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Online Learning Offers Creative Paths to Success


OnlineEducationAs the busyness bubble continues to expand, finding ways to achieve the dream of a college education often requires creative uses of time, energy, and resources. No longer can colleges and universities expect future students to pursue the one-size-fits-all path to an education.  More innovative delivery systems, especially online learning programs designed around one’s life and work, are now providing considerable access to degree completion.

According to the IPEDS Data Center as reported in Inside Higher Education, 5.5 million students took at least one online course in fall 2012, and of those “2.6 million were enrolled fully online programs,” a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the higher education community.

National University, a recognized leader among online universities, for example, is quickly “becoming the second-largest private, nonprofit institution of higher education in California and 12th largest in the United States.” Part of its growth stems from its commitment to providing broad-based offerings at convenient locations using creative delivery systems, including a One-Course-Per-Month approach. As per the school itself, using “a unique one-course-per-month format” gives students “unprecedented focus and flexibility.”

Joshua Kim, director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, takes it a step further, noting that the “best thing about working on online and low-residency programs is the students.” In his words, “online learning creates opportunity. The online and low-residency programs that I worked on allowed students to work towards their degree while continuing to work. Or while living at home in the summer. They were able to move through courses without having to move. Online learning extends educational opportunities because online learning transcends challenges of distance, schedules and time.”

Whether a student’s goal is to finish a degree, begin from scratch or expand an area of professional expertise, higher education now finds itself continually re-imagining how to deliver an educational experience that meets and exceeds the expectations of students of all ages and backgrounds.

“Anyone who has ever worked in an online program understands how deeply the research on learning has come to define the methods for online course design,” Kim continued. “Online courses contain frequent opportunities to improve learning through low-stakes testing and rapid feedback. Students in online courses are encouraged to reflect on the material in journals and discussion boards.  Active and collaborative learning is always the goal.”

Pursuing an online program also has advantages financially for both students and the college or university. According to the Randy Best, chairman and CEO of Academic Partnerships, “the growing wave of digital students creates a meaningful financial opportunity for institutions, especially when online programs are priced at fair e-tuition rates that drive scale. Online learning allows institutions to expand into new markets, extend their brand and prestige beyond regional borders, while at the same time allowing them to tap into legions of new students, building their global alumni base and seeding future fund-raising efforts.”

 

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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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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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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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How America Pays For College – Sallie Mae Study


american-flagRecently, Sallie Mae did a study to figure out how Americans were paying for college in the year 2013. Some of the information they found was pretty interesting. So, today we’re going to talk about the biggest highlights the study uncovered.

Overview

The study found that there were 6 main sources for college funding in the United States. Those sources include…

1. Grants & Scholarships – Grants and scholarships were the largest sources of payment for college tuition in the United States throughout the year 2013. 30% of the cost of college education in the United States was covered through grants and scholarships.

2. Parent Income & Savings – Next in line, the parents of students pick up a hefty tab with regards to college education. In the year 2013 parents paid for a total of 27% of college education related costs. Not to worry, the study also found that 85% of parents agreed that the cost of college was more of an investment that will further their children’s ability for success in the future. This is the highest percentage of parents who’ve shown unwavering support for college education ever.

3. Student Borrowing – In 2013, student loans covered about 18% of college related expenses.

4. Student Income & Savings – That’s right, tons of students paid for their own college expenses through personal income and savings. As a matter of fact, 11% of college related costs in 2013 were paid through student income and savings.

5. Parent Borrowing – The study found that 9% of college expenses were covered by loans parents took out in 2013.

6. Relatives and Friends – Finally contributions to college education made by relatives and friends paid for about 5% of the United States’ college expenses in the year 2013.

Attitudes Toward College Depend On the Major Chosen

One very important thing that this study found is that it’s incredibly important to choose the right major. While everyone seems to agree that college is important, attitudes toward college by graduates vary depending on their course of study. If you do the math, it’s pretty easy to see why. The study found that some of the degrees that are most expensive to get yield the lowest average salaries for graduates; while some of the lowest cost degrees yield some of the highest paying jobs. Here’s an example…

The average social science major will pay $28,776 throughout the course of their education. Once they graduate, they will be welcomed into the work force at an average salary of $36,988 per year. The only kicker here is that the average college graduate makes about $44,455/year as a starting salary with some making more. For instance, if you were to choose Business as your Major, chances are, you’d spend around $18,576 on your education and earn a starting salary of $53,900 per year. So, if you plan to take advantage of a college education, make sure to choose your major wisely.

Investing In the Future Or Social Experience?

My favorite part of the study was the section that went over who looked at college as an investment. The study found that regardless of how much more money they could make in the future, some students would attend and pay for college simply for the social experience that comes with it. Here’s what they found…

· Math, Science, Visual and Performing Arts Majors – Feel strongly that college education is an investment in the future; one that is more important than social experience. These students are most likely to agree that college is becoming more and more important with regard to ability to succeed and make decent earnings.

·Professionals Such As Engineers – The vast majority of profession related majors such as engineering are filled with students that believe that they cannot obtain their desired occupation without graduating college. Therefore, regardless of social or intellectual experience, these students would be compelled to go to college.

·Visual And Performing Arts Majors – May not believe that a college degree is required to obtain their desired occupation, however feel strongly about the social and intellectual experience involved in a further education. About 50% of these students would attend college even if a higher pay day wasn’t the light at the end of the tunnel.

Putting It All Together

This study, although focused on how Americans pay for college, went far beyond that. In the study, they went over not only how things were paid but who looked at the college investment in what ways. Without rewriting the entire study for you, I couldn’t give you all the juicy information they’ve uncovered. So, don’t hesitate, go on and take a look for yourself!

