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Archive | May, 2011

$100,000 to Skip College (video)

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CheapScholar Giveaway Contest – Free Adobe CS 5.5 Master Collection

CheapScholar Giveaway Contest – Free Adobe CS 5.5 Master Collection

This time of year represents a wonderful phase of life for high school and college graduates. In the coming weeks, many of these students will cross the stages at their respective schools and receive a diploma that acknowledges all of their hard work.

In order to properly celebrate this momentous occasion, CheapScholar.org has recently partnered up with Adobe to give away a free copy of their Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection. This multimedia software package carries a retail price of $2,600 ($900 for students and educators), so this is an amazing opportunity for one lucky CheapScholar.org reader.

***Giveaway Update***

Brandon Smith is the lucky winner of the CheapScholar Adobe Creative Suites 5.5 Giveaway. Brandon, please contact me to claim your prize.

Thank you everyone for participating in this amazing giveaway. Special thanks to Adobe for teaming up with CheapScholar.org to make this possible.

***Giveaway Update***

The following represents the many different ways in which you can submit an entry into the giveaway:

Each of the methods above will give you an entry into the giveaway.  So, you could potentially have up to five chances to win the Adobe software…

This giveaway will close on Tuesday May 31st at midnight (Eastern Standard Time). I will randomly select a winner (using the wonders of technology) from the entries and announce the winner on this article on June 1st.  The winner has a week to contact me and arrange for delivery of the Creative Suites 5.5 Master Collection. If I don’t hear from the winner within a week’s time, I will go back to the entries to select an alternate.

This is a great opportunity for someone to win an amazing piece of multimedia software. If you are not the lucky winner at the end of the giveaway, Adobe is currently offering a consolation prize of up to 80% off retail pricing on the Creative Suites 5.5 software for students. The only requirement is that you have to be a registered student to take advantage of the offer. If you are getting ready to graduate from college, the clock is counting down to be eligible for the discount.

Hope you enjoy this giveaway. If you know of any deserving people that could make good use of this software, please feel free to utilize the “share tab” below to pass this information onto them.

Good Luck! :)

Here is a list of everything that is included in this multimedia software package:

  • Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended
  • Adobe Illustrator CS5
  • Adobe InDesign CS5.5
  • Adobe Acrobat X Pro
  • Adobe Flash Catalyst CS5.5
  • Adobe Flash Professional CS 5.5
  • Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 Premium Edition
  • Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5
  • Adobe Fireworks CS5
  • Adobe Contribute CS5
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
  • Adobe After Effects CS5.5
  • Adobe Audition CS5.5
  • Adobe OnLocation CS5
  • Adobe Encore CS5
  • Adobe Bridge CS5
  • Adobe Device Central CS5.5
  • Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

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The Six Most Common Forms of Federal Financial Aid

The Six Most Common Forms of Federal Financial Aid

The following is a guest post provided by Jenn Pedde from the University of Southern California

Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans — though they help you pay your way through school, the jumble of federal financial aid programs can be a bit too dense to understand. But considering that funding your post-secondary education may be one of the most important and expensive undertakings you commit to, understanding is necessary. We try and break it down on our MSW Financial Aid section of our website for our students, and we encourage you to share with your students as well.  If you are student, look for these resources on your school’s webpage!

Luckily, figuring this out doesn’t have to be a maze of numbers and esoteric terms. Here is a simple breakdown of the six most common kinds of financial aid provided by the U.S. government, what they mean to you and how they can work for you.

1. Federal Pell Grants

Named after U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, Pell Grants are need-based aid to low and middle-income students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree. Being grants, they do not need to be repaid. Maxing out at $5,550 (though recent legislation may reduce that to amount to $4,705), the amount awarded fluctuates according to cost of attendance and family finances. The largest source of federal grants to undergraduates, Pell Grants currently help about 5.4 million students attend school each year.

2. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are similar to Pell Grants in that they are also need-based aid to low-income students seeking their first bachelor’s degree, but they differ in that a FSEOG is not awarded directly to students by the federal government, but by their attending academic institution. The federal government gives FSEOG funding to colleges and universities, who in turn divvy it out to students. Capped at $4,000 a year, the amount received by a student is determined by his or her college.

3. Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership / Special LEAP Grants

Both the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Grant and the Special LEAP (SLEAP) Grant are similar to other federal grants, except they provide federal funding to state governments, who then award the grants to students at their discretion. (If you recently took your SATs: LEAP/SLEAP are to state governments as the FSEOG is to academic institutions.) Capped at $5,000 per school year, both LEAP and SLEAP can take the form of either grants or work-study opportunities in community service.

4. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans

Direct Stafford Loans are funds lent to students directly from the federal government and named after U.S. Senator Robert Stafford (hence the loan’s name). Though the loan is from the federal government, the amount is decided by the school. Because the loans are borrowed directly from the U.S. Treasury, Direct Stafford Loans typically have interest rates that are much lower than loans received from private banks. An additional bonus is that Direct Stafford Loans can be consolidated for more convenient payment and possibly even lower interest rates. Subsidized Direct Loans do not accrue interest while the student is enrolled, but are only available to those who demonstrate financial need. Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans, on the other hand, are not need-based but do begin collecting interest immediately. For a detailed breakdown on Stafford Loan interest rates and loan limits, visit the Federal Student Aid website.

5. Perkins Loans

Named after Representative Carl D. Perkins, the Perkins Loan is lent by the academic institution, though with funds from the federal government. Capped per year at $5,500 for undergraduate students and $8,000 for graduate students, the amount awarded is also determined by the attending school. Reserved for those in extreme financial need, the Perkins Loan is fixed at a low interest rate of only 5%. Cancellations of the loan are also possible through teaching at a highneeds school or volunteering in the Peace Corps.

6. Work-Study

WorkStudy differs from other forms of financial aid as it is neither a grant nor a loan but a need-based employment opportunity with wages paid by the federal government. Funds for Work-Study are given by the federal government to schools, who administer the program, dictating both the hours and wages (though they must abide by federal minimum wage standards). Students involved in Work-Study typically work on-campus, though employment with non-profit organizations and (rarely) for-profit businesses are also possible.

Applying to each of the programs listed above is as simple as filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — but don’t stop there: Other aid, such as subject-specific grants (like the Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant), state government aid and private scholarships are also available. Speak to your school’s financial aid office to determine all of the opportunities available to you.

Jenn Pedde is the community manager for the Masters in Social Work program at the University of Southern California.  She’s an avid traveler and enjoys photography. We are pleased to have her as a Contributor on CheapScholar.org

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MeritAid.com – Your Number One Resource For Merit Based Scholarships

MeritAid.com – Your Number One Resource For Merit Based Scholarships

When students are looking for every dollar available to help cover college costs, the amount of merit aid that they are eligible for can play a big role. Merit aid and awards are given to students based upon their academic and extracurricular successes leading up to college. Key factors playing into this are GPA, SAT and ACT scores, club activities, and community service. Since most merit aid is provided directly from a college or university, there can be a number of other factors that help decide which students are recipients of the available funds (remember… don’t confuse Merit-Based aid with Need-Based aid).

You can take time to review the financial aid websites of every college you are interested in attending and discern your eligibility for their different merit aid scholarships  -OR- you can just visit MeritAid.com and let them do the work for you.

MeritAid.com
has taken the time to put together a scholarship database representing over 1,800 colleges nationwide. This database houses nearly 23,000 merit based scholarship programs and boasts the combined value to be about $11 Billion dollars. Not too shabby huh?

To gain the maximum impact of MeritAid.com you will want to set up an account and highlight some of your strong suits. MeritAid.com will take the information you provide and try to match it up with merit-based scholarship programs (and the schools that provide them). The hope is that they help you to find a good “financial-fit” school based upon the estimated amount of merit aid that you may be able to receive. It is not a perfect science but it is a noble approach none-the-less.

If you really don’t like the idea of setting up an account on MeritAid.com, don’t fret… They have all the same great information available without having to log into an account. It just requires you to do a little more searching on your own.

If you already have your colleges narrowed down, the non-account search version of MeritAid.com’s database is probably just what you need. You can look up each one of your prospective schools and see what kind of merit-based scholarship programs they offer. If something jumps out at you, I would suggest you drop a call to that college’s financial aid office and inquire a little more. While you are on the phone with the financial aid staff, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity and ask them about any other newly released scholarship programs being introduced. Who knows.. you may stumble upon a great merit based scholarship program that makes your financial stretch school turn into more of a checkbook friendly option.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you know of any college bound students that may benefit from this article, be sure to use the “share tab” below to pass it along.

