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New Taxes and Fees Would Pay for Free Community College

freecommunitycollegeWhen President Barack Obama first proposed his plan for two years of free community college for qualifying students, wiser Americans waited to pass judgment until the next part of the plan was announced.

Why? Because they know nothing is really free.

And so it is with the $60 billion community college plan. The White House has released an overview of how they would pay for the plan. The answer: it’s going to come from the richest Americans and from large banks. That is, of course, if it can get past the Republican-controlled Congress.

Tennessee Leads the Way

Obama’s national proposal mirrors “Tennessee Promise,” a plan that also helps pay for high school students to attend community college. The plan is wildly popular in Tennessee – about 90% of the 2015 senior class in Tennessee (58,000 students) have applied to the program, according to The Tennessean.

Enacted last year under Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, the “Tennessee Promise” offers high school graduates in the Volunteer State money to help pay for community college. The “last dollar” program gives money to students after they have exhausted all other avenues, including Pell Grants. The “Tennessee Promise” money covers whatever costs are not covered by other means.

The Tennessee program is available to all students, regardless of academic merit or economic need. It is funded by interest earned in the state lottery reserve. The program is part of the state’s “Drive to 55” program, where the state wants 55% of its population to earn college degrees. That number hovers now at about 32%, ranked 43rd out of the 50 states.

Obama’s Plan

The president’s plan has its roots in the same concerns Haslam has in Tennessee – there are an increasing number of jobs that require a college education, and that trend is going to continue in the coming years.

His plan would allow states to cover the costs for qualifying community college students. The federal government would pay two-thirds of the program, the states the other third. Obama proposes paying for the plan through two main avenues. The first is raising taxes on capital gains, a move the White House says will affect only the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The second is raising the fees on institutions that borrow large amounts of money.

The proposal also calls for expanding tax credits to part-time students and also exempt Pell Grants from taxation (currently only money used to pay education expenses is exempt). The proposal also would call for not calculating Pell Grants in applications for the free community college, meaning students could take advantage of both programs (as they do in Tennessee).

Passing the plan as is could prove difficult. Critics argue it would be more effective to simply expand Pell Grants or increase the amount a student can receive. Republicans in Congress have already said they oppose new taxes.

And Ben Nelson of the Minerva School, which works with high tech companies to design a curriculum for information technology that meets the needs of business, said expanding online classes with targeted educational programs would be a better solution. Community colleges, Nelson told Yahoo! Finance, are now more like remedial schools teaching students the basics because high schools are, in his opinion, no longer doing the job.

iFame Media a brand management agency provided this article on behalf of Imagine Sports, the leader in baseball simulation games for over 20 years.

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$100,000 to Skip College (video)

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Move To Massachusetts For Free Tuition? What About Fees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Want Free College? San Francisco Has Just What You Need!

One of the downsides of getting the college experience is that you usually have to pay for it. Depending on which school you go to, some may pay more than others. But what if the financial factor was removed from the educational equation and all you needed to do was show up and be passionate about learning (or teaching).

A new initiative is coming out of the heart of San Francisco (actually out of the basement of a local store) and it is being referred to as the Free University of San Francisco. Alan Kaufman is the brain-child of this new educational experience. He came up with the idea in December of 2010 and by February 5th the Free University opened its doors and started providing free lectures for all those in attendance.

For a number of years, colleges have shared their databases providing lectures, class notes, tests and assignments to self taught learners via the internet. What the Free University of San Francisco brings to the table that makes them a little different is the human element. Their classes are not taught via YouTube, they don’t have online chat rooms for discussion, and they don’t require a WIFI connection to participate. All you have to do is stop by the basement classroom of Viracocha and apparently you had better come early because space is limited and seats go fast to hear the lecture series provided by volunteer instructors.

Free University of San Francisco does have a commonality with most free colleges in that they are not accredited. So you won’t be getting a transcript for your completed coursework or an officially recognized diploma for the wall in your study. Fortunately though, you also won’t be accumulating a mountain load of education debt (unless you count the knickknacks you purchase from the store on your way down the stairs to class).

If you would like to learn more about the Free University of San Francisco, feel free to stop by their website. The next round of courses start in March and they are all held at 998 Valencia Street. The storefront might say Viracocha, but likened to a speakeasy, the basement serves a purpose far greater…

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New Haven CT, City’s New Motto: Free Tuition For All

If you have been thinking about moving and really like east coast living, you may want to think about New Haven Connecticut, especially if you have college minded students. The city of New Haven is rolling out a program that will pay up to the full cost of tuition for its high school students if they decided to attend a public college or university in the state of Connecticut. This new benefit is being labeled as the New Haven Promise.

As you can imagine, there are some caveats to this program. Free tuition offers don’t come along every day and considerable time and effort has been spent to make sure this benefit is distributed equitably among the New Haven residents.

