05.09.12 | Skipping class costs how much!?

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, Scholarships, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

The Cost of Skipping ClassIt’s 7:30 on a monday morning and your alarm clock goes off. You turn it off and roll over for 5 more minutes of sleep. When you finally roll out of bed and look at the clock, it’s 11:30 and you’ve missed your class. Not a big deal, right? As it turns out, skipping class might cost you more than you think.

According to the recent infographic from StudentScholarshipSearch.com, skipping just one class is a waste of $20 if you attend a public college, or $50 if you’re at a private school. This may seem like it’s not a big deal, but wasted money can add up fast! If you’re paying for college with loans, you’ll be paying interest on that class’s cost too!

Still not convinced you shouldn’t skip class? What if i told you that “those who wasted time in college are 3x more likely to be unemployed”? That got your attention, didn’t it?

To find other ways skipping class can hurt you, check out the True Cost of Skipping Class infographic.

09.13.10 | What the FAFSA? Words of Wisdom about the Financial Aid Form

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Stafford Loan by samantha b

In my previous post, I gave a quick run down of the types of financial aid that I can apply for to help finance my education. Applying for federal aid will be my first step, so I want to start preparing my FAFSA form.

Why do I need to fill out a FAFSA form?

In order to qualify for federal aid for students, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to the U.S. Department of Education. This form is used to calculate your financial aid eligibility based on the financial and demographic information for you and your family.

Once complete, the Department of Education will forward a record of the application to the school/schools you specify.

What can I do now to prepare my FAFSA?

While the FAFSA needs to be filed with your 2010 tax information (which you won’t get until at least January of next year), it is recommended that you get a head start on gathering the right information now. In fact, most of what you’ll need for the FAFSA can be taken care of now. You can also estimate your tax information based on this years forms, however, this is only recommended if you can make a very accurate guess.

Below is a check list for what you and your family can do now to prepare early for the college financial aid application process:

Financial Aid Deadlines: Begin gathering the deadlines for your financial aid applications. Each school may have different deadlines.

Tax Information: Grab your 2010 tax forms, and anything else you are preparing for 2011 as well. You’ll receive your W2′s in February of next year and you may want to update your FAFSA when that information arrives.

Asset and Demographic Information: This where you list the financial details about you and your family, including your assets and demographic information. For help with what this will entail, visit FAFSAOnline.com and send your parents here.

School List: You can tell the Department of Education to send your results to a maximum of 10 schools. You will have to list the schools by their school code, which can be found here: FAFSAOnline.com – School Code List. When you’re looking into schools and noting their deadlines, make sure you find their code as well.

FAFSA Pin: Both you and your parents need to sign up for a FAFSA Pin #. This number will be used to identify you throughout the application process, and you can get it early and put it away in a safe place!

Ok, now go! You can download the FAFSA form now. You may file it early, but you will have to then update the forms next year with your new tax information.

02.22.10 | Right Now Blog: College Tuition Edition

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid by Evan Jacobs

Without a doubt, one of the biggest anxieties about going to college or graduate school is the pricetag. Depending on the school, it can go anywhere up to $60,000 a year (including most fees, room & board, etc.), and what is more scary is the fact that those prices grow every year. The practice of taking out private student loans and performing loan consolidations is commonplace now in the higher education industry, alluding to continued growth in school costs and heavier financial burdens on incoming and returning students.

College Tuition Growth, 1990-2009

According to CollegeBoard, the popular college prep and testing website, the average tuition growth percentages are as follows for the USA:

  • Private four-year schools: +4.4%
  • Public four-year schools: +6.5%
  • Public two-year schools: +7.3%

There is no denying that this is alarming. Education costs are already sky high as is and if you do the math, an average student in a public four-year program will pay roughly $31,000 in tuition costs alone over the length of their program (not including the other myriad expenses a student encounters while in school.)

As a result to this, online education options have begun to gain more traction — not just because of their flexibility, but also their lower overall cost due to savings on overhead from not having to maintain entire campuses. If you find yourself struggling, they might be an excellent option to advance your education while still allowing you to work and making living pay.

What is being done? At the moment, there is a lot of talk about schools going as far as freezing tuition growth or severely capping the increases. They do understand that the costs are spiraling and it impacts their retention rates, as well as new admissions. In addition, some schools implement tuition freezes as a merit-based “scholarship” to those with an arbitrarily-set GPA or higher. You should consult your college’s financial aid department to see if there is such a program and try to earn it, if you aren’t already.

04.17.09 | Being a Teacher’s Pet is a Good Thing

Posted in Student Loans by Kristin Morris

If you’ve ever been called a brown noser or teacher’s pet you’re on the inside track in the game of life.

