September 30, 2007
When you fill out the FAFSA, at the end of the process you are given a number*. This is the amount of money your family is expected to contribute to your college education costs.
The new development is an automatic 0 for your EFC in certain circumstances.
First, the income threshhold for a 0 has been raised to 150% of the poverty line, or $30,000 (this is up from 100% of the poverty line). This is great because it means more people will qualify for low-interest federal aid.
Secondly, anyone considered a dislocated worker will also get an automatic 0. Dislocated workers are people displaced by natura disasters. For example, anyone i n a city destroyed by a hurricane will get an automatic 0 EFC meaning they will qualify for more aid.
*If for some reason you are interested in this formula, it is available within the Department of Education’s website, though I don’t have the exact web address. The Dept. of Ed is located at http://www.ed.gov
September 29, 2007
Here’s a great provision of the College Cost Relief Act, and one I’ve gotten questions about surprisingly frequently. Currently, even if you are an emancipated minor (an under-18 year-old legally who has had their parents legally removed as a guardian and been declared independent by a court of law), you have to list you parent’s income on your FAFSA, and you are penalized becuase of it – as your parents really aren’t helping you!!
Starting in July 2009, if you are an emancipated minor, you will be considered an independent student, which means you are eligible for larger Stafford loans. This is great news for anyone it applies to, because currently emancipated minors are penalized as they have to include their parent’s income, even though their parents do not support them in any way.
September 28, 2007
Yesterday (9/27/2007), the President signed the College Cost Reduction Act into law. There are several changes that come into being right away – many of those I’ve covered on earlier posts.
Over the next few posts, I’ll outline some of the items that will coming in the future, namely 9/1/2009.
September 27, 2007
State Universities tend to blame their tuition increases on the lack of funding from the state governments. But according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, many schools raised tuition despite getting big increases from the state governments! Read the excerpt below.
Many Public Colleges Have Raised Tuition Despite Big Increases in State Support
Public colleges often blame their tuition increases on state lawmakers who, the colleges say, have not given them enough extra money to keep up with rising costs. But this year, many states’ public colleges received sizable infusions of public money and then raised tuition significantly anyway.
In nearly half of the states, both appropriations for higher education and public-college tuitions rose by 5 percent or more, substantially faster than inflation. In Colorado, for example, tuition jumped by 14.6 percent at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus and by 7.7 percent at the university’s Colorado Springs campus, even though state lawmakers increased spending on higher education by 8.4 percent. In Nevada, public universities increased their tuition by 10.9 percent, despite having received a 6.4-percent increase in public support for the 2007-8 fiscal year.
In more than a dozen of the states where tuition did not rise as much, public colleges had little say over
the matter because lawmakers had passed legislation limiting how much such institutions could raise
tuition or freezing tuition at current levels.
The explanations for why public colleges continued to increase tuition despite getting more tax-dollar
support vary from state to state. But in general, “the relationship between fees and funding may not be as
direct as we think,” said Arthur M. Hauptman, an independent consultant on higher-education policy.
While reductions in state spending on higher education tend to quickly send tuition skyward, Mr.
Hauptman said, major increases in such spending do not always cause tuition to level off or go back
To read the whole article, visit the Chronicle of Higher Education. A paid subscription may be necessary to view the entire article.
September 26, 2007
The Department of Education has totally revamped the old College Opportunity Online Locator site and re-launched it as the new College Navigator. You can visit this site at http://collegenavigator.ed.gov.
The new site offers the same functionality as the old, but in a more streamlined matter involving fewer steps. You can search for colleges and universities across the US by location and program, and also by newly added categories such as SAT and ACT scores! If you’re searching for the right school for you, I highly recommend you check out this website.
September 25, 2007
The Providence Journal is reporting that the US Department of Education will no longer be mailing a paper copy of the FAFSA form, and will instead encourage people to fill it out online.
Students urged to fill out financial aid forms online
01:00 AM EDT on Friday, September 21, 2007
Citing a need to reduce cost and waste, the U.S. Department of Education has announced it will no longer mail out millions of copies of the paper version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA.
Instead, the department is encouraging prospective college students and their families to file the application electronically, as about 94 percent of applicants nationally do already.
