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What NOT to Do When You Can’t Afford College Without Parental Help

What NOT to Do When You Can’t Afford College Without Parental Help

Your parents probably started pushing you to attend college when you began preschool. They insisted that you join every extracurricular activity at your school in hopes of earning scholarships. Then, when they saw how much college was going to cost you, they turned out their pockets and said, “Sorry, we can’t help you.”

If your parents encouraged you toward the college route but were unable to assist to the level that they had hoped, or if your family had severe financial struggles and truly couldn’t afford to help, you still have options for getting a college degree. Don’t become one of those students who try to defraud the system. You can find legitimate options to fund your education.

Grant Fraud? Don’t Even Think About It

The U.S. government distributes Pell Grants totaling as much as $5,500 to needy students, and it sends the grant money directly to the students’ colleges. Colleges deduct their portion of tuition and give the money to students to help students pay for room, board and supplies. Unfortunately, some fraudsters called “Pell runners” target inexpensive online schools or community colleges, apply for and get accepted to low-cost degree programs.  When their Pell Grant disbursements come, they take the cash, drop out of school and disappear.

In some cases, studied by students at a school that offers an accredited MS in Criminology program, Pell running is the work of gangs of students (to read more about how gangs have branched out into white-collar crime, visit this page). In Arizona, a student named Trenda Halton recruited over 60 fake students to sign up for college, get the Pell Grant money and give her a $500 to $1,000 cut. Colleges and the Department of Education are cracking down on Pell running; Halton and her cohorts were all sentenced for their crimes. Complete your FAFSA and take advantage of Pell Grants if you can, but don’t attempt to get cash by committing grant fraud.

crossingfingersLying on the FAFSA? Not a Chance

If your parents either refuse to help or can’t help you pay for school, you might think that the best solution is declare yourself an independent student. The bad news is that if you don’t meet government requirements for independent students, then declaring your independence requires lying on your FAFSA.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to be declared an independent student. You have to do more than move out of your parents’ house. You’re not even considered independent when they don’t claim you on their taxes. Unless you’re an Armed Forces member or veteran, supporting dependent children, considered an emancipated minor, going to graduate school or past your 24th birthday, then you’re considered dependent no matter what your parents do.

If you’re caught committing FAFSA fraud, you could get up to five years in prison and a $20,000 fine. You would also have to reimburse the government for any money that you received, and if your school has an honor code, you’re likely to be expelled.

So What Are Your Options?

If you received an acceptance letter only to discover that your parents can’t pay, you can try other options to get your degree.

  • Pick a cheap school. You might have to get an affordable undergraduate degree at a less prestigious school. On a positive note, since grad students are considered independent, your parents’ income won’t count when you go for your master’s or doctorate. So, for your graduate degree, you can swing for the fences and apply to a great school.
  • Investigate scholarships. Even if you have to take an extra year to line up money, take some time to look into available scholarships. Hit up community groups, religious groups and industry groups related to your field. Also, use the Department of Labor’s scholarship search engine.
  • Get a job. Many employers offer at least partial tuition reimbursement. Some employers, like Starbucks, have agreements with colleges and universities so that their employees get a free or reduced-price college education.

Remember that your parents’ inability to pay your tuition isn’t about you; it’s about them. Also, when you’re trying to go to school, don’t be shy about searching for financial assistance and assertively asking for available money. You deserve to build a great future whether you are getting help from your parents or not.

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College: Removing Luck from the Equation

College: Removing Luck from the Equation

4-leaf clover on white backgroundLooking back, I realize my college experience was blessed with a relative lack of burdens. Naturally, I experienced the social and academic trials and trivialities most everyone will encounter. I was an athlete, wrote for the school paper and maintained a job or two, so I was definitely busy, but these responsibilities were more privilege than burden.

