Posts Tagged ‘college funding’

Avoiding the Summer Daze: Rising Seniors Use Your Summer Wisely

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Now that the school year is wrapping up (or has already been wrapped up), it is easy to just kick back, relax, and allow half the summer to go by without doing anything to get your self ready for college.  The fall of senior year can be a very stressful time, so I recommend you use the summer to get a jump on your college applications.  Here is a list of things that you need to get done this summer.

  • Finalize Your College List
    —Narrow list down to 8 to 10 schools
    —Revisit your original criteria, has anything changed?
    —Check application requirements at your list of schools
    —Have you met testing requirements?
    —Do you have teachers lined up for letters of recommendation?
    —When are the deadlines?
  • Visit Colleges Again
    —This will help you narrow down the list and come up with your own ranking of the schools
    —Demonstrated interest is becoming more important in the admission process. This is one of the best ways to show interest.
    —If possible, interview when on campus.
  • Prepare for Fall Standardized Tests
    Take practice SAT or ACT tests
    Review performance results from your spring tests, and study up on areas where you are weak
    Consider tutoring, a course, or a book to help you improve
  • Start Your Applications!
    —The Common Application accounts open on August 1, but you can print a draft and get started earlier
    —Write a resume
    —Start your essay!
    —The Common Application has reinstated the 500 word limit on the long essay.
    Work on the Common Application short answer
    Make certain you know your school’s policy regarding transcript requests
  • Develop a List of Financial Aid Deadlines
    —When are the filing deadlines?
    —What forms are required?
    —Do you have a financial safety school?

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25 of the Weirdest Scholarships You’ve Never Heard of

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Finding money to fund your college education can be a tough process, but as these scholarships show there’s something available for everyone. If you happen to have an offbeat hobby that not too many people take part in, then one of these may be exactly right for you. While some of these scholarships are only available at certain colleges, I’ve tried to keep the list as broad as possible. Good luck in your academic endeavors!

1. LaFontaine Aquatic Entomology Scholarship

This scholarship is for graduate students seeking advanced degrees in the field of Aquatic Entomology. Sponsored by the Federation of Fly Fishers this award is given out annually, and requires that the student submit a resume, research synopsis, and letter of recommendation from a faculty member.

2. The Fragrance Research Fund

Another scholarship for graduate students, this one is for psychologists working in the field of aromachology. While it may sound funny, the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to a research team studying smells. With scholarships up to $50,000 it certainly isn’t something to turn your nose up at.

3. Potato Industry Scholarship

The National Potato Council rewards up to $5,000 to graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in Agribusiness that directly affect the potato industry. The award is based on your academic achievement, leadership abilities, and the relevancy of your work to the potato industry.

4. The NCTA Help Santa Find the Perfect Real Christmas Tree Scholarship

While a belief in Santa isn’t a requirement for this scholarship, having that festive spirit certainly doesn’t hurt. Sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association, this scholarship rewards up to $5,000 to students between the ages of 6-16 years old.

5. FBI Common Knowledge Challenge

At $250 this scholarship isn’t quite as fruitful as the others we’ve covered so far, but considering the ease with which you can get it there’s really no reason not to. The FBI has a site where you can read up about their organization, and then take a short online quiz about it. The contest is held the third week of October and the money will go directly to your school should you win.

6. Excellence in Predicting the Future Award

This scholarship requires you to register at the website and take part in a contest where you predict the futures of fake stocks. Intended to increase students’ interest in economics, it’s free to apply for and will net you $400 should you win.

7. Culinary Institute of America’s All-American Apple Pie Recipe Contest

With rewards of up to $25,000 this contest will put your apple pie baking skills to the test. As one of the premier culinary schools in the country, the CIA certainly has one of the best reputations in the industry. This scholarship will require you to share your recipe, take pictures of your pie, and write a 500 word essay on how you got the recipe.

8. National Make It Yourself with Wool Competition

Sponsored by the American Sheep Industry Association this scholarship rewards up to $5,000 to students who promote the versatility of wool in fabrics and yarns. If you have involvement in the sheep industry or in fabrics then this is certainly a lucrative opportunity.