Professors love students who participate in discussions, ask questions, and offer their own perspective. It really adds to the flow of the class and takes pressure off other students who are either too shy or intimidated to speak up. You serve as the savior for both the professor and your fellow students. Think of yourself as that classrooms student body president. That is the role I find myself in right now.

When I was younger I was painfully shy and didn’t utter two words in class, but I have learned in life that the squeaky wheel really does get the grease. This time around I am a presence. I set a precedent for myself early on in each semester by scoring well on my first exam, being an active participant in class, and asking enlightened questions via email on off days. Now moving forward I always get the benefit of the doubt when I miss a class or even skimp on an essay question. Just two weeks ago I argued about the way a certain question was structured on the exam which led to my incorrect response. The professor agreed with me and gave everyone two points that had got that one wrong.

Last semester I told one of my professors she was doing a great job and was very fair. She was overjoyed by the feedback. It’s the same in the business world or in any walk of life. Throw a compliment or two out there and see the response you get, I guarantee it will be positive. I can’t remember ever telling a girl she was pretty and her replying, “You think I’m pretty! You’re a jerk.” People love compliments!

The next time someone calls you a teachers pet accept that compliment with open arms. The world can use more of you.

Five most recent student loan help blog posts:

03.20.09 | OBAMA: Federal Aid, Tax Cuts, & Nurse Visits?

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Private Student Loans by Kristin Morris

President Obama is pushing his budget proposal to overhaul the entire education system throughout the U.Sschool-bus-cartoon-7. His plan would affect students of all ages with a goal of improving education levels all across the U.S. starting with preschool aged children. In a recent speech to the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Obama began to divulge what exactly he has in mind for this giant overhaul. He spoke of a 5 tier reform plan that touches on what seems like every stage of the educational process. The President was quoted as saying, “We have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us…The time for finger-pointing is over. The time for holding ourselves accountable is here.”

The 5 reform points that he spoke about are as follows:

1. Increase investments in early childhood programs such as Headstart etc.

2. Holding students accountable for higher/tougher testing standards

3. Increase teacher training and recruitment, and offer “merit pay” (teachers that produce more results will get paid more than others). Along with that, ineffective teachers would be let go if they fail to improve.

4. Renew his campaign for the support of charter schools. (definition of a charter school = Charter schools are elementary or secondary schools in the United States that receive public money but have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school’s charter). President Obama also proposed longer school days.

5. For Higher Education he wants to increase the annual Pell Grants maximum to $5550, and push for students from working families to receive a $2500 tax credit.

I can only imagine that the republicans must be reeling…especially about the money for Headstart. Also included in early investments was an idea to have registered nurses visit the homes of single moms regularly to make sure their children are healthy and ready for school life. Not a bad idea, but who will run this program? I will say that he has a point when it comes to holding students and teachers accountable for their performances. Have you ever had a bad teacher? I have, and it made me lose any interest I may have had in the subject at hand. Frankly our country collectively cannot really afford to have children caring less about school than some of them already do.

For those students that are fortunate enough to go on to college, Obama has some plans there as well. The Pell grant is a Federal grant given to students who exhibit more financial need than others; this “financial need” is determined when you fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Obama proposes to raise the annual maximum amounts on that grant from $4,731 for the 2008-2009 school year to $5350 for the 2009-2010 school year, and then increase it again to $5500 for the 2010-2011 school year. The unsubsidized loan amount for dependent students is currently $2,000, but Obama’s stimulus plan will add an additional $2000 to that, which will help a lot of students out whose parents cannot afford to help them through college. The President also proposes to eliminate the FFEL loan program (private lenders who lend Federal loans) and have all Federal loans run through Direct Loans (the U.S. Department of Education’s Loan program); but wait, there is more….the Perkins loan, which is another federal loan awarded based on need, is typically run through the college itself, but Obama is proposing to shift that loan program so it is run through the government. Now I have my loans from my undergraduate degree with Direct loans, and the customer service is definitely not top notch. I am wondering how the Department of Education is going to manage all the loans that are currently in the FFEL program AND all the Perkins loan and still make sure that those loan programs don’t fall at the waist side. I personally do not see it happening…and didn’t Clinton propose this at one point, but it failed?

A student tax credit is also part of this the Presidents budget proposal, which would put an extra $2500 in students’ pockets. This is definitely helpful to any student in school, and it can also serve as an incentive for someone to go back to school and finish their education.

This new budget proposal has a lot of big ideas, some of which already have the necessary platforms to execute the new plans. Others however do not. It seems like all the ideas would help to improve the education system in the US, but the road to get there might be a long and bumpy one.


