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Archive | March, 2014

Finding The Right Laptop On A College Budget

Finding The Right Laptop On A College Budget

Sony Vaio S-seriesAttending college today can be an expensive endeavor. Between college tuition, room and board, books, supplies, transport, etc., it can be quite difficult keeping up with the cost of higher education. You don’t need to add laptop expenses to the equation. You may have little say in the rising cost of tuition, books and fees, but you can control your laptop expenses. Here are some tips to get you started.

Match Laptop Need with Laptop Costs

Few college students, if any, can do without a reliable laptop in today’s modern educational clime. You’ll undoubtedly find 1,001 uses for your laptop before your education is done. In addition to school work, your PC will be one of your most valued possessions for entertainment, social networking, keeping in touch with family and friends, playing games, listening to your favorite music and more.

Choosing the right laptop is key to getting the most from your investment. While this is purely a personal decision, the following tidbits could help you save money. Make sure your PC is compatible with your school’s software so that you have no problems getting your work done. By purchasing your PC on campus, you could be eligible for special prices on certain brands, plus receive free software packages. This could knock off a considerable chunk from the laptop price. Many colleges also offer on-campus PC repairs at reasonable costs just for laptops bought on school grounds.

Consider Your Options

Top laptop brands, models and designs abound, giving you quite a lineup to choose from. Whatever laptop you choose, make sure it works well for YOU, with a keyboard and touchpad you’re comfortable using. After all, you are the one that’s going to use it for the next 3-4 years — not your college roomie. Along with design, consider such factors as size, advanced features, reliability, cost and warranty.

Stay within a reasonable price. With the exception of the Apple MacBook, most laptop brands offer college students all the features they need for $700 to $800. Here are a few top picks to get you thinking about the selection at your disposal.

Apple MacBook
Acer Chromebook
Lenovo IdeaPad
Dell Inspiron
Samsung ATIV Book
Sony Vaio
Asus Transformer Book

Think Light

If you’re going to be carrying your laptop all over campus, think light. Configure screen size, machine size and weight with your daily usage. For frequent commuters, a lightweight 13 inch ultrabook, 11.6 in. ultraportable or even a mini may do. On the other hand, if you plan to keep your PC in the dorm, then the conventional 15-incher may offer greater options for school and recreational needs.

Design is Good, Warranty is Better

When it comes to hardware – CPU, hard drive, RAM, video card, etc. – most laptop brands have pretty much the same “beneath the hood.” The biggest difference is in the look, feel and design. Look for a product that agrees with your personality and suits your personal taste and preference.

Having said this, don’t forgo a good warranty for a great design. Your dream machine could easily turn into a nightmare if it doesn’t come with a good warranty. A good warranty will cover all hardware problems to include keyboard, monitor, modem and internal parts along with the cost of labor for your repairs. This could add up to considerable savings on a college allowance. Loss of data, software problems, theft and accidental damage are not generally covered in a warranty, unless otherwise specified.

Many laptop warranties extend for one year, although you do have the option of getting an extended warranty for an additional cost. If you plan on keeping your PC for the duration of college, an extended warranty can save you extra expense later down the line.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Ryan Ayers, a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education. In this article, he describes laptop needs for college students and aims to encourage further study with an online computer science masters degree.

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Understanding Policies That Affect Your Student Budget

Understanding Policies That Affect Your Student Budget

student-budgetThe high expenses that come with college education can get both students and their parents overwhelmed. Fortunately, financial aid can be obtained in the form of loans, grants and scholarships to cover tuition, board, books, transportation and other living expenses either partially or in full. Still, there are policies that affect your ability to access such aid, and there are also those which have significant impact on the terms of repayment. It is therefore important to understand these rules to be able to make the most of the available opportunities.

Eligibility for Federal Loans

Regardless of your financial situation or credit score, you can qualify for a federal student loan. Congress determines the rates and limits for these loans, meaning they are not impacted by any particular measures of risk, hence making them more reachable to everyone. When it comes to such loans however, undergraduates generally get lower rates whereas their graduate counterparts can borrow higher amounts. Further, students who cannot afford to fund their college education may receive subsidized loans where the government pays the interest to ensure that at the point of graduation, the student owes the exact amount they borrowed.