Through a combination of scholarships, grants, earned income and parental support, I was able to graduate after four years at a private school less than $5,000 in debt. I didn’t entirely realize it at the time, but that is a quasi-miraculous outcome. As I said, I am overwhelmingly blessed, and have countless people to thank for their support.

Anyone who makes it to college has hundreds of people to thank. No one does it alone. Some combination of teachers, parents, friends, haters and lovers help us along the way. Sometimes it’s the little things — a smile of encouragement, an extra hour of tutoring — that make the biggest difference. All those little moments add up and make a major impact on our lives.

That being said, the big things still loom large. Tuition is one of those major barriers standing between many qualified students and the education they desire and deserve. I have friends whose path through college took six or more years — not because they were partying too much, not because they were in medical school, but because they were forced to sacrifice credit hours in exchange for clocking an hourly wage.

Higher education is expensive, and isn’t getting any cheaper. A paper published by the American Council on Education shows that from 2006 to 2011, tuition at 4-year public universities rose 22 percent. Meanwhile, as of March 2012, student debt has nearly tripled over the past 8 years to a mind-boggling total of $1.1 trillion.

Money should not stand in the way of deserving students seeking the knowledge and experience that will be the foundation for their lives. That foundation should not be sabotaged from the start by the overbearing weight of unnecessary debt. That is why I was so pleased to discover that there is quality assistance available to help students significantly reduce their tuition costs.

In-State Angels is an organization started in 2011 to serve the needs of students at the University of Colorado-Boulder. It has since grown and now serves students going to almost 150 schools around the country. Their sole mission is to help students qualify for in-state tuition as soon as is legally possible.

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be almost $10,000 per semester. With so much money at stake, the schools have made sure that the qualification process for in-state status is fraught with peril. The regulations are constantly shifting, and carry stiff penalties for any impropriety, be it purposeful or not.

In-State Angels is an experienced navigator of these treacherous bureaucratic waters. They do everything they can — short of registering a student’s car in their new home state or getting him-or her dressed in the morning — to make the process smooth and simple. Significantly, personally-assigned Angels work for free until in-state status has been officially established and the student is already saving thousands of dollars per semester.

These Angels provide a profoundly valuable service. By making tuition affordable where it previously was not, they are expanding educational opportunities for students, creating the opportunity for them to grow into debt-free graduates.

College is a time of personal growth and transformation. Students don’t need any unnecessary stress added to their already burdened minds. It is hard enough to figure out how to pay for dinner, much less next semester’s tuition.

That being the case, it is worthwhile to check with In-State Angels to see if you or a student you know is a good candidate for their services. It might save them (or you) a lot of money, and a lot of headache.

It is my sincere desire for more students to graduate with less debt, and ISA is on a mission to see that happen. Seek them out, ask them questions, allow them to help. It never hurts to have Angels on your side.

 About the Author:

Today’s article comes from David McConaghay, a writer and professional enthusiast based in Boulder, Colorado. He supports In-State Angels based on his passionate belief that everyone deserves affordable access to higher education. You are invited to follow him on Twitter @DaveTelf.

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College Bound? The Best New Cars for the Frugal College Student

College Bound? The Best New Cars for the Frugal College Student

collegecarIf you have a college-bound student heading off to university in the fall, you’re probably already planning to make sure they have everything they need once they arrive on campus. But what about how they’ll get there and get around once school starts?

An estimated 22 million college U.S. college students are heading to campus this year and the last thing you want to do is send yours off in an old, unreliable or unsafe car. If your teenager is still driving grandma’s old beater, there’s a good chance the car won’t even make it to the college dorm room parking lot when you help them move in.

Buying a new car for your college-bound son or daughter is an important part of planning for college. By using a reputable car valuation service like Kelley Blue Book, you can make sure you’re getting a fair price on a new car.

Here are the five best new cars for the frugal college student who is looking to save a few bucks while still looking cool and staying safe on the road.

