Archive for March, 2010

State deadlines for the FAFSA  may be different than the federal deadline. State forms do not replace filling out the federal FAFSA form.

If you want federal financial aid, you must fill out the FAFSA! Don’t miss your state’s deadlines, as they will vary state to state, and may require additional forms or letters of recommendation, etc.

fafsa deadlines

KEY:
* Additional form may be required. Contact your financial aid administrator or your state agency.
^ Applicants encouraged to obtain proof of mailing.
# For priority consideration, submit application by date specified.
@ Deadline by midnight, Central Daylight Time.
& Deadline by midnight, Central Standard Time.

Source: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003a.htm

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The U.S. Department of Education said it’s received approximately 5,000 FAFSA forms that were wrongfully filled out. Students who were trying to fill out the 2010-2011 FAFSA form mistakenly filled out the 2009-2010 form.

Affected students will be notified by mail with this statement.

The problem with the forms was caused by a technical error that began after an update to the website on February 23, 2010. Apparently some 2010-2011 applicants that were trying to access the FAFSA form with an unsupported Internet browser were misdirected to the 2009-2010 form, after receiving a warning message indicating that their Internet browser was not supported.

This website error has affected less than 5,000 students, which is approximately 0.2 percent of the more than 2.8 million applications received during the relevant period. Any information shared in the FAFSA continues to remain safe and secure.

You will be contacted if you have been affected by this error. If you wish you speak to someone, feel free to call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at #1-800-4-FED-AID.

Source: USA Today

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Art Scholarships

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Scholarships are sums of money that students do not have to pay back. Scholarships are different than grants as they are awarded more for academic merit, or in recognition of your ability or talent as determined by the sponsor of the scholarship.

Art scholarships help aspiring artists, designers, and photographers pay for their art school education. Some scholarships will require the artist to submit pieces of their artwork, or samples from their portfolio.

Check out Art-School.com for a list of art scholarships to consider.

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With our current economy, it is hard to pay for college and frustrating to search for affordable schools. U.S. News provided these factors for low-to-middle income students to consider when researching schools.college search

1. Low sticker price colleges. Community colleges and public universities in your community are usually priced less than private colleges and universities.

2. Meet full needs colleges.  These types of schools promise to provide enough scholarships and grants to all regularly admitted students, to help them avoid debt. These colleges do not carry over this promise to international students or wait-listed students. Each school defines a students need differently. Schools may expect students to borrow a certain amount of money each year, or make a certain amount of money each year from summer or part-time jobs.

3. Need-blind colleges. These types of schools, like public colleges and universities,  accept students based on their academic qualifications and not their need for financial aid. However, most public schools can’t afford to cover all the financial aid that their students need.

4. Colleges with high percentages of low-income students. Colleges who accept a majority of students receiving Pell Grants (usually meaning students coming from families earning below $45K a year) provide extra financial counseling and support.

5. No loan colleges. Some colleges promise no-loan packages, which offer bigger scholarships and earnings opportunities to students from low-and middle-income families. However, many students find they still may need to borrow to meet their expected family contributions which are determined by the FAFSA and schools.  

6. Merit aid colleges. These schools will give out merit scholarships to students who raise the student body’s grade point or test score average, raise the competitiveness of an athletic team, or find a spot in the school band, for example.

7. Military academies. Students interested in the military won’t have to pay for school – but in return they are required to pay for their education by serving their country in the armed forces.

For more information on Financial Aid:

Financial Aid

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What do computer scientists, information systems managers, and chemical engineers have in common?

They are three of the top ten college majors with the highest starting salaries for graduates, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Engineering majors dominated this year’s list of top-paid bachelor’s degrees, holding eight of the ten spots. Petroleum engineers, who research and develop technology and methods to extract oil and gas from the earth, earn the highest starting salary – more than $86,000, which is one-and-a-half times the average starting salary reported for bachelor’s degree graduates in general. Here’s the list:

  1. Petroleum Engineering – $86,220
  2. Chemical Engineering – $65,142
  3. Mining & Mineral Engineering – $64,552
  4. Computer Science – $61,205
  5. Computer Engineering – $60,879
  6. Electrical & Communications Engineering – $59,074
  7. Mechanical Engineering – $58,392
  8. Industrial Engineering – $57,734
  9. Aeronautical Engineering – $57,231
  10. Information Sciences – $54,038

What does it take to get one of these high-paying jobs?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most entry-level engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree, but some research positions may require a graduate degree. Continuing education is critical for engineers that want to keep up with improvements in technology. The bad news is that, if you aspire to see $86,000 in your first year salary, you’ll likely guarantee yourself some level of debt from your college tuition. The good news is that grads with degrees in these technical fields will benefit from their relatively low supply and should be able to manage the monthly student loan repayments.