 

HowAmericaPaysCollege

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Josh Rodriguez. He is a finance professional currently writing at www.Settlements.org. Check them out if you are considering selling structured settlement payments or annuities.

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Small Business Scholarships and Financing an Entrepreneurial Education


small-business-scholarshipsAmerica runs on small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit, in fact according to the Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 64 percent of the private sector jobs.  Small businesses also represent one of the fastest growing employment opportunities for future graduates.  However, large portions of future and present college students have visions of massive corporations, suits and skyscrapers as being their post graduation home.  Let’s forego the old way of thinking and help those students looking to finance an entrepreneurial education keeping the small business dream alive.

Paying For an Entrepreneurial Education

Yes, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg may not have followed the traditional college education track and still wound up being highly successful.  It’s possible, though slim, that you would be able to have similar success, though for the sake of this article, let’s assume your small business hopes require the foundation of a strong college education.  That foundation requires a good college savings plan that may include grants, scholarships, 529s, financial aid among other numerous options.

“College was critical to my success as a small business owner,” explains Terpos Ageladelis, the owner of Air Fun Games, a company providing water slide rentals in Tampa, FL.  “Keeping my business operating efficiently requires top notch customer service skills coupled with the ability to manage anything that may come up.”  “I was lucky enough to have strong support to help me pay for school, but I worry about my family being able to afford school with today’s rising costs.”

Being resourceful and doing your homework in advance can save thousands on tuition costs.  Programs such as the SuretyBonds.com scholarship offer $1,500 to those with ties to small business.  Three lucky winners receive this scholarship each year.

Jesse Buchman of Prestige Entertainment was one of the lucky winners of the Suretybonds.com scholarship. “I began to understand that an entrepreneurial spirit is not binary and does not involve a simple on/off switch.  Instead, entrepreneurship is a defining characteristic that guides and defines you,” Jesse explained, proving the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.  He went on and stated, “I now have very specific career goals that I hope will lead to a fulfilling life through which I can make a positive impact on the lives of others. My business allowed me to find my passion.”

Check For Scholarships & Grants in Specific Sectors

Numerous small businesses cater to a niche or focused customer base. The medical sector for example, which is made up of doctor’s offices, dentists, pharmacies and nursing homes are often run by small business owners, each with their own story of success.

“Set your sights high and don’t settle for second place,” Dr. Greenberg, a Saginaw family dentist, advises.  “Look for grants and similar programs that can help you reach your dream of owning you own business.  I am personally thankful that I have been able to go to work happy each day and do something I truly enjoy.”

Dr. Greenberg’s advice is sound, as many grants and scholarships go unfilled because potential students weren’t savvy enough to find them.  For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) foundation offers grants and scholarships for higher education to those in the dental industry.  They offer around 54 scholarships with up to $135,000 total funding; something future dentists should really look into.

For a more generalized approach there is the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE).  They have awarded more than $55,000 in Succeed Scholarships since 2011. The NASE Foundation Future Entrepreneur Scholarship is designed to help promote youth entrepreneurship.  They award up to a $10,000 scholarship for future entrepreneurs.

Keep your spirit alive and chase your dreams by creating your own small business, just do so with the right tools.  A robust higher education will pay you back in dividends, helping you succeed where others may have once failed.  However, you can go to school in the most economical way possible by focusing on grants, scholarships and similar for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Matthew Speer.  He is the owner of iFame Media, a marketing firm offering expert SEO services to those looking for sustainable marketing practices.

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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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Having a Car in College: Is It Better to Buy or Lease?


studentcarTeen drivers have declined 12 percent from 2006-2012, a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found. A prime reason for this may be that the high cost of car ownership, insurance, fuel and maintenance is simply too high for most young people. While a car allows you to commute to a job off-campus and head home to see your family anytime, it does not come cheap. Dig deeper into the benefits of buying and leasing to determine which model is best for you.

Buying a Car

College and the years right after graduation are often full of changes in location, job, career and lifestyle that can make it difficult for you to anticipate whether you’ll need a car in the near future. Still, a car is an asset that you can build your credit with, as College Board explains. If you are buying a new car, you’ll reap the benefits of manufacturer’s warranties and won’t have to pony up for most repairs. If your needs change later, you can sell the car to earn some money. You’ll save up front by buying a used car, but will need to save and pay for vehicle maintenance and repairs on your own instead of receiving warranty coverage.

If you decide that you want to buy, but don’t have the money outright to pay for the entire car, financing is also an option. If you are thinking of financing, come up with a realistic picture of what you can afford to pay each month by calculating your finances and your expenses. Then select a financing option that fits your budget and commit to making regular payments before deadline. This will help build your credit, which benefits post-college life.

Leasing a Car

Leasing can be ideal if you’re not sure that you want to have a car in the long term, but know you want access to a car now. When thinking of leasing, read the terms of the lease agreement as they will specify how many miles come with the lease. As a student, you probably do not need a high mileage limit since you’re unlikely to drive the car every day. However, if you have a long daily commute to campus or work, then it’s worth crunching the numbers before you commit to a lease. Exceeding the mile limit will cost you when you turn in the car at the end of the lease. Leases generally run for a 24- to 36-month lease term, which should meet student flexibility. There are “cancel anytime” programs available if you are unsure whether you can commit to the conventional lease term. These flexible leases can also be ideal for students who may need a car this semester but not next, for example.

If keeping payments low is your primary concern, and you don’t know whether you need a car after school, then leasing can be a convenient and cost-effective choice. Monthly payments and one-time down payments are typically lower with leased vehicles than with purchased vehicles. Plus, you’ll receive a warranty that will cover most of the repairs you’ll need to make. If you do decide to lease, make your monthly lease payments on time to help build credit.

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