Fiat 500

The little Italian cars long popular in Europe have really picked up speed in the United States. The model 500 car is selling especially fast, with many of those buyers being late teenagers. The Italian auto maker revamped its original 1957 subcompact car with a sporty exterior and interior and gets very good gas mileage.

Honda Fit

The Honda Fit is an affordable, safe and compact car that gets very good mileage. Being a Honda, the Fit also will not require much maintenance, making it perfect for college kids who don’t have a lot of cash for expensive repairs.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is another great option for frugal college students who want to save money on gas and help the environment at the same time. The Prius now also comes in several different styles, so if the natural hatchback is not to your student’s liking, they can have their pick of other body types. A little pricier than an all-gasoline car, the cost of the hybrid car is deferred while saving on gas and helping save the environment.

Nissan Rogue

Crossovers like the Nissan Rogue are a little compact car with some SUV mixed in. The new Rogue seats up to seven people, but you wouldn’t know from looking at it on the outside. The Rogue is a bit more expensive than a smaller car, but it’s safe and having all the storage space in the car is perfect for those long drives back home with loads of dirty laundry.

Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is another great crossover option for college students on a budget. Perhaps you’ve seen their commercials with the hamsters dancing and driving. Hopefully your college kids won’t have too big of a party in this great vehicle, although it has several amenities such as a booming sound system and other features that make it a super cool car. It also has about 20 cubic feet of cargo space to give plenty of room to pack for the long trip home.

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Roadblocks to Paying for College: Your Parents’ Bankruptcy

Roadblocks to Paying for College: Your Parents’ Bankruptcy

bankruptcyEntering into college can be stressful, especially when considering you financial situation. Unfortunately, there are a few things that can make financing your college career even more challenging.

Your Parents’ Influence

If you’re in any way dependent on your parents for your college tuition, then you’ve probably noticed by now that schools rely on a credit-check of your parents’ accounts.

If your parents have, at any time, declared bankruptcy or are even in the midst of it, you’re probably worrying about your ability to pay for a college.

Here are some things you’ll want to know about receiving grant money, your eligibility for government assistance and much more.

The Bankruptcy Reform of 1994

Right off the bat, we’re going to put some of your fears to rest – you’re still eligible for grant money.

The Bankruptcy Reform of 1994 ensures that you, as a student, can’t be denied federal grants because of your parents’ credit history. So, even if your parents have filed bankruptcy in the past or are undergoing the process at the time of your application, it won’t be held against you.

Thankfully this reform also ensures that you can receive scholarships to further your education. To that end, you’ll be able to receive the same benefits as students who have parents with a clear credit history. Your parents can even set up payment plans so that your transition will be even smoother.

The US Stafford Loan in particular is an example of a government loan which is always available to you regardless of your credit history.

Federal PLUS Loans and Bankruptcy

Unfortunately, there is at least one type of loan which is dependent on a good credit history from your parents. Only individuals with a clear credit history can apply for The Federal PLUS Loan. So what does this mean for you?

If your parents are denied a Federal PLUS Loan, then you may actually be eligible for a larger unsubsidized government loan. This can even take effect within the first two years of college. Students who received larger unsubsidized loans in the first two years of college have been recorded as getting up to $4,000 more right away. It’s also been reported that you can receive up to $1,000 more (in addition to the first $4,000) for your last two years.

If you have your heart set on a Federal PLUS Loan, you’ll need to find a cosigner with good credit.

Private Schools and Bankruptcy

It’s important to note, however, that private schools have different regulations for the application process and the grants which go through their institution.

Although the reform of 1994 applies across the board to federal student loans, it doesn’t apply to private school ones. Each private school retains the right to check your parents’ credit history through the past seven to ten years.

Getting Help

Applying for financial aid can be challenging. The most important thing to remember is help is always available. Contact someone in your college’s financial aid department. The staff is well-informed about school policy and may even be able to help set you up with a payment plan or a loan that fits your situation best.