What are some alternatives?engineering_salary

If you’d like to get your foot in an engineering position but can’t commit to a full-time four-year bachelor’s degree program, many technical colleges offer 2-year or 4-year degree engineering technology programs. These programs, which usually include hands-on labs that focus on the application of engineering principles, prepare students for practical design and production work, not necessarily theoretical and scientific knowledge. For engineering graduates of 4-year technology programs, job options are similar to those obtained by graduates with a bachelor’s degree, though you will not be qualified to register as a professional engineer under the same terms as graduates with degrees in engineering.

Salary ranges for engineering technicians range from $30,000 to $80,000, so while you may not make $86,000 in your first year, you could still realize a healthy salary range throughout your career. For more information about engineering salaries and the education you need to get your foot in the door, visit Science, Math & Engineering.

According to a press release Thursday from the Committee on Education and Labor, Congress will vote on upcoming healthcare legislation to include measures to make college more affordable and create more jobs.

Congress has decided to help students and their families with this bill, by redirecting funding and helping make college more affordable. More Americans will have access to higher education and the skills needed to be successful in our economy.

Senator Tom Harkin unveiled the provisions, and said, “Education is the key to success in this country. It has the ability to transform a young person’s life and give them opportunities above and beyond the generations before them. But as millions of Americans struggle to afford the costs of higher education, multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer financed subsidies continue to flow to private banks.

The legislation would originate all federal student loans directly through the government, and eliminate wasteful subsidies to banks. The change would generate $61 billion in savings over a 10 year period, which would be used to boost Pell Grant scholarships, strengthen community colleges, and make student loan payments more manageable for students.

Other highlights of the legislation:

  • Investing $36 million into the Pell Grant program over 10 years – including $22.6 million to increase the maximum Pell Grant award to keep up with inflation.
  • Investing $2.55 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions. These establishments play an important role in education our nation’s low income and minority students.
  • Making federal student loans more manageable to repay by lowering the monthly cap from 15 to 10 percent of their discretionary income for new borrowers after 2014.
  • Preparing students and workers for competitive jobs by investing $2 billion in a competitive grant program for community colleges to develop and improve education or career training programs

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Are you setting yourself up for debt?

I’ve harped on the importance of filing a FAFSA in my last few blog posts, but Bankrate.com’s team reminded me of another source of trouble students face when it comes to paying for college. The number two mistake they list: Choosing a school that costs too much.

“You have to look at two cost comparison points — how much is the cost minus gift aid such as grants and scholarships, then how much is the total cost with loans,” says Tally Hart, senior adviser of economic access at Ohio State University. “Compare the total debt you will have to take on to graduate from each school.”

It’s important to do a real apples-to-apples cost calculation of all the colleges [...] This comparison isn’t as simple as deducting the financial aid package from the school’s sticker price because the aid package usually includes student loans.

The true price of paying for college is what you’re paying now plus the debt you must take on over the four or five years until graduation, Hart says.

There are plenty of people out there who may assume they do not qualify for financial aid, but this advice from Bankrate addresses the other side of the coin – those people who do not think long-term about their college choice and the debt they may face once they graduate.

student loan debtHere’s my soapbox: When shopping for your college education, it’s essential that students today think about the industry they are going to go in to and the income level they should expect to be in with an entry-level job. It makes no sense to accept the burden of loans just because you don’t have to think about it for 2-4 years. You wouldn’t buy a house without figuring it into your existing budget, and you shouldn’t invest in a college education without doing the same. If you can’t go to a certain college without taking on a drowning debt, then that particular college shouldn’t be on your list.

Do your research, and keep in mind that few industries are “safe” (i.e. not every industry will flourish all the time; our economy has taught us that over the last two years). Be realistic about the salary you can expect by looking at sites like Salary.com and PayScale, which offer you income averages for your geographic location and the level of employment.

