MTV prompts ads to promote finding financial aid ideas

September 16, 2010

Is this a marketing ploy or does the College Board and MTV really want to help find a solution?

Here is an article by JACQUES STEINBERG a writer for the New York Times.

MTV — Yes, MTV — Wants Your Financial Aid Ideas

As the stern proctor of the hardly hip SAT exam, the College Board would seem an odd recipient of prominent attention on MTV. It is difficult to imagine a scantily clad, lip-synching Katy Perry – to say nothing of Snooki or the Situation – rolling on a beach with a No. 2 pencil and a bubble sheet.

And yet, the music channel and the College Board are scheduled to announce this morning that they are joining together to stage a contest, the “Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge.’’ In it, “current and aspiring college students’’ are being asked to create “an innovative digital tool that helps more low- and middle-income students connect with money for school.’’

The winning individual or team will get $10,000, as well as a $100,000 budget to bring the idea to fruition. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is helping to underwrite the project.

The announcement was made by John Legend, the Grammy-winning rhythm-and-blues singer, in a classroom at Howard University. His visit was recorded for the series “Stand In,’’ where celebrities play professor for a day; the series is shown on mtvU, the network’s channel for college and university students.

Mr. Legend’s educational background is a story in itself: mostly home-schooled through the sixth grade, he went on to graduate magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999.

In a statement, the partners said that the contest was intended to raise college completion rates “by making it easier for students to navigate what can be a confusing financial aid maze.’’

“Difficulty paying for college,’’ the statement added, “is a key reason many college students fail to graduate.’’

Need help with college, figuring out how to pay for it, or even what major/career to go into, contact us. We can help. Give us a call.    Send article as PDF   
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Eliminating a college based on the sticker price is bad advice

September 2, 2010

Eliminating a college based solely on the sticker price is just bad advice.

The proper thing to do is position the parent’s assets and position the student so that they receive the most amount of aid.

As an example, this last year one of my students who took my advice did extremely well. She applied to 7 colleges per my recommendation. These colleges ranged from a local state college, a private college in Oregon and a private college in Washington, plus a few others.

Had this family taken the advice to apply to “cheaper” colleges she would have missed out tremendously! After everything was said and done the out the door sticker price for this student at the so called cheaper in-state college was $8,000 for one year PLUS student loans of $5500 for a grand total of $13,500. She received $7,500 in scholarship/grant aid at the public state college. The in state sticker price is $21,000.

The Oregon school has a sticker price of $47,161. She was offered $25,000 in scholarship/grant money to attend this school. With a difference of $22,000, it puts this school out of reach compared to in state public college.

However, let’s look at the last school. The private college in Washington has a sticker price of $45,300 which is double the cost of the state school. Because this student was properly packaged, this private college bent over backwards to get her to attend their school and offered her an amazing scholarship package totaling $40,750 in free money scholarships/grants. They also offered her a pittance student loan of $3500. Out of pocket cost for this family is ONLY $1,500 per year. That's even cheaper than a community or junior college!

With numbers like that it is no comparison.

Looking long term, had the student chosen the state college she would have graduated with $22,000 in student loans versus $14,000 in loans.

You can’t base a school on the sticker price. The key is to properly package the student so that the college is highly aggressive in recruiting the student.

Now I know what you may be thinking, this student has perfect test scores and perfect grades. Not the case. The key point is proper packaging of the student.

Do not base a school on the sticker price until and only until after ALL the numbers have been crunched.

To many times families believe that state schools are less expensive and do not even consider a private college or university. It’s time to keep your options open.    Send article as PDF   
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what grade level is your writing?

August 30, 2010

Fear crept over the class room like an icy hand. The teacher’s lips moved but no sound could be heard as she wrote the assignment on the board. Write an 800 word essay’.

The groans of dissatisfaction were evident on every student in the class, save one. You.

The kid with the ripped Misfits t-shirt turn to you and asks why you are not freaked out by the assignment, ‘cause everyone knows this teacher gives a lower score if you don’t write at your grade level or above’.