Five most recent student loan help blog posts:

03.13.09 | Why You Should Invest In Education

Posted in Financial Aid by Kristin Morris

For those of you who think that college is a waste of time and that you can find a job without a college degree, I can not disagree.

The fact is most of you will find a job, but what kind is the real question. Odds are your job will hold limited compensation potential and little chance of advancement without that piece of paper. And before you start saying, well my father didn’t go to college and he did pretty well, my answer to that is, it’s a different era now! My Dad bought his first new car for $1,400, but that’s not happening in 2009.

If you want to get ahead a bachelors degree is the bare minimum you need these days (unless you are handed the keys to the family business or have a fat trust fund to live off). Not to mention the more education you have the more likely you are to keep or find employment.

The chart below, with 2007 numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows a clear correlation between eduction,employment, and compensation.

Unemployment Rate in 2007 Level of Education completed Median earnings in 2007
7.1% Less than a High School diploma $22,256
4.4% High School graduate $31,408
3.8% Some college, no degree $35,516
3.0% Associate degree $38,480
2.2% Bachelor’s degree $51,324
1.8% Master’s degree $60,580
1.4% Doctoral degree $77,844
1.3% Professional degree $74,204

You can debate the merits of going to school vs. not going to school if you’d like, but the unabashed truth is starring you right in the face. Don’t lie to yourself, you know the numbers don’t lie.

For information on federal Stafford loans (click here).

For information on private student loans (click here).

Five most recent student loan help blog posts:

03.06.09 | FAFSA Applications Are Up Significantly

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Kristin Morris

It’s no surprise that when the economy is flat lining that many retreat back to school. It’s a warm sanctuary in a cold cold world.

The problem, as I have previously discussed, is that federal aid goes quickly. The Department of Education reported a 20 percent increase in the number of FAFSA applications submitted for the 2009-2010 processing year over the 2008-2009 year. More students, young and old, are lining up to exercise their mind.

Understandably loan volume has also increased with more students seeking aid. The Direct Loan program alone has increased by more than 7 billion so far this academic year, compared to the same time period in the 2007-08 academic year. FFELP loans are also up despite the fact that 59 schools have moved from the FFELP program to the Direct Loan program.

So what does all this mean? It is always better to get your FAFSA application done early. The closer to January 1 you can complete your application each year the better the chances of maximizing your financial aid package. Keep that in mind as you move forward, and come back to read up on all our helpful FAFSA hints.

The FAFSA blog is sponsored in part by:

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03.05.09 | Cost Of Education Up 439%

Posted in Financial Aid by Kristin Morris

Want to hear a frightening statistic? According to the National Center for Public Policy and Education the cost of attending college has risen 439 percent from 1982 to 2006. 439 percent!!!

Now I know I’m singing to the choir here, and that all of you are well aware how much education costs these days, but even I was shocked by this outrageous statistic and felt obliged to pass it on. It really makes you wonder, doesn’t it? I mean real estate, automobiles, the Dow, and all kinds of merchandise has dropped in price over the past several months, but not the price of education. In fact, it’s news worthy when an institution just freezes tuition rates.

I will say this though, in defense of the colleges, many are allocating more funds to financial aid during these difficult times, but how about a tuition break too? Not all students qualify for financial aid.

What do you think about this outrageous statistic? Let your voice be heard.

Five most recent student loan help blog posts:

03.03.09 | I’ve Filed My FAFSA, Now What?

Posted in FAFSA, Federal Work-Study, Financial Aid, Stafford Loan by Kristin Morris

It was Benjamin Franklin that quipped, nothing is certain but death and taxes, but in the world of financial aid the student_aidFAFSA is at the top of that short list. Completing your FAFSA is an absolute must. Without it I can tell you with great certainty that you will not receive federal grants or loans, so kudos to you for getting that done.

For those who have not yet completed the FAFSA, or wish to review our tips for effectively filing your FAFSA, in order to maximize your financial aid benefit package, (click here). Remember, you can always resubmit your FAFSA with updated data, which may lower your EFC (we’ll discuss Expected Family Contribution in greater detail shortly).

For the rest of you that completed and submitted your FAFSA and are wondering what to do next; you’ll have to wait as the Department of Education processes your application. When they’re finished they will send both you and the schools you highlighted on the FAFSA a three page report called a Student Aid Report (SAR).

The SAR is a report of what the government believes you can afford to pay out of pocket for college in the form of EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. This number is located in the top right hand corner. The lower the EFC number the greater the financial need.