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Post Graduation Financial Plan (video)

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Paying For College – Q & A Session With CheapScholar

Paying For College – Q & A Session With CheapScholar

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and do an interview for an organization and discuss some hot topics related to paying for college and financial aid. We covered a lot of good information and I thought I would share it with our CheapScholar.org readers. The following represents some excerpts from that interview. Enjoy!

How do you tell which scholarship sources are trustworthy (especially on the internet)?

Schantz: Online scholarship search engines serve as a great resource for students and families. The best scholarship search engines won’t ask for your personal information and they never charge you a fee. If you have doubt about the legitimacy of a scholarship program, you should always ask your financial aid office. I would also recommend that you check out CheapScholar’s Scholarship Resource Center. We only list and recommend trustworthy scholarship resources.

What is the FAFSA? Why is it important?

Schantz: The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is sort of like the gatekeeper for all need-based financial aid that a student can receive. Completing the FAFSA is the single most critical step a family can take in trying to access financial aid for their student.  The FAFSA takes a uniformed approach to gathering student financial data inclusive of Parent/Student Assets and Income for the prior year. It puts this information through a lengthy calculation to come up with an EFC, otherwise known as an Estimated Family Contribution. This EFC is the Department of Education’s best guess at what a family can afford to pay for college in the coming year. And, based upon my experience, I can tell you that their number always tends to be higher than what a family may be expecting…

What is the difference between Need-Based and Merit Based Aid?

Schantz: Need-based awards and financial aid that are given to a student from a university or college are a result of the EFC (estimated financial contribution) figure that is created by your FAFSA results. The higher your EFC, the less need-based aid you are eligible for. The lower your EFC, the more need-based aid you qualify for. In theory, if your EFC changes from year to year, it is quite possible that the need-based aid portion of your financial aid package could also fluctuate. Fortunately, most institutions don’t recalculate your financial aid package for minor changes in your EFC. Merit-based aid and awards are given to a student based upon their academic and extracurricular success leading up to college. Factors playing into this are GPA, SAT and ACT scores, club activities and community service. The good news is that all merit-based aid is not impacted by your FAFSA results (EFC). For example, if your student is receiving $10,000 in merit-based aid and you win the lottery (lucky you), you don’t have to worry about that part of the financial aid package going away. However, any need-based aid will probably disappear immediately.

What are the common components of a Financial Aid Package?

Schantz: Each of your financial aid packages are the same to the extent that they all can include the following components and nothing more – Free Money, Work Study Money, and Loan Money. Your financial aid packages are all going to be different in the sense that each college and university likes to use its own naming system for their awards and prizes that they put on the dollars you receive in your financial aid package. Usually the names have a prestigious ring to them, are related to a specific donor, or have a name that represents a certain department or area of study. However, at the end of the day, all these names and titles that appear on your financial aid award  will fall into one the three categories mentioned above.

If one of my parents was recently laid off, how will that affect my financial aid options?

Schantz: If one of your parents is laid-off or experiences a reduction in income, this will be reflected on next year’s FAFSA and the Financial Aid Office will respond accordingly. However, in order to gain benefit this current year, I would encourage you to reach out to the financial aid staff and see if your situation would warrant a professional judgment adjustment to your award package. By asking a couple of questions, a financial aid office can quickly ascertain if your situation would be a good candidate for some sort of special circumstance adjustment to your financial aid package. They may not be able to do a lot but they certainly can’t do anything if you don’t talk with them.

How much is a reasonable amount of student loans?

Schantz: It really depends on what your career ambitions are after college. Some experts say that you shouldn’t get college loans in excess of what you anticipate earning your first year out of school. Based upon that methodology, if you think you will earn $40K a year, you probably don’t want to exceed $40K in student loans. However, the college you choose is usually about personal preference and sometimes the cost factor takes a back seat. If that is the case, then a student may deem it appropriate to take out more loans to attend.

How much time do I get to pay off different loans after I graduate?

Schantz:
Federal loans offer a number of different repayment methods. They are Standard Repayment, Extended Repayment, Graduated Payments, Income Based Repayment, Income Contingent Repayment, and Income Sensitive Repayment.  Generally you will have between 10-25 years to pay back your loans. As a goal, my rule of thumb for families is that they try to have their student loans paid off before their first child heads off to college.

What are my options when it comes to education loans?

Schantz: You have a number of different options but the most prevailing are the Federal Direct Loan programs for student and parents. After you have exhausted all of your federal options, you can start looking at Private Education Loans as a resource. They are offered by a number of institutions and local credit unions are surprisingly becoming more involved in that market.