“I know the secret.” You reply.

Later that night, calm and collected, the words flow off your fingers as you type out your essay in Microsoft Word. You have turned on “Readability with Grade Level Ranking”.

Ha, the poor saps don’t know it’s all at their finger tips. It’s simple to enable.

  • Open MS Word, click the Microsoft Office Button, then click Word Options (at the bottom), click Proofing, enable Check Grammar with Spelling, then click the Show Readability Statistics. Viola!

The next time spell check (F7) is activated, the stats window opens and there it is at the bottom of the pop up window. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

At asignment turn-in day, you are calm. You know exactaly how many words are in your essay and your grade level ranking.

Parents can use this tip too!

Get the Best Grades with the Least Amount of Effort

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test anxiety, how to avoid it

August 27, 2010

With the new SAT and ACT test season quickly coming upon us, I found this information. A recent study showed 61% of students suffer from test anxiety.

The SAT and ACT are *implied to carry so much weight that this unseen stress can jump on anyone’s back.

To crack the SAT/ACT, become familiar with the test, its process and its directions. Do these by taking the test multiple times, pick up an official prep book and review sample and retired tests.

I have seen some weird stuff and then some really weird stuff. This one takes the prize. It is a product to relive text anxiety through clinical hypnotherapy. <click. I am not endorsing this; it is just an example of some of the more bizarre things that are out there.

This YouTube video has some tips on how to deal with test anxiety, including eating right. Click Here

I had an opportunity to meet the master of the SAT. Dr. Beasley. This page shows you some of his secrets on cracking the SAT. How to score better, get a higher score. A higher score could mean a higher scholarship.

Do you think the hypnotherapy is crazy? Email me your thoughts.

*Contact me for a list of colleges that do not require the SAT.


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Is help on the way?

August 6, 2010

Financial Aid: Help Is on the Way

Changes to big financial aid programs, including federal student loans and Pell grants, will make more students eligible and terms more attractive

By Alison Damast

Students taking out federal student loans will be confronted with a bevy of changes when they visit their school's financial aid office this fall. This spring, the U.S. Senate passed a student loan bill—the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act—that led to a major revamping of the federal student loan program, shifting everything from how students obtain their loans to the amount of aid doled out through such programs as the Pell Grant.

"This bill was the largest investment in higher education since the GI bill," says Edie Irons, a spokeswoman for The Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the Institute for College Access & Success, referring to the 1944 legislation that provided educational and other benefits for returning World War II veterans. "It is definitely a historic change."

The new student aid regulations went into effect on July 1, and college financial aid officers will be spending the next few weeks getting students up to speed on the updated guidelines before the start of the school year. In addition to these changes, there are important updates to the Income-Based Repayment loan program, which caps monthly loan payments for borrowers. Some of these changes will be obvious to families, but others will require borrowers to do more research to determine if they qualify for the revamped programs. For most families, the transition should be relatively seamless, says Allesandra Lanza, a spokeswoman for American Student Assistance, a Boston-based nonprofit that helps students and families manage higher education debt.

"People might not be aware that some of these changes have occurred, but I think schools and colleges are by and large ready for this," Lanza says.

For borrowers who want to prepare themselves beforehand, here's a roundup of some of the most important new federal loan reforms for recent graduates and current students, as well as strategies on how to get the maximum benefit out of them:

Federal Student Loans

Previously, the majority of families and students who obtained federal loans did so through the Family Education Loan Program (FELP), rather than directly through the government's Direct Loan Program. Under the FELP program, the government paid commercial banks such as Sallie Mae and Nelnet fees to act as intermediaries between the government and the student borrower. The banks would originate the federal loans to students, administer them, and collect payments after graduation. As of July 1st, that program is no longer in place; now all federal student loans are available from the U.S. Education Dept. through the Direct Loan program, and students can no longer obtain such loans through commercial banks. This is an important step that will make the student loan process more transparent for students and families, says Irons. "[When] private lenders were making both federal and private loans, it could sometimes be hard for the consumer to know what type of student loan they were getting," she says. "From now on, it should be clearer."