In Rhode Island, about 92 percent of 37,812 students last year filled out their forms online, said Marisol Garcia, communications director of the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority.
“We encourage them to apply online anyway, because it is more secure, it is quicker, and it has built in edits that help the student fill out the form and avoid mistakes, so it’s very user-friendly,” Garcia said.
The Education Department’s federal student aid division will continue to send out paper worksheets to schools that request them. The worksheets, which are optional, are intended to help students and families organize information and financial data needed for the FAFSA.
The state’s higher education assistance authority will also have paper worksheets available at the free workshops it offers throughout the state. The workshops are designed to help families and students navigate the complex process of applying for student loans and grants, Garcia said. The next workshop is scheduled for January.
Students can request up to three copies of the paper application by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center toll-free: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
September 24, 2007
The Washington Post has an interesting article about recent proposed legislative changes to the Washington DC tuition aid program. It will be interesting to see what ends up happening!
Tuition Aid Program May Get Income Test
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 21, 2007; Page B05
Earlier this week, the Senate thwarted the District’s bid for voting rights in Congress. Now, city officials are conceding that they cannot stop a senator from forcing a change they oppose in a D.C. college tuition assistance program.
Officials said yesterday that they are upset about an effort by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to create an income test for participation in the program but that they can’t risk losing the entire program by fighting him.
In 2000, the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program began providing financial aid to college-bound city residents, regardless of income, at all public and some private schools in the country.
Because the District lacks a state university system and has only one public college, Congress decided that city residents should have the same opportunities to attend college as other Americans. Each state has a public higher-education system that costs less for its residents.
But Coburn decided that he wanted to bar families earning more than $1 million from participating in the program, which elected city officials said was contrary to a key purpose of the program.
“If you are Bill Gates, who lives in the state of Washington, your kids can go the University of Washington at in-state tuition rates,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), referring to the billionaire who founded Microsoft. “Our kids should have the same opportunities as other Americans.”
Under the program, D.C. residents attending any state university are eligible for up to $10,000 a year, with a limit of $50,000. Those attending private schools in Maryland and Virginia, as well as historically black colleges, are eligible for grants of $2,500 a year with a $12,500 cap.
More than 26,000 grants have been disbursed to nearly 10,000 students since the program began, at a cost of about $141 million. Sixty-eight percent of recipients have come from families with low or very low incomes. Thirty-eight percent have been the first in their family to attend college.
College attendance by city residents has increased more than 50 percent under the program, and President Bush has increased funding for it every year, Norton said.
Created to give D.C. residents more opportunities for higher education while providing an incentive to stay in the city, the program was to expire this year. The House passed its version of a bill in May to extend the program through 2012, without an income cap, drawing support from 98 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans.
But Coburn, operating under Senate rules that allow a single senator to block legislation, held up the bill until he could win approval from congressional leaders to add his amendment about income.
Fearing that the program would run out of funding, Democrats agreed to put Coburn’s income amendment into the Senate bill, Norton and other officials said. It passed unanimously Tuesday.
September 22, 2007
The American Council for Education has release a paper and statement regarding how the new lobbying reform passed by Congress before the August resource and signed into law on September 14th will affect colleges and universities.
ACE details the general provisions as follows:
S. 1 requires lawmakers to disclose fundraising by lobbyists, tightens rules on gift-giving to staff and lawmakers, and requires lawmakers to disclose when they seek earmarked funds for projects in their home states, among other provisions.
The amended rules merit careful attention. For the first time, lobbying restrictions will apply directly to lobbyists, not just to members of Congress and Congressional staff. Most relevant to higher education institutions are new limitations and prohibitions on gifts, meals and travel.
The ACE paper provides general background on the changes and is not legal advice. Counsel should be consulted as questions arise.
And ACE also devotes an entire white paper to how colleges and universities are affected. They say that key provisions are:
(1) Public colleges and universities remain exempt from Congressional gift and travel restrictions. Foundations and other nongovernmental entities are not exempt.
(2) Preexisting restrictions on gifts to members of Congress and Congressional staff continue to apply to independent colleges and universities, and to higher education groups, that do not employ or engage a lobbyist. New, stricter rules ban most gifts from independent institutions that do employ or engage a lobbyist, and ban most such gifts from institutional employees.