Have you reconsidered entering a certain industry because of the long-term debt you might face after earning your degree? Or have you reconsidered your choice of college because you knew it wasn’t good for you financially in the long run?

Sustainability Scholarship

The Windstar Foundation was co-founded by John Denver and Thomas Crum, and hopes “to inspire individuals to make responsible choices and take direct personal actions to achieve a peaceful and environmentally sustainable future.” sustainability scholarship

If you are a student studying in an area of sustainability or environmental studies, apply for The Windstar Environmental Studies Scholarship Program. This year the scholarships they are giving out include:

  • two $500 scholarships to undergraduates entering their junior or senior year of college
  • one $1,000 scholarship for graduate students entering their second year of graduate school

Requirements:

  • Applicant must be a U.S student enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university, and must be majoring in Environmental Studies, Environmental Engineering, or another area focused on environmental studies
  • Applicant must have a college GPA of 3.0 or better in the field of their major
  • Undergraduate applicants must be entering their junior or senior year of college
  • Graduate student applicants must be entering their second year of graduate school

Application Process:

  • Deadline is June 1, 2010
  • Applicants must submit the following items by email:
    • Application form found on the Windstar Foundation website
    • A 500 word essay. The essay must be on an environmental issue that is of concern to the applicant, and it must describe the personal actions the applicant has taken relative to the issue.
    • Copy of college transcripts (including all college courses completed)

For more  information visit the Windstar Foundation website.

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Many parents fill out the FAFSA for their children. According to The College Solution blog, here are some common mistakes that parents make when filling it out:common fafsa mistakes

1. Don’t leave answers blank. Leaving blanks on your form can cause miscalculations, and the application could possibly be rejected. If your intended answer is zero, write “0”.

2. Double check your Social Security and driver’s license numbers. Make sure you have written the correct numbers – even one wrong digit can mess up the entire application.

3. Don’t enter the wrong income tax information. Make sure you enter the federal income tax you paid (or will pay) based on the 2009 federal tax return. Do not enter the tax withholdings on your (or your spouse’s) W-2 forms.

4. List your current marital status. You need to state what your marital status is on the day you fill out the FAFSA – whether you are married, separated, or divorced.

5. Don’t include retirement assets. The FAFSA asks about how much money you have in cash, checking, and savings accounts. It does not ask about your 401 (k), IRA, or other retirement accounts you have – so don’t include this information!

6. List colleges your child has applied to. You are able to include up to 10 colleges that your child has applied to – but you will need each college’s Federal School Code. The federal processors will send the relevant FAFSA information to the schools you have listed.

7. Don’t exaggerate your education. If both parents didn’t graduate from college, don’t list “college” as the highest level of education – even if they did attend some college courses over the years. There are many schools that favor applicants who are considered first-generation college-students.

8. Home equity is irrelevant. The FAFSA doesn’t ask if you own a house (or second home, or real estate investments…), so the value of your house does not matter.

9. Retirement accounts are irrelevant. The FAFSA doesn’t ask about your retirement accounts – so your chances for financial aid help aren’t affected by how much money you have saved up in these accounts.

For more helpful information regarding the FAFSA visit:

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The U.S Department of Education says that as part of its plan to increase enforcement of civil rights laws, it will be sending out letters in the coming weeks to thousands of colleges and school districts, which will outline their responsibilities to provide equal opportunities for students. The letters will touch upon areas of civil rights concern including possible racial discrimination in student assignments and admissions, and in access to resources which includes having qualified teachers.42-16975908

Another part of the civil rights effort will have the Department of Education open compliance reviews in school districts nationwide, to investigate if students of both sexes and all races are allowed equal access to advanced placement courses, as well as college preparatory materials and classes. Similar investigations will also take place at colleges.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke in Alabama on Monday to explain the department’s goals, and to commemorate the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” where in 1965, hundreds of civil rights protesters were beaten by Alabama State Troopers during a march. Duncan said that the department’s Office for Civil Rights “has not been as vigilant as it should have been in combating gender and racial discrimination and protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities.” For example, department officials said that white high school graduates are more than twice as likely to have taken advanced placement calculus classes as black or Latino graduates.

Hopefully these civil rights efforts from the Department of Education will allow students of all genders, races, and economical backgrounds to have a fair opportunity at receiving an education – at the high school and college level.

If you are looking to find an accredited degree program to further your education, let us help you!

Source: NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/education/08educ.html?ref=education

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