Still, students who used to obtain federal loans through the FELP program may temporarily be confused by the transition to the Direct Loan program, says Kalman Chany, author of Paying for College Without Going Broke. In the last few weeks, he has received several "panicked" phone calls from parents who thought the federal student loan program had ended. "Don't believe those rumors," Chany says. "The only thing that has changed is that the middleman—the banks—are now removed from the federal loan program."

The move to the direct lending program will have immediate benefits for students and families, including lower interest rates and accessibility, says Mark Kantrowitz, a student loan expert who runs the website FinAid. Borrowers who took out federal Parent PLUS Loans, which are repaid by the student's parents, were charged an 8.5 percent interest rate by banks under the old FELP program; under the new Direct Loan program, the interest rate on the loan is just 7.9 percent. Another benefit? More families will be eligible for federal loans under the Direct Loan Program. About 42 percent of parents who tried to take out PLUS loans through the FELP program were denied the loans by banks because of an adverse credit history. The denial rate for those applying for a PLUS loan through the Direct Loan program is half that, says Kantrowitz. "The changes mean that PLUS loans will be cheaper and more available in the Direct Loan program, and it is going to be a smoother process," he says.

Loan Consolidation

Students who hold federal loans typically can't consolidate them until after they've graduated or left school. Now there's an exception to that rule. Students who hold at least two of three different types of federal loans will be able to consolidate them while they are still in college, during the period starting this past July 1 and ending June 30, 2011. The loans that qualify for consolidation: FELP loans issued by a private lender, Direct Loan Program loans, and FELP loans that were sold to the Education Dept. during the financial crisis. Some students hold several of these loans and might want to consolidate to avoid the trouble of making payments to two or three different lenders after college, says Lanza. "This way," he explains, "they'll have only one payment and less confusion."

But Finaid's Kantrowitz says students should think long and hard before they consolidate their loans this year. Consolidation would result in savings, but the amount is minimal, he points out. What's more, he notes, most federal loans come with a six-month grace repayment period, which students would lose if they consolidate their loans while still in college. Students would be wiser to wait to consolidate their loans until after college. "The ability to have that grace period is a really valuable benefit," Kantrowitz says. "Consolidating during this school period may do more harm than good."

Pell Grants

The revamping of the Federal Loan program will yield some immediate returns for students. The government will be saving $60 million in fees previously paid under FELP to the commercial bank lenders, some of which will now be funneled into the Pell Grant program, one of the most popular need-based grant aid programs. As a result, the maximum annual Pell Grant for the 2010-11 academic year will rise to $5,550, up from $5,350 last year, and the average grant is expected to be $3,685, about $220 more than last year.

Even more encouraging, more students than ever will be eligible for the Pell Grant come fall because of a change in the expected family cutoff, or the minimum amount a family is expected to pay toward the cost of college, says Kantrowitz. The cutoff has been raised to $5,273, from $4,617, making the grant available to a much larger group of students. About 8.4 million students—617,000 more than last year—will be eligible for Pell Grant aid, according to the Education Dept. "This is going to be a fairly substantial improvement in financial aid for some of these families," Kantrowitz says.

Income-Based Repayment Program

The popular Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan launched last July is designed for borrowers with federal student loans who have high debt relative to their income. It caps most borrowers' monthly payments at less than 10 percent of their gross income for 25 years, after which their remaining student loan debt is forgiven. The original structure of the program included some flaws, however, and in some instances borrowers were paying more in monthly payments than they should have, says Irons, of the Project for Student Debt. These flaws have since been corrected by the Education Dept., and the changes went into effect July 1.

