October 19, 2012

Search for Scholarships with New Search Engine

Posted in Grants, Scholarships, The Financial Aid Process, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:11 PM by Joe From Boston


StudentScholarshipSearch.com has recently been redesigned and relaunched.  The goal of the new design is to provide better resources and tools for students in their search for scholarships and financial aid.  The new site offers a “Scholarship Matcher” tool allowing students to answer a few simple questions to get a short list of relevant scholarships.  Unlike other scholarship search sites wich require students to complete 3-5 pages of questions, StudentScholarshipSearch.com offers an open tool with no registration requirements.

Users are encouraged to search through custom lists of scholarships created by students, for students.  I especially like their “Tips and Advice” section.

March 19, 2012

Scholarship Search Advice

Posted in Grants, Saving for College, Scholarships, The Financial Aid Process tagged , , , , at 9:49 AM by plusloans


What are the best resources for students and parents when searching for scholarships?  To start, you need a plan.  Think about how much time you can spend on the process, how early you can start, who can help, etc.  Some advice – you can never start too early or get enough help.

I can provide a few links to resources but would love to get your thoughts and suggestions.

For searching, try the Student Scholarship Search website which offers a free open directory of thousands of awards, grants and scholarships.  Their new design offers tools for saving scholarships that are relevant and tips for improving your chances of qualifying.  They recently published Scholarship Search Mistakes which  lists the top 5 mistakes students make when searching for scholarships.

Another great site is http://www.scholarshippoints.com which gives out scholarships every month with a chance to win $10,000 every 3 months!

What are you favorite resources?  Do you have any advice for the rest of us??

February 6, 2012

2012 FAFSA Application

Posted in FAFSA, Grants, Scholarships, Stafford Loans, The Financial Aid Process tagged , , , , , , at 1:31 PM by Joe From Boston


Remember to file your FAFSA early!  You must complete the FAFSA form in order to qualify for most federal and state financial aid, including most school based financial aid programs.  Check with your school to see their FAFSA Deadlines.

To file your FAFSA online, go to: http://fafsa.ed.gov

Common misspellings include: FASFA and FASA

August 28, 2011

How do I Fill the Gap between what College Costs and the Financial Aid Awarded?

Posted in Graduate Students, Grants, Parent PLUS Loans, Private Loans, Saving for College, Scholarships, Stafford Loans, Student Loan News, The Financial Aid Process tagged , , , , , , , at 12:48 PM by plusloans


Struggling with finding the last dollar to pay that college tuition bill???  Here is a good overview of the challenges and some options to manage them…

It is no secret that college is expensive and tuition costs are continuing to rise. We put together the infographic below to examine the costs associated with a college education, including the hidden costs you may not be factoring in like health fees, gas money, entertainment and all the Red Bull you’ll consume during finals. The graphic also outlines how funding occurs and how students can fill the gaps left in paying for college. Feel free to share with your fellow students, friends and family!

Link: http://www.privatestudentloans.com/fill-the-gap/

April 26, 2010

Parent PLUS Loan Rejected. What Now?

Posted in Grants, Parent PLUS Loans, Stafford Loans, The Financial Aid Process tagged , , , at 10:49 AM by plusloans


Getting a loan rejection letter can be very disheartening and exhausting after the work you put into helping your child(ren) pay for their education. However, there are still ways to gain more financial aid through what is called an “appeal” process.

Most schools have these in place and you can get the specific details through their financial aid department. The most common way this process is handled is by sending in proof of income and a formal letter stating exactly where your finances are at, and why you or your child needs more money for school. It is best to do this process as early as possible because as the months move forward toward the beginning of the academic year, the financial aid pie is allocated to students on a first-come basis. Read the rest of this entry »

July 8, 2009

New GI bill – benefits vary by state???

Posted in Graduate Students, Grants, Legislation Affecting Students, Saving for College, Student Loan News, The Financial Aid Process tagged , , , at 12:52 PM by Joe From Boston


Yup, you read that right.

The feds decided to provide veterans with a stipend equaling the cost of the most expensive public state school.  Which is great if you live in New Hampshire – that’s $25K.

In California, it’s a whopping $0.  Turns out, it’s illegal to charge tuition at public schools in California (though the thousands of dollars in fees seems to be legal… but that’s another story).

I grant you, it’s still a lot better than the old bill – it provides full in-state undergraduate tuition and fees as opposed to the old monthly stipend.

But what sounds like a great deal – providing the equivalent about to a private school- turns out to be a crappy lottery depending on where you live.  I’m in Massachusetts.  Veterans here will get about $2200 a year which is useless in a state that has some of the highest tuition and cost-of-living expenses.

Veterans are being penalized by states that have worked hard to keep tuition low.

And what about veterans pursuing graduate degrees?

Looks like Congress created a monster… again…

March 11, 2009

Simplify the Financial Aid process

Posted in FAFSA, Grants, Legislation Affecting Students, Student Loan News, The Financial Aid Process tagged , , , , at 6:53 AM by Joe From Boston


President Obama yesterday clarified some point on his higher education plan in a speech before the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative conference.

Given that this is a student loan blog, I got a chuckle out of his comment that it currently requires a PhD to figure out student loan aid – and I”m sure many of you would agree!  The process most definitely needs simplification.