Interest Rates For PLUS Loans

In general, federal government loans accrue lower interests compared to private ones. With the changes that were made with regard to PLUS loans in 2013 though, borrowers are set to pay even lower interests over the long term. The rates will take the same direction as the financial markets and lock in for the entire duration of the loan rather than change every year. Brought down from 6.8 percent, a 3.86 percent rate currently applies to undergraduate loans while graduates need to pay 5.41 percent down from 7.9 percent.

Borrower Protection

If you ever have a hard time settling up your college debt, there are rules that will help you repay it and enable you to avoid default. Through rehabilitation, borrowers will be able to make nine affordable, on-time monthly payments and qualify for further financial assistance while avoiding a default on their credit report. Also as a borrower, if you have been delinquent for nine months as a minimum, you will be able to orally request forbearance to postpone your payments and evade default. However, this will only apply to federal student loans and none of those which are privately obtained.

Student Loan Repayments

Thanks to the Health care and Education Reconciliation Act, any student who gets enrolled into college from this year henceforth will handle reduced monthly payments while paying off their loans. The deductions made from their income will be no more than 10 percent. Also, if you choose to join the public service upon graduation, your outstanding debt will be forgiven after 10 years while other borrowers will have theirs absolved after a 20 year period.

Misconceptions about Student Loans

Some students erroneously believe that they shouldn’t request for financial aid until they have made it to their desired college. However, working on the FAFSA papers can actually be advantageous when done at the point of application. Also, even though some people think that only needy students can access financial aid, this isn’t accurate. Regardless of whether they are needy or not, students with good grades, outstanding athletic capabilities or other talents can access the resources as well.

Many factors impact your entitlement to a student loan. However, being unable to qualify one year doesn’t automatically disqualify you the next year. Having a sibling enroll into college or other changes on the financial situation of your family for instance, may work to your advantage and enable you to access the financial aid you need. Therefore, even when you think you may not be eligible, you should aim to apply for financial aid every year.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Ryan Ayers, a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education. In this article, he describe educational policies affecting students and aims to encourage further study through Masters in Public Administration Programs.

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The Psychology Of Student Debt Management

The Psychology Of Student Debt Management

Education budgetEveryone knows that college tuition is on the rise and that the students who are in college today are some of the most heavily indebted of all students. The excitement of getting into a university is often tempered by the knowledge that an extreme amount of debt is coming. The student loans do not have to be paid off right away, so this is different than a home loan or a car loan, but this is still something that hangs over a new student’s head and makes it difficult to grasp their finances properly while still at an institution of higher learning.

Student Spending

One thing that is interesting about the physiological impact of all of this debt is that it does not necessarily have the impact that you would assume. For example, you would think that owing a lot of money to a lender would make students want to spend less, minimizing their debt and keeping things in check as much as possible. They would look for cheap housing, cut back on food costs, save on energy expenses, and do other things of this nature. They would try to prepare to pay off what they owe by not making it any worse than it has to be.

However, the opposite is often true. Students feel crippled and overwhelmed by the amount of debt that they face. Most of them have never even held down a full-time job before. They have not purchased homes or new cars. The numbers that they are seeing – many schools cost at least $100,000 for a four-year program – are bigger than anything that they can wrap their heads around. They know that they are going to owe a lot, but they feel like anyone else feels while looking at the national debt: The numbers are so big that they don’t seem real.

This causes many students to just give up, in a sense. They continue to spend heavily in college, taking out more loans and not saving money anywhere. They spend everything that they can from their part-time jobs, and some of them even take the money right out of their savings accounts. Rather than holding onto this and figuring that they can use it to offset some of the debt, they just use it however they want. When they get out of college, they are in far more financial trouble than they have to be.

This happens because they cannot imagine owing more. If they owe $200,000 and they do not even have a job lined up, what difference does it make if they owe $210,000 or $220,000? It all looks the same. However, this thought process is very destructive. It can increase debt, rather than limiting it, and cause problems that are going to last for years to come.

Keeping Calm

The key to success is to stay level-headed and rational. Students need to be calm and realize that they are going to be able to get out of debt, but that it is going to take work. They must shake off this feeling that they are so far buried in debt that it does not even matter anymore. Instead, they need to channel the energy and emotion that they have into positive action.