The first fix to the program applies to married couples. Previously, a lender for the IBR program would look at a married person's student loan debt and use the couple's joint income to calculate what the monthly payments should be for the program. The program did not take into account that the IBR participant's spouse could have federal student debt as well. The result: married couples were charged up to twice as much as two single borrowers in the same situation, says Irons. That glitch has since been fixed, and now the IBR program will take both spouses' federal loan debt, as well as their total income, into account when calculating their monthly payments, Irons says. For example, if both spouses have federal loans and file a joint federal tax return, the calculated IBR payment amount for each borrower will be adjusted based on each borrower's percentage of the couple's total eligible loan debt. The end result: The couple will pay less. "This is better for married borrowers, because it is not fair to assume that a joint income is totally available for one's debt," Irons says. This change will go into effect automatically for new IBR users who apply for the program this year. It will not happen automatically, however, for couples who already use IBR and file jointly. Borrowers in that situation should contact their lender this summer and make certain that their IBR payment is adjusted to reflect the change, says Irons.

Another update to IBR this July will expand eligibility for the program. Previously, a lender calculated whether borrowers were eligible for the IBR program based on the original, or baseline, amount of debt the borrowers first owed when they entered the repayment period on their loan. Many borrowers' original loan balances increase, however, because of accrued interest during periods of loan deferment or forbearance. For example, a person who owed $40,000 in loans when she first graduated could easily owe $50,000 a few years later if she deferred payment of her loan for a few years, says Irons. Under the new guidelines, eligibility for the IBR program will now be calculated based either on the original balance of the loan when the borrower first entered repayment or on the current loan amount, whichever is larger. For the first time, borrowers will be able to qualify for the program based on what they actually owe, says Irons. "These changes are going to make more people eligible for IBR and make the program more fair and accessible," Irons says.

original article here:

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Does your college loathe your guts?

June 29, 2010

I write this with sadness because the fat cats at some universities are doing a disservice to its students.

“You should have know, you should have read the fine print” these words are uttered in back rooms when they should be out in the open.

Recently reported on CNN, a young man who did not understand the ramifications of taking out excessive student loan debt just to attend and graduate from a so called brand name university. “I’ll just deal with it later” says student Ryan Durosky.

Who is at fault here, is it the student who racked up over a QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS in student debt or is the fault on the University for allowing this to happen. Are universities cold heartless money grubbing machines interested in one thing only, the bottom line?

The unfortunate answer lies in this 3 minute video on

PLEASE DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN! Choosing the wrong school could lead to financial ruin. We help. We help make college affordable. Contact us now.    Send article as PDF   
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Surprising facts about college financial aid

June 27, 2010

As the cost of college continues to skyrocket, you should take heart – if you plan properly, you won’t have to pay “sticker price” for your son or daughter’s college of choice. Here are some facts about college financial aid that could help you slash college costs:

• Some Colleges Have More Money to Give Than Others. Most schools use the same financial aid formula to determine your financial need. However, they differ vastly in how they apply that formula. In other words, different colleges meet different percentages of your financial need. The older, prestigious private colleges – Ivy League and similar – tend to have large endowments. This endowment money fuels the financial aid awards that these colleges and universities dole out.

• Private, High Sticker Price Colleges Can Actually Cost You Less Under Some Circumstances. Even though one year of college at a state university can run around $20,000-$30,000 (tuition, fees, room and board, etc.) and a private college can top out over $50,000 per year, the more expensive college can cost you less! Why? Because state universities very rarely award significant financial aid packages, so many families float the entire cost. On the other hand, private colleges and universities with large endowments regularly meet 90%, 95% and even 100% of financial need. So don’t rule out expensive private institutions until you examine their financial aid awards!

• Even if You Earn Six Figures, You Can Still Receive Substantial Financial Aid. This may be the most surprising fact of all – colleges and universities have courted the “forgotten middle class” in the last few years, regularly giving five figure awards to parents earning six figure incomes. Just because you think you make too much does not mean that you should blow off filling out the FAFSA and other financial aid awards – you may be pleasantly surprised!

• Although Two Families Can Have the Same Amount of Money Saved, One Will Receive Far More Financial Aid Because of How/Where They Saved it. It’s a little known fact, but some assets count against you in the financial aid formulas more than others, and some don’t count against you at all! In general, money saved in your child’s name will penalize you more in the financial aid formulas than money held in your own name! (This is because the Department of Education reasons that you’re going to tap money in your child’s name for her education – this makes sense, but it also penalizes you for being thrifty…I’ll stop her before I feel a political rant coming on!) So even though your stock-broker or CPA recommended you establish an UTMA account (Uniform Transfer to Minors Account) for your child, this could penalize you to the tune of 20-25% in the financial aid formulas. You could be better off holding this money in your own name, or in an asset class that’s entirely exempt, such as retirement accounts, insurance, some annuities and some business assets.

