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Archive | October, 2010

This Guy Is Fired Up About Tuition Costs (video)

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Getting Paid To Go To College – Where Do I Sign Up?

Getting Paid To Go To College – Where Do I Sign Up?

If you have been following the CheapScholar.org blog for any amount of time, you know that I am consistently bringing to light different ways and approaches in which families and students can make college affordable. However, what if you were one of the lucky ones that didn’t have to worry about paying for college and someone actually paid you to go to class. Seem a little hard to believe? One young man from the University of Alabama recently shared his story of how he profited over $30,000 from his college experience.

Tim Lovorn graduated from U of A and during his four years he received about $4,000 a semester in extra financial aid – or roughly $32,000 (8 semesters x $4,000). The source of this funding was no mystery for Lovorn. He received a tier one scholarship from the University that covered all of his tuition and housing expense AND gave him a stipend of $1,000 each semester to do with as he pleases. The additional funding (to get to the $4,000 a semester surplus figure) came from a National Merit Finalist scholarship.

Lovorn states, “This happened every semester, it was the same process as all refunds. It was put in my account, and I either came down to financial services and requested the refund, or they eventually mailed it to me. Because I had the tier one, it was just extra money.” Lovern did share that a “good chunk” of the money went toward paying for books, food, and other miscellaneous fees associated with his college experience.

How Can This Happen?

In the world of financial aid  it is near impossible for a student to get scholarships and grants that exceed the cost of attendance. BUT, as in Lovern’s situation, it is possible to get financial aid in excess of the direct charges billed by the University.

You have to remember that a college’s cost of attendance (COA) includes all the expenses associated with a student attending the school regardless of whether the University bills directly for them. Some of the line items factored into this are: Tuition, Room, Board, Books, Fees, Travel costs to and from the University (varies for in state versus out-of-state students), and other misc expenses.

So… since Lovorn was only getting billed for Tuition and Housing through the University, he was able to pocket the excess monies and divvy it out as he saw fit toward his other expenses associated with attending the University of Alabama.

Is This The Norm?

No – not by a long shot! The situation above is a rarity and no student should hang their hopes on landing a financial windfall similar to Lovorn’s. You may be able to come close but I would categorically define Lovorn’s college funding solution as the “Holy Grail of all Financial Aid Packages”. If you dig one of these up, you surely better take advantage of it – even if that means going to a school that is not your top choice.

Hope you found this article interesting. If it has inspired you to look a little harder for scholarship dollars, please don’t hesitate to use the Scholarship Resource Page on CheapScholar.org.

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Computer Safety Tips: Save Students Time & Money

Computer Safety Tips: Save Students Time & Money

The following is a guest post provided by the good people at AVG. You can get their FREE AVG Anti-virus program here.

We should all know by now that pranksters and cyberthugs can exploit weak passwords and phishing scams to gain control of our Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts. But students are especially vulnerable. Many share their computers and laptops with roommates and study group partners they only just met. It’s also common for students to share passwords with friends or simply forget to log out of a public workstation. This invites rabble-rousers to impersonate them, post embarrassing updates and pictures, and instantly ruin their online reputations.

Sometimes ‘status hijacking’ is just a harmless prank among friends. But when you consider who may be reading these posts—teachers, family members, potential employers—it can create real damage. And then there are the criminal imposters who break into accounts to bombard contacts with spam, trick them into giving up their account info, and direct them to malicious web sites. (Recent AVG research shows the top 50 social networking sites include 20,000 malicious pages set up specifically to launch an attack on anyone who visits them!)

So it’s important for students to keep their online accounts under lock and key. Here are some tips from AVG to help them do just that:

  • Use a strong and different password for each of your accounts.
  • Do not share your password or leave it where it can be found.
  • Be wary of any Facebook or Twitter app, site or email that asks you for login info.
  • Be sure to log out of your accounts when done.
  • Avoid logging in from a friend’s computer. They could have purposefully installed a keylogger or fallen prey to spyware without knowing it.
  • If somebody sends you a link, confirm the sender’s intent before clicking as it could have been sent from a hijacked account. Be especially careful if the message that accompanies the link is particularly tempting – i.e., “OMG is that you in this pic?”
  • Install an online security solution that includes anti-phishing features.
  • Use a spyware scanner to check for keylogging software a ‘friend’ may have installed while using your computer.
  • Remember your accounts are never 100% safe. Be careful of what kind of information you store on your account in case of a break-in.