When they do this, students can set themselves up for a successful future. They can get rid of the debt that they do have and keep from compiling more. They can make college as inexpensive as possible. As they work at this, they may even find grants and scholarships that can help them to stay out of massive debt in the first place.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Ryan Ayers, a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education. In this article, he describes the psychology of student debt and aims to encourage further study with an online masters degree in applied psychology.

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6 Dorm-Warming Gifts For You & Your New Roomie

6 Dorm-Warming Gifts For You & Your New Roomie

Student series - Two girls studying togetherA random dorm roommate can turn into your best friend forever or aggravating nemesis. Your fate can be a roll of the dice, yet an optimistic attitude and good start can help tilt the scale from living together, towards roommates of the year. As you move into the dorm, give your roommate a dorm-warming gift to set a friendly tone. Don’t forget to emphasize that the gift is to share; your goodwill only extends so far.

University Banner – School Spirit

Walking into a barren dorm room can be like walking into a prison cell. See that stranger over there unloading bags and boxes? Unless you quickly decorate your room, you might as well call your new roommate your cell mate. Be a proud student and display a college banner or university flag to decorate white wall space. Especially if you and your roomie share dissimilar tastes in decor, a flag or banner from your college bookstore could be an aesthetic compromise.

White Board – Reminders

Underneath your display of college pride, attach an Urban Outfitters.com dry erase wall decal. This plastic stick-on decal is like a giant Post-It note for fun doodles, daily quotes or special reminders. Pen the white board with a whimsical inspirational quote like, “all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them” (Walt Disney). Or you may just make notes like, “don’t forget to send flowers for mom’s birthday.”

Sandwich Maker – Hunger

For less than 20 bucks, you can equip your dorm with an Elite Cuisine Nonstick Sandwich Maker from Target.com. The extensive salad bar, Belgian waffle maker and plethora of hot food at the dining hall may feel like a foodie’s paradise during a freshman’s first few weeks of college, but it doesn’t take long for dining hall food to all share the same tastelessness. Your sandwich maker can serve as your food source backup for when the thought of cafeteria food makes your taste buds tear up. Emergency grilled cheese sandwiches can also cure late-night emotional hunger pains while studying.

Dorm Workouts – Fitness

Speaking of emotionally eating grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight, the freshman 15 is a college rite of passage you can prevent. Live a fit lifestyle while on campus and make exercise a healthy ritual for you and your roommate. Even if you can’t commit to going to the gym, you can sneak in a workout at home in between classes or as a study break during busy days. Fitness magazine recommends “The Biggest Loser: 8-Minute Body Blasters,” “Yoga Inferno” by Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper’s “The Skinny Rules #3: Strength” for around $10 each.

Books – Motivation & Inspiration

After skimming all the textbooks and reading assignments required on your syllabi, more books and reading sound like a far cry from fun. The following books are intended to improve more than your academia. Furnish the dorm room with a mini collection of inspirational books such as “How To Be Interesting” by Jessica Hagy, Ben Hammersley’s “Approaching The Future: 64 Things You Need To Know Now For Then” or “The Art and Science of Dealing With Difficult People” by David Brown. Breaking from your studies to read a quick excerpt from these books can help you get a date, prepare for graduation (hopefully) in four years and even handle roommate quarrels.

Cards Against Humanity – Socializing

The party game Cards Against Humanity belongs beside your self-help book collection. College is about social circles and making friends. This game can help drawn in potential candidates, especially since you’re under 21.

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Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – What You Need To Know

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – What You Need To Know

TeacherPublic service workers fulfill a vital role in the communities in which they serve, yet many still have student loans that are currently in repayment. According to The Huffington Post, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently revealed that up to a quarter of the United States workforce is currently not taking advantage of a program designed to provide student loan relief to public service workers. This means that members of the military, firefighters, teachers, and others who dedicate their lives to serving the public should be made aware of the opportunities that exist through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (“PSLF”). Here is an overview of how the program works along with the information that every public service worker should have to determine their eligibility, track service hours and complete the application process to have their loan forgiven.