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Move To Massachusetts For Free Tuition? What About Fees?

Move To Massachusetts For Free Tuition? What About Fees?

I really enjoy when CheapScholar.org gets to showcase great tuition deals across the nation. I especially like it when I hear the word FREE combined with tuition.

Last week, the University of Massachusetts – Lowell (UML) just offered a free tuition option for students looking to transfer in from local community colleges this coming Fall Semester. This new program (referred to as Advantage Plus) will provide up to four semesters of free tuition (which should be enough for most students to complete their bachelor’s degree requirement).

The following are the qualifying requirements for the free tuition offer:

  • Must be a graduate from one of 15 Massachusetts Community Colleges
  • Students must have and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher

The current in-state annual tuition rate at UML is $1,454. So a student could potentially save about $3,000 over the span of two years while they complete their bachelors degree. Seems like a pretty descent offer right? Well… as Paul Harvey says “and now for the rest of the story”…

Even though UML is offering free tuition, this population of students will still be responsible for annual fees totaling over $9,000 and if they plan on living and eating on campus, that will be an additional $9,000. So, they get $1,454 in free tuition each year but could experience about $18,000 in extra expenses…ugh. Doesn’t sound like such a great deal anymore.

The basis of this story is that it is important for you to inquire about ALL the fees being charged by the colleges that you are looking at attending (Tuition, Room, Board, and Fees). In the case of UML, they have amazingly cheap tuition but they will quickly depress your college savings with their fees. Other schools may have reasonably high tuition rates but little to no fees. So be smart and try to compare apples to apples when looking at college costs and not apples to oranges.

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A Guide To Understanding The Yellow Ribbon Program

A Guide To Understanding The Yellow Ribbon Program

There have been a lot of changes to the financial aid programs from the United States Military since their start 60 years ago and especially in the past 10-15 years.  The GI Bill is intended to assist those who have served in our military with their higher education costs. The GI Bill has been modified and now referred to as the “Post 9/11 GI Bill” and summarized on the government’s website.   In addition to the GI Bill, there is also a newer service called the Yellow Ribbon Program which aims to serve our veterans post 9/11.  The requirements and benefits are determined by a number of factors including length of military service, state that the individual resides in, as well as the school that the student chooses to attend.

The Programs Defined

To understand the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans, an understanding of the Post 9/11 GI Bill must be understood first.  According to the GI Bill site, “The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay your tuition based upon the highest in-state tuition charged by a public educational institution in the state where the school is located. The amount of support that an individual may qualify for depends on where they live and what type of degree they are pursuing.”

Basic eligibility requirements:

  • Provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001
  • Individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.
  • You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Benefits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill:

  • Tuition & fees directly to the school not to exceed the maximum in-state tuition & fees at a public Institution of Higher Learning. See chart listing maximum in-state tuition rates
  • For more expensive tuition, a program exists which may help to reimburse the difference. This program is called the Yellow Ribbon Program.
  • A monthly housing allowance based on the Basic Allowance for Housing for an E-5 with dependents at the location of the school.
  • For those attending foreign schools (schools without a main campus in the U.S.) the BAH rate is fixed at $1,347.00 for 2011 and $1,348.00 for 2010.
  • An annual books & supplies stipend of $1,000 paid proportionately based on enrollment.
  • A one-time rural benefit payment for eligible individuals.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is an enhancement of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.  Institutions of higher education can enter into an agreement with Veterans Affairs to fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate.

If a veteran is matriculating at a private institution, graduate school, or going to school out-of-state, they may accrue extra tuition and fees that exceed the amount of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  If a veteran is enrolled at a Yellow Ribbon participating institution and the tuition and fees exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition or fees, additional funds may be available for the education program without an additional charge.

Basic Eligibility Requirements:

Only individuals entitled to the maximum benefit rate (based on service requirements) may receive this funding.  You served an aggregate period of active duty after September 10, 2001, of at least 36 months;

  • You were honorably discharged from active duty for a service connected disability and you served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001;
  • You are a dependent eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on a veteran’s service under the eligibility criteria listed above.

It is encouraged to check out the websites mentioned in this post for the full amount of information, as well as double checking the list of schools currently associated with the Yellow Ribbon Program.

This article was written by Jenn Pedde. She is the community manager for the Masters in Social Work program at the University of Southern California.  She’s an avid traveler and enjoys photography. We are pleased to have her as a Contributor on CheapScholar.org

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