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Free CollegeBoard Webcast – Trends In Higher Education

Free CollegeBoard Webcast – Trends In Higher Education

CollegeBoard is the “go to” source for many college administrators as well as parents and students that are going through the college search process.  CollegeBoard is a statistical monster in the sense that they gather all kinds of data and facts about colleges (and the students attending these colleges), compile this data, crunch the results, and establish a hypothesis about specific trends in higher education. This type of information can get really boring really quick but CollegeBoard does a nice job of presenting their findings in a summary format that is sure to keep people from drifting off to la la land (falling asleep).

Tomorrow (Thursday October 28th at 10:30am EST) CollegeBoard will be presenting a free webcast that will highlight their 2010 findings in the areas of Student Aid and College Pricing – both very important topics for the college bound student and the college administrator that is trying to get a grasp on the future “issues” facing their families and students.

If you are interested in participating in the webcast, you can register for free at this link. I anticipate the webcast to be no longer than an hour. The following is the list of presenters slated for this event.

  • Sandy Baum, Independent Policy Analyst for the College Board and Professor of Economics Emerita at Skidmore College
  • Diane Elliott, Independent Policy Analyst for the College Board
  • Jennifer Ma, Independent Policy Analyst for the College Board
  • Kathleen Payea, Independent Policy Analyst for the College Board

If you don’t get time to make it to this web event, feel free to check out last year’s reports and data on the links below. My guess is that these links are updated each year, so you can come back and see the most current information as it is available – so bookmark this page! 😉

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Don’t Like College? Quit & Ask For Your Money Back!

Don’t Like College? Quit & Ask For Your Money Back!

This may seem like an insane idea but sometimes the craziest of approaches are the most successful.

Picture this… You are in your final year of Law School, you have acquired a mountain of education loan debt, your wife is now pregnant with your first-born, job prospects are down-right pitiful, and your car just got a flat tire.

This is the situation that a young man is experiencing at Boston College’s School of Law… well he is facing everything except for the flat tire. I threw that in for good measure because stuff like that always happens when you are down and out.

Based upon the situation, I can tell this student has 2 options: quit law school, find a job, and start paying back the student loan debt -or- finish law school, find a job, and start paying back the student loan debt. Either way, the student needs to find a job and pay back the student loan debt.  If it were me and I was almost finished with law school, I would stick it out and finish because my salary potential would probably be much greater with a law degree verses being without.

This student, however, tried to implement a 3rd option (a little crazy and insane all wrapped together): he wrote a letter to the dean and told him that he will drop out at the end of the semester IF the university will kindly refund him his tuition for the past two and half years. The student goes on to state that the U.S. News and World Report Ranking for the college will be improved if they don’t have an unemployed graduate on their rolls (another reason rankings are flawed).  So, it would be in their best interest to let him leave now. I have not heard the official response from the University but I am guessing that he will receive a resounding “NO” to his request.

If you would like to see a copy of the full letter to the dean, you can check it out here. The student’s name has been redacted to protect his privacy.  It is  a shame that this student will be leaving law school because, after reading the letter, I really think he has what it takes to be a successful lawyer.

So.. what do you think about this request? Does it seem reasonable? Do you think we might see more of this in the future? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Posted in News Room3 Comments

5 Tips for Smart College Budgeting

5 Tips for Smart College Budgeting

My very first semester in college, the only money I had was the bit I’d earned that summer, working in the shoe department of a retail store. Somehow, I made it through. You can, too. It’s time to put your brilliant mind to work and figure out how to make your money stretch so that you can have fun, make the grades, and not break the bank.

In addition to saving money on books, or finding a way to reduce your room and board costs, there are things you can do on an on-going basis to keep more money in your pocket. Here are 5 great ways to manage your money while you’re in school.