General Eligibility Requirements
The PSLF program is designed to encourage graduating students to enter into their public service positions and continue to work full-time as they serve their communities. Therefore, the eligibility requirements are established to reinforce the importance of the services provided by these workers. To be eligible to have their loans forgiven under this program, a person must be working full-time at a recognized public service organization while making 120 full payments by their scheduled due dates under a qualifying repayment plan. It is also important to note that this program is only available for those making payments on a loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Other types of loans may be consolidated into a William D. Ford Loan; however, only the payments a person makes on the new Consolidated Direct Loan will be counted as the 120 payments required for eligibility.

Types of Employment Qualified for the Program
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a qualifying place of employment for this program can be any non-profit organization, government agency or entity that has been declared as tax-exempt by the IRS. For these types of organizations, there is no stipulation regarding what types of services must be provided for the organization to qualify. Some private not-for-profit employers that are not tax-exempt may still qualify provided that they perform specific services for the public. Examples of these would be the military, public education and health services, law enforcement agencies and services provided to those with disabilities or the elderly.

The type of job doesn’t matter when it comes to eligibility—as long as the employer is employed by a public service organization. So, everyone from managers and teachers to support staff may apply for loan forgiveness.

Determining Full-Time Employment
Under the PSLF program, applicants must be employed for as many hours as their organization considers a full-time position. However, these hours must equal 30 or more per week. For those who work in religious organizations, time spent on providing religious instruction or worship may not be counted among these hours. Educators who work under a contractual basis that includes specific months of time off may still be considered for loan forgiveness provided they work at least 30 hours a week during the contractual working period. Those who work part-time at more than one organization may also be eligible if their hours combined are equivalent to 30 or more hours a week.

How to Track Employment and Loan Payment History
Under most repayment plans, it will take at least ten years before a person has made 120 on-time full payments. For this reason, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends for public service workers to complete the Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form which can be used to help keep track of a person’s qualifying employment and payment history. The form consists of three sections, with the first two being filled out by the person applying for loan forgiveness and the last to be completed by the employer. Many public service organizations are familiar with this process and may already have a plan in place for initializing the process of tracking employment hours. Those who change employers at any point during their repayment period will need to resubmit the form and update their information to include the new employment history.

Completing the Application Process
After a public service worker has made their 120th payment on their student loan, they can submit their application for loan forgiveness. It is important to note, however, that the applicant must still be working full-time with the qualifying organization at the time they file the application. During the time that the application is being processed, the PSLF servicer may request additional information to document a person’s employment or loan payment history. Prompt submittal of any requested documentation will help to ensure that a decision is made in a timely manner.

Student loans have made it possible for many public service workers to provide quality services to their communities using the latest research-based techniques for helping others. Today, the U.S. Department of Education has made it possible for millions of public service workers to find relief from their student loan debts by continuing to serve full-time at qualifying organizations. By understanding how the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program works and what constitutes qualifying employment and repayment, many public service workers can have their remaining loans forgiven so that they can continue to use the their skills to help those in the communities they serve.

 

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Company Loyalty Can Result In Student Loan Payoffs

Company Loyalty Can Result In Student Loan Payoffs

Student Loan DebtWe all know the benefits of going to college. College graduates have a much greater earning potential on average than people who do not earn a college degree. However, the cost of `obtaining a college education has increased by over 30 percent over the last several years. A single year of college can cost between $10,000 to over $40,000. With skyrocketing educational costs many students and their families are unable to pay these expenses by themselves. In turn, more and more students are seeking financial assistance in the form of student loans.

Debt after Graduation

Each year as many as 60 percent of the student population borrows money for school. While student loans seem like an attractive solution to anyone trying to complete their degree, they can turn into a large burden after graduation. As of October of 2012, the average student loan debt for 2011 graduates was $26,600, a 5 percent increase from the previous year’s graduates. On average 20 percent of college grads have $40,000 or more in student loan debt. These monetary figures create quite a burden for recent graduates who are just start out and either still looking for a job, or probably at an entry-level paying position.

Repaying Student Loan Debt

There are a few different options for former students struggling to repay their educational debts. Programs such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or Income-Based Repayment are helping many to get in control of their educational debts. However, some employers have now jumped on the bandwagon in support of those who have student loan debt by using a new trend in repaying these loans termed employer based loan repayment assistance programs.

Employer Based Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Under these employer sponsored programs, eligible employees are given a monthly stipend to help make their student loan payments each month. Many of these programs are based in public interest work where salaries tend to be lower than in the private sector. Government agencies, some school districts and healthcare systems also offer student loan repayment assistance. Public servants, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and nurses seem to see the most assistance from their employers. However, many companies are following this trend and helping their employees pay off student loans.

