening Colleges?
In an effort to help reduce the burden of paying for college, UC Berkeley announced this week that they will be launching a new student financial aid program that is targeted at assisting college students from middle class backgrounds. Titled the “Middle Class Access Plan” or “MCAP”, the program looks to drastically reduce the amount that undergraduate college students pay to attend UC Berkeley, and on paper, the program looks pretty good.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau has gone as far to state that his school’s new program is “the first program of this sort at any public university in the United States,” so let’s take a quick look to see what makes the new UC Berkeley student financial aid funding special, and why he believes that other schools around the nation should use it as a model.
UC Berkeley’s Middle Class Access Plan
The way that UC Berkeley’s new education grants work is pretty simple; the program caps the total cost that a college student pays for education – including tuition, room and board, textbooks, fees and other costs – at 15 percent of the total income of the student and his or her parents. Therefore, if the combined family income of Student Bob is $100,000, Bob’s family can rest assured that he will pay no more than $15,000 per year throughout his college degree.
UC Berkeley already has another program – the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan – that assists college students who come from families with less than $80,000 per year in combined income. The new MCAP education grants are targeted towards students that fall in between the $80,000 and $120,000 range, which are typically left high and dry by other sources of student financial aid. These students are generally considered “too wealthy” to qualify for needs-based student financial aid, but many are left taking out student loans in order to cover their many costs.
Student financial aid officials at UC Berkeley dug through the numbers and found that about 25% of their undergraduate population will qualify for the new Middle Class Action Plan grants. This totals about $12 million in new funding each year, provided by donors and added revenues.
Can Middle-Class Student Financial Aid Work at Other Schools?
There’s little doubt that the funding model presented in the Middle Class Action Plan can be cloned to other colleges and universities that have high numbers of students that reside in the “middle class” range. With UC Berkeley now claiming that 40% of undergrads pay basically nothing for their tuition, it’s certainly something that college students would like to see come to their campus. Anything that reduces the financial burdens of higher education is useful for students, but of course somebody, somewhere is footing the bill. As long as student financial aid programs like UC Berkeley’s MCAP aren’t being used as a means to raise tuition while vacuuming up money behind the scenes, then they are great for everyone.Continue Reading UC Berkeley Announces Middle-Class Student Financial Aid
The Detroit Free Press posted an article today entitled “WSU will Weigh Instituting Tougher Standards for Admissions” which takes a look at the challenges faced by Wayne State University in recent years. Times have been very tough in Detroit, as those that have stuck it out in the Motor City are certainly aware. WSU has seen graduation rates drop to around 30 percent as jobless high school students look to higher education for an answer – only to either fail or drop out due to their inability to afford the high costs of college.
In order to try to right the ship, the school plans to toughen admissions requirements by raising the minimum entry average for students. Essentially, this plan is aimed at filtering out those students who tend to show up academically unprepared for the rigors of college, and who end up taking a lot of extra time from professors and teachers. Administrators at Wayne State are loathe to agree that their plan to cut enrolment will start to weed out students from Detroit high schools, but with 20% of WSU’s student population coming from area high schools there’s very little doubt that is exactly what will happen.
One question the school doesn’t answer is whether or not this change will result in increased tuition for new and current students.
Admitting Everyone is Clearly Not the Answer
While restricting the size of the incoming class is a decent way to try to ensure that quality students are the ones filling the seats, it is also a target for those that believe that every person should automatically qualify for some form of higher education. The nation now owes $1 trillion in unpaid student loans with a huge percentage of it due to unqualified students going through an education system that they weren’t prepared for.
If schools like Wayne State are suffering with graduation rates of 30% largely because students cannot afford to complete their studies, then they are probably right to start restricting access. Having students drop out is extremely unfortunate, and tends to negatively impact those students that are able to keep going through to graduation. It’s important that college students learn to budget for their education up front, before committing and wasting thousands of dollars due to dropping out. If education grants and student loans are not enough to pay tuition, perhaps a community college or trade school is the answer.
Unwritten Law: If Student Levels Drop, Tuition will Rise
Finally, there’s the other unspoken truth that the students who do stick around have to worry about: tuition increases. If a school decides to cut its enrolment by 5 or 10%, it’s almost a certainty they will raise tuition to make up for the millions in lost revenue. Provided Wayne State can somehow keep up the same actual number of freshmen students each year, then no cuts will be warranted. It will be interesting to see how things play out at WSU.Continue Reading Does Improving Admissions Standards cause Tuition Increases?