  1. Pay in Cash: While you shouldn’t hit up an ATM every Monday and drain your bank account just to carry cash for the week, you should pay for most things in cash. Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to fork over $50 in cash than it is to swipe your credit card for that same amount? That’s because cash is tangible and physical, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. We usually think twice about things we have to pay in cash for, which is good.
  2. Try Getting it on the Cheap: Put your higher education to good use. Try thinking of ways you can get the same thing you’re looking for, for far less. One idea to start with: Sites like Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com are awesome for scoring food, events, and even salon services for around 50% off regular prices. Nothing is better than a two-for-one deal (except for a three-for-one deal).
  3. Learn to Like Coupons: Yep, I said it. Coupons. Growing up, I wasn’t a huge fan. I’m still not. But when you’re on a budget, coupons can be your best friend. What’s even better is that these days, most establishments have online coupons – so you don’t need to tread down to the mailroom and snag something from the junk mail pile. Try visiting your local grocery store’s website and download coupons directly from them.
  4. Stick Around Campus: It’s nice to get out on a Saturday night, but it can cost you, especially if you live in a busy city. Once a month, decide to stick around campus. Have a picnic date out on the lawn, or catch a show, or maybe even… study. You’ll be smarter and $50 richer, too.
  5. Barter for the Goods: As a college student, you are in a great position to barter for goods around town. This is one great way to get some experience while still in school, and save money. Like blogging? Offer to blog once a week for your favorite hair dresser in exchange for a regular cut. Or, offer to set up Twitter or Facebook for your local hangout and teach them how to use it, in exchange for food and drinks on the house. Put your education to good use and think about all of the ways you could get what you need for no money at all.

Those are just 5 ways and there are so many more. As long as you remember not to take your money for granted, you will be okay. Good luck!

Tia Peterson is a freelance writer for Overture Marketplace, a private student loan website offering a free loan comparison tool, and a financial aid blog for students and parents. Feel free to send any financial aid or student loan question or comment to Overture Marketplace on Twitter @loanmarketplace.

Posted in Financial Literacy, Paying For College0 Comments

Federal Work Study 101 (Video)

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Filing For Divorce May Help FAFSA Results (EFC)

Filing For Divorce May Help FAFSA Results (EFC)

I routinely get emails from readers with various questions about paying for college, saving for college and the financial aid process. I encourage these questions because not only do I get the opportunity to assist a family but it also helps me to identify any trends in college funding that are impacting the families that I work with day in and day out. Some questions/answers I post on CheapScholar for all to learn from and others I just respond to directly.So if you ever have a question – drop me a line! I don’t have all the answers but I will do my best.

Here is our most recent Help A Reader question:

Question: My husband and I are going through the motions of what will ultimately end in a divorce. It has been fairly amicable and basically it is up to us when we want to pull the trigger and finalize the paper work. Given that we have a high school senior daughter that is going through the college search process, I would like to know if there would be any benefit (or penalty) on our FAFSA/Financial Aid based upon when we file for our divorce?

Answer: Going through a divorce or watching someone else experience a divorce is a sad moment for many. Reason being – all you can think about is how darn happy they were on their wedding day. However, through some series of events and life changing moments, the relationship ends in divorce. Ok.. enough of my Oprah Winfrey  moment…

A divorce can actually sometimes be a good thing when it comes to your FAFSA and the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). The FAFSA states that it just depends on which parent the student decides to live with or gets the most support from. If they live with (or get the majority of their support) from the parent that has the most income and assets, then it will probably result in a higher EFC. However, if they live with (or get the majority of their support) from the parent that has the least income and assets, then it will probably lower their EFC and make them more eligible for need based financial aid.

So, to answer your FAFSA timing question…  Depending on who makes the most money and who is responsible for providing the most support for your daughter, a divorce may have an impact on your FAFSA situation. From a timing standpoint, if you decide that the divorce is going to favorably help your situation, you need to make sure that the paperwork is finalized PRIOR to filing the FAFSA. When you file the FAFSA, you have to answer the questions based upon your status at the time of filing (divorced or married).

If you are divorced the FAFSA states: “In case of divorce or legal separation, give information about the parent you lived with most in the last 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, give information about the parent who provided you the most financial support during the last 12 months or during the most recent year you received support. If your divorced or widowed parent has remarried, also provide information about your stepparent.”

I hope this information helps to answer your question. If you have a follow-up question to this one, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or leave a note in the comment section below.

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