Colleges, it’s time to admit you have a problem

Growing up, I did exactly what was expected of me. I worked hard through high school and was the first in my family to graduate from college, thanks to the federal Pell Grant, an academic scholarship and work-study program, says a contributor for TakePart.com. Despite that, I still walked away with massive student loans. I don’t regret my choice because my education is the one thing no one can take away from me. But, like too many of my friends, I am now buried in student debt. By the time I pay off my loans, I’ll be in my 50s. And like many of my peers, I’m thinking differently about major life decisions, like buying a home or car or having kids, because I have too much student debt to pay off first. My story isn’t unique. More and more, skyrocketing college costs are forcing students to take on crippling debt in order to get the education they need. Since the early 1980s, tuition and fees have increased 538 percent—that’s almost twice as fast as healthcare costs. Over two-thirds of all college students currently borrow in order to finance their education. Even so, I was shocked to learn that Americans now owe more than $1 trillion on student loans…

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GOP blocks Senate debate on Dem student loan bill

Student loan interest rates are becoming a major election year issue.

Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bill May 8 to preserve low interest rates for millions of college students’ loans, as the two parties engaged in election-year choreography aimed at showing each is the better protector of families in today’s rugged economy.

The 52-45 vote to begin debating the legislation fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed and stalled work on an effort both parties expect will ultimately produce a compromise, probably soon.

For now, each side is happy to use the stalemate to snipe at the other with campaign-ready talking points while they are gridlocked over how to cover the $6 billion cost.…Read More

Online college loan applications add to widespread student confusion

Half of students said they didn't believe they could ever pay down their student loans.

Most college students take out school loans without understanding the differences between federal and private loans or the risks of variable interest rates, and the ease of online loan application forms has exacerbated misunderstandings that tack on years of repayments.

About two-thirds of college students don’t understand the basic differences between  federally-backed student loans – which usually have lower and more stable interest rates – and private school loans that often have wildly fluctuating interest rates once students begin repayment, according to findings in a survey conducted by NERA Economic Consulting and Young Invincibles, a student advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

Common misconceptions about student loan options aren’t a result of lazy Google searches, wayward clicks, and deceptive sales pitches from banks and companies hawking private loans.…Read More

DCTAG official: Choose your college with care

The 20 colleges with the largest populations of D.C. Tuition Assistance grant (DCTAG) recipients have a combined graduation rate of 39 percent for those students, according to program data, the Washington Post reports. Is that a good statistic, or a bad one? On the one hand, it’s low. On the other hand, the data come from a college-preparatory operation that has dramatically increased the share of students from D.C. public schools who enroll in college at all. DCTAG officials have taken to posting the grad rates in high schools, so students will “give more thought to school selection,” said Gregory J. Meeropol, deputy assistant superintendent in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education…

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Mo. college loan agency to process federal loans

Starting in October, thousands of people repaying their federal student loans will begin sending their checks to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The Missouri agency says it is the first state-based nonprofit organization to be approved to handle federal loan payments since a 2010 law required the U.S. Department of Education to originate all federally backed student loans…

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Online counseling pushing college students toward risky private loans

More than half of private loan borrowers don’t maximize their federal student aid options.

College and university websites should require prospective students to check their eligibility for federal student aid before private loans with ever-changing interest rates are presented as a legitimate option, according to a report from a nonprofit group advocating for greater college access and affordability.

One-on-one counseling, either in face-to-face meetings or over the phone, is the “most effective” way to find college loans that won’t cost student thousands of dollars in exorbitant interest charges, while web-based counseling makes it “too easy [for students] to acknowledge receiving detailed information without actually reading or comprehending it,” said the report, published by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS).

TICAS, a California-based nonprofit organization, is a prominent supporter of the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan, which allows college students to adjust their federal student aid payments according to their reported income. The plan went into effect in 2009.…Read More

Colleges offer graduates help repaying loans

Law schools have done it for years. Now, some private liberal arts colleges are experimenting with the idea: They’re offering upfront to help students pay off their loans after they graduate, USA Today reports. The financial-aid benefit, which targets students who expect to pursue careers in low-paying public-service fields, aims to help colleges attract and retain students who might otherwise enroll somewhere cheaper, or nowhere at all…

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Cheaper student loans, but shortage of college grants likely in 2011 and 2012

According to U.S. News & World Report, although the federal government will hand out billions of dollars more in college grants in 2011 and 2012 than ever before, the nation’s financial aid programs as a whole are not keeping up with rising tuition, government officials and financial aid analysts say. That means for millions of America’s working and middle class families, “college is going to become less affordable,” warns Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and founder of Finaid.org and the scholarship search site Fastweb.com. The widening gap between college costs and financial resources is forcing a growing number of students into one of three bad choices, says Faith Sandler, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. More students are choosing cheaper colleges that, she says, often “don’t match their capabilities.” Too many other students “borrow too, too much.” Those who can’t stomach either of those options may give up on college altogether, she fears…

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