(3) An independent institution, even if it has a lobbyist, may sponsor certain events—including a “widely-attended” function or a fundraising event for a 501(c)(3)—and pay the admission fee for members of Congress or staff.
(4) House and Senate gift rules contain other limited exceptions, such as for gifts of nominal value and gifts based on personal friendship.
(5) The House exempts independent colleges and universities from Congressional trip-sponsorship rules.
(6) A Senate exception for 501(c)(3) organizations exempts most independent colleges and universities and some higher education groups from compliance with Senate trip-sponsorship rules.
(7) Special restrictions apply to Congressional travel in private aircraft.
(8) Lobbyists are subject to more-stringent disclosure rules.
(9) New rules regulate practices such as earmarks and employment of lobbyists.
September 21, 2007
NCHelp.org has a great synopsis of the bills currently facing the US House of Representatives. Here’s what they say:
Title: College Cost Reduction and Access Act (Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate). To provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 601 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2008.
Sponsor: Rep Miller, George CA-7 (introduced 6/12/2007) Cosponsors (31)
Related Bills: H.RES.531, H.RES.637
Latest Major Action: 9/19/2007 Presented to President.
House Reports: 110-210; Latest Conference Report: 110-317 (in Congressional Record H10168-10181) Awaiting final signature from President.
Title: College Textbook Affordability and Transparency Act of 2007. To ensure that college textbooks and supplemental materials are available and affordable.
Sponsor: Rep Carson, Julia IN-7 (introduced 9/10/2007) Cosponsors (4)
Latest Major Action: 9/10/2007 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Title: FACT Act Rulewriting Improvement Act of 2007. To require rapid implementation of guidelines and regulations regarding the accuracy of consumer information furnished to consumer reporting agencies that were required to be established by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 and have not been implemented, to provide that the Federal Trade Commission shall take the lead in implementation of the guidelines and regulations, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Frank, Barney MA-4 (introduced 9/14/2007) Cosponsors (None)
Latest Major Action: 9/14/2007 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
Title: To include all banking agencies within the existing regulatory authority under the Federal Trade Commission Act with respect to depository institutions, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Frank, Barney MA-4 (introduced 9/14/2007) Cosponsors (None)
Latest Major Action: 9/18/2007 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported by Voice Vote.
Title: Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2007. To enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing plain language as the standard style for Government documents issued to the public, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Braley, Bruce L. IA-1 (introduced 9/17/2007) Cosponsors (4)
Latest Major Action: 9/17/2007 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Title: To permanently extend the waiver authority of the Secretary under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003.
Sponsor: Rep Kline, John MN-2 (introduced 9/18/2007) Cosponsors (3)
Latest Major Action: 9/18/2007 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
September 20, 2007
Savannah Now has a great article summarizing how the new legislation affects students. Not everyone will reap the rewards – indeed, many will now end up paying more. Read the excerpt below:
Pell Grant increases and related benefits to Pell recipients.
Broader eligibility for Academic Competitiveness Grants.
Student income protection allowance increase.
Automatic zero expected family contribution income increase.
Lowering out-of-pocket costs to families.
Reduced rates on Stafford Loans.
Lender subsidy reductions.
Student loan forgiveness benefits.
Student loan deferment benefits for veterans.
Perkins Loan program continuation.
More awareness of the true cost of college.
Additional college grant aid for Pell recipients in co-op educational programs.
New TEACH Grant program.
Additional funding for historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions.
New College Access Challenge Grant program.
Restoration of funding for Upward Bound projects.
Other than a subsidized Stafford Loan rate reduction, millions of non-Pell Grant recipients are left with few alternatives.
Student-owned 529 Savings Plans will no longer be exempt from assessments.
There is no provision for families who don’t qualify for need-based financial aid.
Rates for Stafford Loans not subsidized by the government will not decrease.
If the 2008 budget cuts to pay for the above benefits are implemented, the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant will no longer exist, and millions of the neediest students will be left behind.
Stafford Loan increases for first- and second-year students from $2,625 to $3,500 and $3,500 to $4,500 will actually benefit colleges, as they will reduce the institution’s portion of aid dollar-for-dollar and save the school an additional $1,875 over two years.