If your parents are considering bankruptcy, contact a bankruptcy lawyer right away. This law professional can give you additional information about how the process will affect your college education. Sometimes, it is beneficial to consider the timing of filing bankruptcy. Maybe your parents will want to wait until after you’re enrolled.

Your education is important. Just because your parents may have had a rough spot with their credit doesn’t mean your education should have to suffer for it.

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6 Ways to Save on Entertainment Costs for College Students

6 Ways to Save on Entertainment Costs for College Students

entertainmentHopefully before you started college, you applied for financial aid. And with any luck, you scored a scholarship, and maybe a grant or two. With the help of your aid package, you probably feel confident that you can finance your education, but student aid doesn’t cover entertainment expenses. To offset the cost of movies, travel, and parties, it’s important to adopt a frugal mindset. Use these tips to save on entertainment while in school.

1. Use Your ID Card
Your student ID card presents numerous opportunities to save, both on campus and off. Most universities work with local businesses to provide discounts to students who present their cards, so always keep your ID handy – it might score you a free drink or a buy-one, get-one deal at a nearby bowling alley. Also know that your card provides free or discounted entry to many on-campus entertainment options, such as sporting events, concerts, and movies.

2. Ask for Discounts
Be sure to ask about student discounts wherever you go. Most large entertainment venues, including minor league sporting events, movie theaters, and even ski resorts, are happy to cater to students by offering a better deal.

3. Cook in
Cooking in can save you money while providing a night of entertainment. Grab your roommate, hit the grocery store, and pick up whatever you need to cook lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, or fajitas. Then consider selling your leftovers to other students cramming for finals or looking for a late-night meal. You’re not only saving money, you’re generating it. You can even lower your expenses by clipping coupons from the Sunday paper or looking them up on a mobile app, such as Pushpins.

4. Entertain In-Room
Do you need a night off from your studies? Enjoy in-room fun rather than hitting the town. Classic board games, such as Pictionary or Scattergories, are good options, as are Apples to Apples and card games like Spoons. Rent movies from a Redbox kiosk at roughly $1 per day, then grab your friends for a low-key night in.

5. Limit the Keg Parties
Keg parties are fun, there’s no doubt. But if you’re required to pitch in for the cost of beer, or you’re asked to provide some of your own beer and snacks as backup, a single night out can really add up. Besides, attending class with a hangover won’t do much for your GPA.

6. Participate in Intramural Sports
Intramural sports represent a great way to spend some of your down time. If you’re talented at basketball, baseball, or even flag football, you can get active and have fun for next to nothing.

It may seem like putting entertainment expenses on a credit card is no big deal, but those bills are likely to come back to bite you down the road. Not only is credit card debt expensive (all those interest payments add up), but if you make credit card use a habit, it’ll be hard to break later. Instead, develop a frugal mindset. If you can start saving money while in school, you’ll be prepared to start paying off your student loans after you graduate.

What are some other ways to save on entertainment costs while in college?

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Gary Richardson. He is a financial writer who shares tips about saving money, banking, and getting the most out of college – all while staying within budget.

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How to Pay for College Without Going Crazy or Broke

How to Pay for College Without Going Crazy or Broke

CollegeJarYou worked hard in high school and earned good grades, and the acceptance letters are starting to come in. Great! – now you just have to find a way to pay for it all. The average cost of tuition and fees for a state resident attending public college is about $8,900, according to the College Board. That number jumps to $22,200 for out-of-state students. Add in housing and meals (around $9,500 a year or so), and it’s easy to see why even the most calm and collected student wants to run for the hills when someone asks, “So, how are you going to pay for college?”

Student Loans

The average student who takes out one or more student loans to pay for college ends up with about $26,000 in debt upon graduation, CNN reports. That’s a significant chunk of change for anyone, much less new grads who are just starting out in the world. In an effort to help students get the funding they need, Inside Higher Ed reports that President Obama is working to keep student aid programs level-funded, including boosting the amount that college students can get through the Pell Grant program. To learn more about the federal student aid programs available to you, click here!