Read an excerpt of the president’s comments below:

“The fifth part of America’s education strategy is providing every American with a quality higher education – whether it’s college or technical training. Never has a college degree been more important. And never has it been more expensive. At a time when so many of our families are bearing enormous economic burdens, the rising cost of tuition threatens to shatter dreams. That is why will simplify federal college assistance forms so it doesn’t take a PhD to apply for financial aid. And that is why we are already taking steps to make college or technical training affordable.

For the first time ever, Pell Grants will not be subject to the politics of the moment or the whims of the market – they will be a commitment that Congress is required to uphold each and every year. Further, because rising costs mean Pell Grants cover less than half as much tuition as they did thirty years ago, we are raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 a year and indexing it above inflation. We are also providing a $2,500 a year tuition tax credit for students from working families. And we are modernizing and expanding the Perkins Loan Program to make sure schools like UNLV don’t get a tenth as many Perkins Loans as schools like Harvard. To help pay for all of this, we are putting students ahead of lenders by eliminating wasteful student loan subsidies that cost taxpayers billions each year. All in all, we are making college affordable for seven million more students with a sweeping investment in our children’s futures and America’s success. And I call on Congress to join me – and the American people – by helping make these investments possible.”

You can read the complete text of his address at the Wall Street Journal’s blog, Washington Wire.

February 17, 2009

Stimulus bill – the final version

Posted in Graduate Students, Grants, Legislation Affecting Students, Parent PLUS Loans, Scholarships, Stafford Loans, Student Loan News, The Financial Aid Process tagged at 2:26 PM by Joe From Boston


With President Obama set to sign the bill (likely today), here’s what’s in the final draft, according to NCHelp.org:

Concerning provisions of interest to higher education and student lending, the measure would:

  • Provide $15.6 billion in Pell Grant appropriations.
  • Increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500 for 2009-10 for a maximum of $5,350; funding is also reflected to be sufficient to increase the maximum Pell Grant for 2010-11 by $500 to a maximum of $5,550.
  • Allocate $200 million additional funding for Federal Work Study programs.
  • Not subject private activity bonds issued in 2009-10 to the Alternative Minimum Tax and clarifies refunding exemption for bonds.
  • Increase the Hope Scholarship tax credit and make it partially refundable (40 percent).
  • Provide $74 million to the Department of Education for student aid administration and audits and investigations.
  • Create a $53.6 billion state stabilization fund.

The bill does NOT include an increase in the unsubsidized Stafford loan limit.

February 6, 2009

Are you an independent student?

Posted in FAFSA, Graduate Students, Grants, Parent PLUS Loans, Saving for College, Stafford Loans, Student Loan News, The Financial Aid Process at 8:23 AM by Joe From Boston


Independent students receive consideration for more financial aid as it’s assumed they have no parents or family to help support them. The Department of Education has its own criteria about who is or is not an independent student, and answering these questions helps determine your status.

Claiming on yourself as an independent on your taxes DOES NOT COUNT.

If you answer Yes to any of these questions, then you will be considered independent, however you may have to provide additional documentation to verify your claim.

  • Are you 24 or older?
  • Are you married?
  • Are you pursuing an advanced degree?(e.g. Masters, PhD)
  • Are you active duty military or a veteran?
    • Reservists who have never served on active duty do not qualify
  • Do you have a child and provide at least half their support?
  • Do you provide someone else with at least half their support? For example, taking care of an elderly relative?
    • Just being roommates doesn’t count. You have to support them financially.
  • Were you a foster child or ward of the court after the age of 13?
  • Were you legally emancipated?
    • “Emancipated minor” is a formal legal status that must be declared by a court of law. Simply moving out of your parents’ household does not count. A judge must legally declare you emancipated. The court order must still be in effect at the time you file your FAFSA.
  • Are you in legal guardianship as determined by a court?
    • Like legally emancipated, this is a formal legal judgment by a court of law.
  • Are you homeless or at risk of being homeless?
    • The determination of homelessness can be made by one of three legal entities:
      • A high school or school district liaison.
      • A director of an accredited HUD homeless shelter
      • A director of a runaway/transitional living program or homeless youth basic shelter.
    • Homeless is strictly defined as lacking fixed, regular, adequate housing. This includes living in shelters, hotels, cars, or couchsurfing anywhere you can.
    • Unaccompanied means that you’re not in the physical custody or care of a parent or guardian. This status only applies to students under the age of 21.
    • This question adds an additional twist. A director of a runaway or homeless shelter can make the determination that you are self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, which means you’re living on your own, paying your own way, and are at risk of homelessness.
    • You will need to provide documentation of your homelessness from any of the entities listed above.

February 2, 2009

Economic Stimulus Bill Update

Posted in Grants, Legislation Affecting Students, Stafford Loans, Student Loan News, The Financial Aid Process tagged , , , , , at 8:09 AM by Joe From Boston


Last week the House of Representatives passed the economic stimulus bill.  In their version, the Pell grant would increase and the Stafford loan borrowing limits would increase by $2000 per year.

The Senate is set to vote on the bill next week.  In the meantime, they’re reconciling their version of the bill which does not have the Stafford Loan increases.

Opponents say the increases will lead colleges to raise tuition even further; proponents say that higher federal loan limits would lower the amount of private loans taken out for college.

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