Company Loyalty Can Equal Cash

If you don’t work in any of the aforementioned careers or business, you can still qualify for your employer to help in paying off your student loan debt. Just as many private companies pay moving expenses, holiday bonuses, retention bonuses, recruitment bonuses, performance bonuses, year-end bonuses, or sign-on bonuses, many of them are now paying college education debts. Companies appreciate your loyalties and are starting to reward employees at 10 years, some even do so at two or three years, with the company by paying off their student loans. Doing so is beneficial for the company as they would rather help a loyal employee pay off student loan debt than re-hire and train someone to replace you in their workforce.

Common Employee Requirements

Repayment of student loans is a much-appreciated perk at several companies. Though you should be aware of a few points. You may have to sign an incentive contract to have your employer assist in paying off your student loans. It is also wise to consult with a tax advisor as you may have to pay income taxes on the amount your employer put towards your student loan debt.

When you are job hunting, or when you have your next annual performance appraisal, you may want to broach the topic of student loan repayment with your potential or current employer. Doing so could mean a big financial burden lifted from you. Some employees have managed not to pay their student loan debt at all, and had them paid 100 percent by their employer. It is worth asking to move on with financial freedom in your life.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Ryan Ayers. He is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education. In this article, he describes company sponsored loan payoffs and aims to encourage further study with a law degree in trial advocacy.

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6 Ways College Students Can Save on Entertainment

6 Ways College Students Can Save on Entertainment

entertainmentThere’s more to college than just writing essays and taking tests. Even starving college students can have fun when they’re not in class or studying. However, most normally don’t have much extra spending money for additional things like cable television, high cell phone bills or even trips to the movies. Luckily, today’s technology has allowed college students to have a good time and be entertained without breaking the bank. Here are six ways they can save on entertainment.

1. Purchasing Prepaid Cell Phones

Owning a smartphone doesn’t mean you need to have a contract or even a data plan to use it. There are several prepaid phone providers, like those from T-Mobile, that offer devices and services that are completely affordable for college students. With new phones being introduced continually, students can purchase refurbished or used phones to keep their costs down.

2. Streaming Movies and Television Shows

As cable television costs continue to rise, so does the demand for Internet streaming media. Providers such as Netflix and Hulu are gaining in popularity among college students because they are as affordable as they portable. Users can watch free movies, clips and television shows from their home televisions via a streaming media player or on the go through a tablet or smartphone. The potential savings add up to several hundred dollars per year. Users can also rent newly released films and current television shows for minimal fees.

3. Download Video Games, Songs and Podcasts

Living on a shoestring budget also means downloading video games, music and podcasts for little or no money, all of which is possible for both Android and Apple devices. Besides Google Play and iTunes, which are great for finding free songs and podcasts, users can download free video games from CNET and Games.com.

4. Attending On-Campus Events

Never underestimate the power of a college campus when it comes to inexpensive entertainment. Student unions normally have tickets available for all campus events, typically at a highly discounted rate. They can be for sporting events, concerts and plays. Students can also get discounted tickets for off-campus events such as movies, museums and other special offers for local events.

5. Subscribing to Deal-of-the-Day Websites

A great way to draw college kids off campus is by offering them great deals at nearby coffeehouses, retail stores and the like. Daily deals, such as those found on Groupon, LivingSocial, Woot or even QR codes, can save students quite a few dollars.

6. Dining In

Instead of going out to a local pizza parlor or other eatery, invite your friends over and eat in. Make your own pizza dough and have everyone BYOT or Bring Your Own Topping. Potluck meals are also pretty popular as well as food theme nights or just a simple get together. Eating at home with friends saves students money on food and gas.

If students want to get their nose of the books for a little entertainment, these are just a few ways they can have some affordable fun.

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Comparing Financial Aid Awards (video)

Students across the nation have completed the college application process, successfully submitted their FAFSA, and are now in a holding pattern as they wait to see what the financial aid package will be from the schools that they intently hope to attend this coming fall semester. Here is a great video that highlights what these financial aid awards may look like. In addition, feel free to visit CheapScholar’s resource for deciphering financial aid packages.

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