Look for Bargains

Some public colleges have placed a freeze on tuition. Iowa State schools and the University of California college systems have suggested keeping tuition amounts steady. In 2012, Antioch College in Yellow Spring, Ohio, offered students a full four-year scholarship if they enrolled in the next three years. To learn more about tuition freezes at U.S. schools, inquire at the financial aid office of the individual schools you are interested in.

Go Beyond Student Loans

Research other ways you can bring in money to help pay for tuition:

  • If you receive regular annuity or structured settlement payments, you may be able to sell these future payments for a lump sum of cash now. To find out more about selling your future payments, visit J.G. Wentworth.
  • Look into crowdfunding to help raise money. For tips from students who have done so successfully, read this U.S News & World Report article.

Look Into Income-Dependent Loans

Instead of being locked into repaying a student loan at a certain amount for a specified length of time, college students may want to research an income-driven repayment loan. This type of loan lets graduates limit the amount they pay back each month to a certain percentage of their income. As a bonus, graduates who go on to work in certain public service careers may be able to have their loans dismissed, after they’ve paid on it for 10 years. Click here for more information on student loan forgiveness programs.

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Planning Ahead to Eat Right & Inexpensively in College

Planning Ahead to Eat Right & Inexpensively in College

College may take a great deal of planning, but this next plan ahead idea is something that you can really enjoy. Plus, these plan ahead tips are going to help college students eat healthier and still stick to that challenging college student budget. We are going to show you how to plan ahead to be prepared to eat right and inexpensively while at college.

Slow Cooker

slowcookerSlow cookers are available in small, one serving sizes and can be bought very inexpensively at most discount stores like Target, Walmart, or Kohl’s. Slow cookers are also known by the popular brand name Crock Pot. You can prepare one pot meals in them, so it does not take up much space in your dorm room or apartment. The part that requires some planning ahead is learning a few simple recipes to prepare in the slow cooker. The types of soups and stews that can easily and inexpensively be prepared in the slow cooker make for comforting and healthy meals. Thousands of recipes can be found online. Even though the cooking time is long, you can put the ingredients in the pot before leaving for classes in the morning. You can add your choice of meat, vegetables, seasonings, and soup stock to create meals that are hot and ready when you come home from classes. Slow cookers are not just for preparing dinners, or even savory meals. You can get the recipe for a breakfast casserole and prepare that overnight in the slow cooker so that you can wake up to a delicious ready-made breakfast. Desserts can also be made in the slow cooker and are very inexpensive including rice pudding and cakes.

Food Steamer

FoodSteamerFood steamers are also small cooking devices that can easily be found at discount stores. You might think that only vegetables can be prepared in steamers, but just about anything can be cooked in a steamer. Since no oil or butter is added, it makes for very healthy meals; in addition, the foods that you steam do not lose as much vitamins and nutrients as they do through other cooking processes. In addition to steaming vegetables, you can steam fish, seafood, and Chinese dishes like dumplings, buns, and pot stickers.

Sandwich Press

SandwichPressA sandwich press is also known as a Panini press. They are also an inexpensive cooking device that can be very versatile. Many different sandwiches can be made and they make it easy to stick within a budget. However, you can use the sandwich press to make more than just sandwiches. Eggs and omelets can be made in the press, so can meats and other proteins. When you cook meats in the press, the fat runs out of the meat leaving a lean cut of grilled meat. Learning different recipes and practicing ahead of time will help you be ready to stick to a budget and still eat healthy, home cooked meals.

 

Breakfast Sandwich Maker

BreakfastSandwichThis is relatively new kitchen gadgets that helps you easily and quickly prepare a sandwich for breakfast, or any time, of course. The sandwich maker is made from non-stick material, so clean up is a breeze. You can put in any variety of sandwich components in it and create your own healthy and inexpensive breakfast that you can even eat on the go if you have to.

