Posts Tagged “Financial Aid”

There’s been a lot of controversy lately over whether or not students should be paid for good grades.  Some think incentives will increase student performance, and cities like New York City and Chicago are testing out pilot programs to see if they do indeed make a difference. I think there could be some merit to the idea, particularly if students were able to earn cash for college by pulling in A’s & B’s.  And there’s actually a relatively new website that allows students to do just that.  It’s called GradeFund, and it basically uses the idea of social networking to raise money for college from your family, friends, and even strangers.

Think of it as a fundraiser of sorts.  You get people to sponsor you by pledging a certain amount of money for every A or B you earn.  So, say $5 for an A times 4 A’s per grading period.  That’s $20 bucks per person.  If you get 50 people to sponsor you, that’s $1000 bucks that can be used for your college education.  Donors can get warm, fuzzy feelings from helping out a hardworking student, and you’ll be more motivated to do well in school.  Everybody wins!

GradeFund does a great job of making the process simple and straightforward. Just visit their website, create an account and online profile, start asking for pledges, upload a transcript to confirm your grades, and then wait for a check to arrive in the mail. There is a 5% processing fee which is a relatively good deal considering the interest you might otherwise pay on school loans. And while the average student probably won’t be able to fund their entire college education through this sort of fundraiser, GradeFund is one more tool that can be added to your financial aid arsenal.

So what do you think–should students get paid for good grades?

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Looking for a good college deal in this economy?  Check out Kiplinger’s just-announced list of the best private, public, and liberal arts college values for 2009.  The selections are based on a combination of academic quality and affordability and topping the lists are:

Private Universities

1. Cal. Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
2. Yale, New Haven, CT
3. Princeton, Princeton, NJ
4. Rice, Houston, TX
5. Duke, Durham, NC

See full list…

Liberal Arts Colleges

1. Pomona College, Claremont, CA
2. Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
3. Williams College, Williamstown, MA
4. Davidson College, Davidson, NC
5. Washington & Lee Univ., Lexington, VA

See full list…

Public Colleges

1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2. University of Florida
3. University of Virginia
4. University of Georgia
5.College of William and Mary

See full list…

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Happy New Year!  Hope you enjoyed the holidays and had fun making your resolutions. Mine for 2009 are to get an English bulldog and find funding for the documentary I’ve been working on. And speaking of finding cash, those of you who need financial aid for college should resolve to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) now that it’s available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Even though the last thing you probably want to do right now is fill out more forms, it’s super important to get the FAFSA completed as soon as possible because many schools dole out those precious financial aid dollars on a first-come, first served basis.  And in these uncertain economic times, you’ll want to be sure that you get full consideration for financial aid packages.  Good luck!

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The New York Times published a startling article today discussing the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education’s biannual report, and I have to admit the findings are pretty scary.  There are certainly immediate implications for my husband and I as we produce our documentary film about students who are low-income and first generation college-going, but really the college-going future of our country effects all of us in both personal and national ways.

“If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education. “The middle class has been financing [college education] through debt. The scenario has been that families that have a history of sending kids to college will do whatever if takes, even if that means a huge amount of debt. But low-income students will be less able to afford college. Already the strains are clear…The share of income required to pay for college, even with financial aid, has been growing especially fast for lower-income families, the report found.”

Reading this article, I could certainly relate.  Like a lot of low-income students who see higher education as their ticket to moving up the social ladder, I was willing to work my way through school and go into debt just to get that college diploma.  But as financial aid decreases and tuition at public and private universities continue to rise at unprecedented rates, more and more students are getting priced out of college by the everyday costs of living or balk at the idea of going into debt for school. I’m still paying off my original $45K student loan for four years at Columbia which now hovers around $10K, and while I don’t regret the choice I made, carrying that burden of debt certainly has created its own set of worries and limitations. And even though student loans are still available for college, in our current recession, it just doesn’t seem like the smart thing to do.

But the reality is (and as the article states), we need more citizens to achieve higher education in order for America to remain competitive in the global market.  Those of us who know how important education is to the future of our country have to arrive at a solution to make higher education accessible and affordable to the untapped talent in the lower class who feel the cost of going to college is just too great. We as a nation will pay the price if we don’t figure out a way to invest in our greatest commodity: people.

If you’re interested in learning more about our documentary film, check out the First Generation website and blog, and I’d love to hear any ideas or thoughts you might have on this issue of college affordability.

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A few months ago, I told you about Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s latest book, The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School and the Right Price. It’s a wonderful, practical tool for finding and saving money for college, and next week you can catch even more great insights and advice for affording college in O’Shaughnessy’s free webcast.

In this webinar O’Shaughnessy uncovers “industry secrets” on how colleges actually parcel out financial aid—and how even “average” students can maximize their share. Learn how to send your kids to expensive private schools for virtually the cost of an in-state public college… and how promising students can pay significantly less than the “sticker price” even at the best state universities.

Sign up here to register for The College Solution Webcast with Lynn O’Shaughnessy.

How do you feel about paying for college?

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You’ve got your acceptance letter. You’ve registered for classes. The last item of business is finding the perfect student loan to cover your remaining college costs. Should be straightforward since you can’t imagine anyone taking advantage of America’s eager young minds, right?

WRONG!

Unlike car loans or home loans, comparison shopping for student loans can actually damage your credit score, resulting in higher interest rates!

It sounds totally backwards, but the student loan industry hasn’t quite caught up with the rest of the money lending world. So while shopping around for the best student loan out there seems like the responsible thing to do, there are some important guidelines to follow to make sure your credit doesn’t take a huge hit.

1. Be Selective–Don’t ask just anyone for a loaner. Start with your school’s recommended lender(s), and negotiate the best deal you can. If you decide to get quotes beyond that, don’t take your business to more than 3 or 4 lenders.

2. Stick with big banks–Smaller lending institutions seem to take a greater hit when it comes to student loans, so limit your dealings to bigger banks with good reputations.

3. Do it Fast–Limit your shopping timeframe to two weeks max. Your credit score may take a slight hit (5-10 points) just for shopping around, but the longer you shop the more damage is likely to be done.

For financial aid advice, check out my favorite website on the subject: FinAid.

And read The New York Times article “Danger Lurks When Shopping for Student Loans” for more information on the subject.

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