As mentioned, the SAR is also sent to the colleges of your choice (up to six schools max), from which they create a financial aid awards letter detailing what aid they’re able to offer you. You will most likely receive this awards letter in the mail.

The awards letter is a comprehensive breakdown of all school related expenses, scholarship and grant money you qualify to receive, work-study eligibility, as well as the financial resources the school feels you have at your disposal to pay for one year of attendance. They also give recommendations as to the best loan options available.

The most common loan option students take advantage of when paying for school is the Stafford loan, which is divided into two categories, subsidized and unsubsidized.

Subsidized Stafford loans are awarded based on financial need. You will not be charged interest before you begin repayment or during periods of deferment. The federal government “subsidizes” (or pays) the interest during these times. No payments are expected on the loan while you are enrolled as a full or half time student.

studentsUnsubsidized Stafford loans are not awarded based on financial need. Any eligible student can take out Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. You will be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed, to the time the loan is repaid in full. No payments are expected on the loan while you are enrolled as a full or half time student.

Learn more about Stafford Loans.

For the upcoming 2009-2010 academic year the interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans, for undergraduate students, is fixed at 5.6%. If you fall into the unsubsidized category you will be extended a 6.8% fixed interest rate.

Private loans have also become a very attractive alternative these days with the prime rate at a 55-year low. Most private loans do require a co-signer. But the key is to send your FAFSA to as many schools as possible in hopes of fielding some attractive offers and limiting the amount of funds you need to borrow.

If you list multiple schools on your FAFSA you can use one school’s offer (awards letter) against another to try and land a better deal. Most schools generally set a May 1 deadline, which is why the financial aid officers refer to April as haggle month. Students and parents generally try to haggle for a better deal before the May 1 deadline.

So as you can see the FAFSA is just the beginning of the financial aid process, with many more steps in tow. But unlike the little engine that could, which repeated its motto I-think-I-can, as it climbed over that mountain top, I-know-you can! I know you can get thru the financial aid process, although sometimes it can seem daunting and overwhelming. You can do it, I just know you can.

Apply for a Federal Stafford Loan Now.

For all you hungry scholarshippoints members out there enjoy this code worth 10 points, FAFSADONE.

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03.02.09 | School Remains Your Gateway To A Brighter Tomorrow

Posted in Financial Aid by Kristin Morris

navy_logoI remember it like it was yesterday. I was 17 years young and had enlisted in the Navy. I had it all figured out. I would graduate High School in June and then ship out to the Great Lakes for boot camp that October. Yep, no college for this kid, no soiree. Then, in a flash, everything changed the day I was scheduled to leave on October 4.

Somehow the 80-year old doctor picked up on the fact that my circulation was less than stellar that fateful day. Back in May, when the weather was warmer, I did not exhibit any such symptoms during my first in-depth physical, but this day was different.

There must have been at least a hundred of us standing around in our underwear at the MEPS building in Boston. I recall being chilled to the bone as I stood there on that concrete floor. Unfortunately for me there was visual evidence to confirm this fact. My digits, as it turns out, revealed a secret that I myself didn’t realize I was keeping.

The purplish hue that glossed over my hands was completely normal to me, but was anything but normal. The doctor ordered blood tests where it was discovered I had a circulation problem called Reynaud’s, which happend to be a disqualifying condition for the military. I was medically discharged 24 hours later.

I was absolutely devastated. Now what I wondered? I ended up going to work for a few years after that. I worked at Stop & Shop supermarket before landing a warehouse job at a company called New England Frozen Foods where I worked in a freezer (12 below zero weather) for 10 hours a day. I was just drifting. It took me three years before I finally woke up from my slumber. That’s when I decided to go back to school.

I started at a community college before moving on to a four year state school. While in school I did internships at Walt Disney World and the WB56 news station before landing jobs at the Boston Globe, John Hancock, and a private jet company. Now I work for the Student Loan Network, where I educate the minds of tomorrow about the financial aid process, and help locate funding solutions for school.

The reason I’m sharing my story is because I want you to know that when all hope seems lost, like when I was discharged from the Navy, something great can still come from it. I just hope it doesn’t take you three years to wake up, like it did me, should you face calamity in your life.

School provides opportunities and opens doors that would otherwise be closed. I wouldn’t consider myself to be scholarly, but I was smart enough to get my butt back to school. Plus, nowadays you can go to school without even going to school.  You can enroll in a degree program right online.  You have more options at your disposal today than I had back in the mid-90′s.

It’s easy to make excuses why you can’t, but I’m here to tell you that you CAN.  You can make it happen, and I’m living proof.

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