Posts Tagged “student loans”

One of the latest websites to join the ranks of online college guides is InsideCollege, which helps students research campuses by publishing a wide range of “college lists.” From more serious topics like looking for an honors program at a public university or knowing which schools offer a loan-free education to low-income students to finding colleges known for their school spirit or discovering obscure programs of study like glass blowing, Inside College is a great jumping off point for creating your own college list. The site is also currently promoting a monthly $2,000 scholarship contest, so you just might score some extra cash for school while perusing Colleges Where Geek is Chic.

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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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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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