The following represents certain qualifying criteria:

  • Students must have a 3.0 grade point average at the time of high school graduation
  • Students must have 90% or better attendance rate
  • Students must live in the city of New Haven
  • Students must have attended the public city school system since at least ninth grade
  • While in college, students must maintain a 2.5 gpa to be eligible for continued support under the program

The tuition award is given on a sliding scale. If you have attended New Haven public schools since kindergarten, you are eligible to receive 100% of the free tuition benefit. If you started in the ninth grade you get 65% of the financial award. Based upon these figures, the sliding scale seems to benefit families by about 4% for each year that their student attended the New Haven public school system prior to 9th grade (charter schools are included in this program as well).  Students that decided to opt out of going to a public college or university will still be eligible to receive a flat $2500 to go toward the private college of their choice (in the state of Connecticut).

This program does come at a cost and fortunately Yale has stepped up to the plate and is providing an initial $4 million dollars in funding. Supplementing this is an additional $500,000 from a local New Haven community foundation.The hope is that other private funding sources will start to roll in to help keep this program in existence for years to come.

These are the warm fuzzies that everyone likes to hear about. Congrats to New Haven and Yale for putting the time and money into providing this college opportunity to the students residing within their community. Not sure how long the New Haven Promise program will be in effect, but if you would like to learn more about the town, you can check out their visitor’ bureau here in case you are up for a move! 😉

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Need Cash For College? – Play The Lottery

Playing the lottery just got more interesting in the great state of Illinois. The Illinois Lottery System is rolling out a new type of scratch and win ticket called the “Cash 4 College“.  Officials state that the tickets cost $2 and that they will offer 5 winners the opportunity to cover 4 years of college tuition and mandatory fees. If the winner can’t use the tuition benefit, they have the option of accepting a $20,000 cash prize.  I just did some quick math in my head and I can’t imagine anyone taking the cash payout option over the tuition benefit. Chances are that 4 years of tuition, even at the cheapest public university, is going to be more than $20,000.

The following are some quick facts about the tuition lottery:

Can I give the prize to someone else?
Absolutely!  Players may award the contract to a friend, relative or anyone else that may otherwise qualify for the same purchased college tuition contract.  Any resident of Illinois can be designated as a beneficiary from the moment of birth. No maximum age limits apply. Non-residents can be designated as beneficiaries, provided that purchaser has resided in Illinois for at least 12 months immediately prior to purchase.

What is covered in the full-tuition ticket? The College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program covers in-state or in-district tuition and mandatory fees for the number of semesters purchased. Each semester is equal to 15 credit hours. Mandatory fees are those fees required as a condition of enrollment for all students.

Can I use the tuition prize for private or out-of-state colleges? In general, the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program benefits can be used at any non-profit, accredited institution eligible to receive federal financial aid. This includes any Illinois public university or community college and most any public or private college throughout the country.

So.. if you live in Illinois, or happen to be passing through, you may want to pick up one of these scratch and win tickets. Scoring free tuition would be great but I wouldn’t recommend tapping the college savings fund to purchase these tickets. At the very least, they may make for a great stocking stuffer for family members or friends that are entering into the college search process.

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University of the People – Free Tuition & No Diplomas

UofPOffering an educational experience at no cost is an amazing idea and works great for those that are yearning to stimulate their brain cells. MIT, among other institutions, have been offering open course ware education for years via online technology. It has been a wonderful opportunity and they have helped to educate the masses (one free online course at a time).

Last September The University of the People was established with the same intent; to bring diverse groups of people together with one common goal.. to learn. Their meager beginnings started with a cross-segment of 180 students representing 50 different countries. Fast forward 9 months and they now have close to 500 hundred students from 87 countries. I would not say that their growth is viral but it is certainly noteworthy and extremely respectable considering they are the “new kid on the block”.

The main difference between University of the People and MIT’s open course ware model is purely structural. For example, MIT offers it’s lecture series, class notes, presentations, reading materials, tests, & examinations for free on their site. Students are able to come and go as they like and study the material as much or as little as their interest dictates. Basically, all the learning potential but without peer evaluation or instructor guidance.  U of P provides the exact same product but what they bring to the table is everything that MIT does not. They have actual classes of 15 to 20 students. The courses are led by an instructor and each student is held accountable for the work they complete not only by the instructor but also by their peers.

Another distinct difference between an open course ware model and U of P is the accreditation aspect. Currently U of P is not accredited (as is most open course ware organizations), however they are strongly working to achieve accreditation (which OCW will never attempt). If and when the school receives accreditation, it promises all of it’s current and former students that they will receive proper education credits for the courses they successfully completed and they will be able to transfer those credits seamlessly to other institutions or apply them toward a degree at University of the People.

Certainly sounds like an intriguing opportunity but only if you are willing to take a gamble regarding U of P’s ability to gain accreditation. However, if you are just looking to further your education and don’t have a need for a diploma, I would think U of P’s program would probably fit the bill. And of course.. the price is right! (free)

If you found this information intriguing and would like to learn more about the University of the People, you can visit their website here to see their mission, leadership, partners, and answers to the most frequently asked questions.

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ROTC College Scholarships

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