 

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Tegan Connor, a blogger and Brand Manager for Neverlandstore.com.au. She enjoys writing about young lifestyle topics, including college and dorm life.

 

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5 Myths About Going to College Part Time – DEBUNKED!

5 Myths About Going to College Part Time – DEBUNKED!

CollegeStudentBlindly believing the often-negative publicity about attending college part-time isn’t wise. Let’s bust some myths and look at how being a part-time college student may be a better fit for you, both financially and academically, than attending university full-time.

Myth 1. Finishing college in four years makes you more employable.

Companies prefer, almost to the point of exclusion, applicants age 25 and younger who will spend their entire career at a single firm. Your major is not particularly important. Instead, you need to earn your degree quickly, after which your employer will find the right place for you within the company.

Whoops, wait. That’s Japan.

Here in the U.S., companies seek applicants who have the right combination of education and experience. If you’re looking to attend graduate school, in fact, real-world experience may be more important than your academic background.

Working full-time while you attend school part-time can be the best way to build your network, hone your organization and time management skills, and learn how to be productive as part of a team.

Yes, it will take you longer to finish your degree. When you do, however, you’ll have a competitive edge over those who rushed through school without gaining relevant experience. Once you’re hired and using your degree, no one will ever ask you how quickly you graduated. It doesn’t matter.

Myth 2. Going to college part-time costs more.

When you look at the most basic numbers from one perspective, the statement above may be correct… technically. In reality, though, factoring in student loan interest with an even remotely competitive job market (where securing employment can take time) tilts the equation the other way.

Pursuing your education part-time can be a great way to minimize debt and build your career step-by-step, paying as you go in some respects. This can help you avoid the sobering scenario many students face at the end of their degree program: no income and facing imminent payments on a student loan portfolio the size of a mortgage.

Myth 3. It’s going to take forever. You’ll give up and drop out.

Not if you have a plan. If you choose to go to college part-time, recognize that you need a solid long-term education path as much, if not more, than as full-time students.

Write everything out. What classes will you take each semester to achieve your goal of earning your degree? How will you order prerequisites to ensure you progress at the right pace? Since you won’t be burned out from taking a full course load each semester, consider going to school in the summer to help move things along.

Also, you can often test out of lower-level courses, which is particularly helpful to fulfill graduation requirements that aren’t part of your major. For example, say you plan to major in biology and you aced English in high school. Many schools will let you test out (or use AP scores to skip) freshman-level English. You get the credit you need without having to waste time rehashing what you already know.

Myth 4. You’ll miss out on college life.

The extent to which you are involved in campus life is up to you, whether you’re a full-time or part-time student. For full-time enrollees, balancing a packed course load, part-time work and the extracurricular/campus activities of your choice can stretch you so thin that you barely have time to run from class to job to gym and so on. For many students, “college life” is simply “being busy all the time.”

If you’re a part-time college student, simply swap the time commitments of classes and work. You’ll have to manage full-time work, part-time classes and then make time to participate in the campus organizations or opportunities that interest you most.

Myth 5. Your employer won’t give you the flexibility you need for your studies.

While some employers may be sticklers when it comes to scheduling around studies, others are more than accommodating. Allowing employees to further their educations often benefits companies, as hiring and retaining individuals with strong education backgrounds contributes to corporate success.

Certain positions in certain types of firms are most definitely more conducive to pairing with part-time education. These include employers such as large corporations, the government, or school districts and positions in sales, customer support, or flexible shift work.

Speak with your supervisor and Human Resources to see what may be available to you. Ask if your company has policies in place covering employee education; with proper planning, you will be surprised how realistic it can be to blend school and professional responsibilities. Some employers will even help you pay for school with employees-only scholarships or debt-forgiveness programs!

Ultimately, there are many benefits to part-time college. Don’t simply believe the myths or hype; instead, examine facts and choose the path that is best for you!

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Ryan Hickey. He is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.

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