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Arizona state grants cut, now what?

June 26, 2010

The aftershocks from the previous economic tremor are still reverberating. Students and families that were banking on Arizona state grants are frantically searching for replacements.

Students who are attending private colleges in Arizona seem to have been sheltered. The key is both positioning the student (to be a great college candidate using the’s proprietary strategies) and position the assets so that you qualify for the most aid (and find schools that have weathered the fiscal storm and have money to give out.)

Straight from The Governor's Office and the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education’s website  it implicitly states that the PEG and PFAP grants do not have available funds and the programs are cut. What’s next?

If the state continues to be in a fiscal fiasco then AIMS will be on the chopping block soon.

Contact us to see how we can help.

Excerpt from official website

PEG/PFAP Funding Cut for 2010-2011

March 26, 2010

The State of Arizona continues to face serious economic challenges and unfortunately, State student financial assistance programs have been affected. On March 18, 2010 House Bill 2001 was signed into law. One result of this legislation is the funding for both the Postsecondary Education Grant (PEG) and the Private Postsecondary Student Financial Assistance Program (PFAP) will not be available beginning with the 2010-2011 academic year. As such, the Commission will not accept applications for these grant (forgivable loan) programs for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Students seeking replacement financial assistance are encouraged to speak to the financial assistance office at their college or university to learn of any assistance the institution can offer.

It is unfortunate that the State revenue shortfall has resulted in student financial assistance reductions. The Commission will try to minimize the affects on student educational goals and work on behalf of all Arizona students to help find additional resources to pay for educational expenses. Please check back for updates.

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Where do I go? Picking a college last minute.

May 20, 2010

If your student has not made their mind up about choosing a college, there are still 276+ colleges and universities that still have space available for qualified freshman and/or transfer students and nearly all have financial aid to offer, according to the results of the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s annual Space Availability Survey: Openings for Qualified Students.

See PDF list of colleges for the 2010-2011 school year.

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Harvard student dupes admission directors with faux transcripts

May 19, 2010

By J.D. Wyczalek (why-zall-ick) Founder of

College is serious big business and when a student gets caught putting his hand in a cookie jar that he shouldn’t, serious ramifications will result.

The names of the guilty have not been changed, although the accused claims “not guilty”.

  • The crime getting into Harvard with falsified records, fake transcripts, perfect SAT scores and a huge laundry list of accomplishments.

Had Adam Wheeler, the accused, left everything alone he might have gotten away with it. But NO! Not only did he get in with claimed falsified records but he then applied for the Rhodes Scholarship & and the Fulbright Scholarship. It isn’t that he applied for these scholarships; it’s the fact that the essay that he used is someone else’s essay. (Not like that is the first time that has ever happened.)

It is probably the fact that he attempted to pull a fast one over one of the most prestigious colleges in the US while garnering $45,000 in scholarships.

This is a huge swollen black eye for Harvard. How can a kid (he’s 23) finagle and wind his way into the fabric of the poster child college institution, Harvard? And what about the kid who should have legitimately got in but did not because Mr. Wheeler took his (or her) seat?

In 1995 a student from Yale was expelled for false records, in 1992 another student was expelled from Harvard Law School for falsified records. This is nothing new.

What is not reported is what Mr. Wheeler incurred in student loans to attend the college.

Now what is really humorous is the Facebook page “Save Adam Wheeler”.

What saddens me is that hopeful college students have been duped into believing that the more prestigious the college the better your lifestyle, income and career. A student who does his/her due diligence and finds the best fit college for them can be successful in life without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in college loans.

Our specialty at is in helping students identify colleges that fit them best and help parents lower their college costs.

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