9. The Ayn Rand Institute

The Ayn Rand Institute offers a large number of scholarships for essays on several of her works including The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, We Are the Living, and Anthem. One contest winner for each essay is rewarded a $10,000 prize, with $2,000, $1,000, $100, and $50 prizes going out for the subsequent places. If you are interested in Ayn Rand’s works then this is a great opportunity to make some extra money for college.

10. Eileen J. Garret Scholarship from the Parapsychology Foundation

Do you have an interest in studying the paranormal using modern scientific techniques? If so this scholarship may be for you. You will have to provide samples of writings about parapsychology and letters of reference to prove your interest. At $3,000 this is a niche reward that can help quite nicely in your college funding.

11. The OP Loftbed Scholarship

Interestingly enough, OP Loftbed, the makers of the most popular loft bed for college students decides to give back in the form of a $400 scholarship. In order to qualify for the scholarship students need only to fill out a questionnaire on the OP Loftbed website.

12. The School Band and Orchestra Magazine Scholarship

This scholarship for grade school students’ promises $1000 reward for students up to grade 8 and an additional $1000 donation to the school’s music program for students in grades 9-12. Sponsored by the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle store requires the candidate to write a 250 word essay on various musical subjects that changes every year.

13. The Scholarships

This scholarship rewards $300 to the winners of an essay contest on why or why not federal income taxes are fair. Unlike most websites with money in the title, this one is actually for real.

14. The Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Award

While The Elks may strike up visualizations of that one scene from the movie Stand By Me, it is a real organization and has an excellent scholarship program. With rewards going out to a total of 500 students every year, it is a competitive national event, but also comes with great rewards. Each candidate is evaluated on scholarship, leadership, and financial need and rewarded with a 4 year scholarship worth $1000 to $15,000 per year.

15. Tylenol Scholarship

While not quite as weird as the other scholarships on this list, Tylenol isn’t the first place I’d look for a scholarship. If you are studying in a healthcare related field, you can apply for this scholarship which will net you up to $10,000. Tylenol gives out 250 of these scholarships every year, which is good news since we all know how much of a headache school can give you.

16. The Discover Card Tribute Award

Wow, a credit card company handing out a scholarship? It’s great to see that at least one of them decides to give something back, and with rewards of up to $25,000 it can certainly put a big dent in your college debt. You will need to demonstrate community service, leadership, and a significant roadblock you have overcome in order to receive this award.

17. Tea Drinking Scholarship

The Calm-A-Sutra of Tea, an American Tea Council offers a scholarship two one student for $20,000 paid directly to the school. It is a video contest where the candidate must submit an original video about the health benefits of drinking tea. $20,000 may be enough to make tea lovers out of all of us, but you can expect some pretty stiff competition as well.

18. Greeting Card Scholarship

While you might be used to making fun of those “Hallmark Moments” there’s nothing funny about the $10,000 this scholarship rewards. In order to qualify you will need to submit original artwork to be used for the front cover of a greeting card. This is an excellent scholarship for art students that you might not readily think of.

19. Society of Vacuum Coaters Foundation Scholarship

Another scholarship for a niche market, you might not expect it but these guys have dished out $70,000 in scholarships so far. If you happen to be in a course of study that involves vacuum coating, then this is certainly a scholarship to look into. In order to apply you will need two references from your professors, and you will be judged based on the relevancy of your program, academic achievement, personal values, and financial need.

20. Collegiate Inventors Competition

For all of you aspiring inventors out there the United States Patents and Trademark Office sponsors a competition rewarding both graduate and undergraduate students with up to $15,000 and $10,000 rewards. Any invention is admissible and entries are judged based on how well articulated the idea is as well as to how beneficial it is to society.

21. Mycological Society of America Scholarships

These scholarships are primarily for graduate students and researchers that are already involved in mycological study. It’s tough to believe that people would have an interest in fungi outside of any academic involvement, which is probably why the only undergraduate rewards are for those involved in mycological research. Still, if you happen to fit into one of these categories they have plenty of different scholarships available ranging from $500 to $2000.

22. Michigan Llama Association (MLA) Scholarship

I can’t say I would have guessed that llama farming would’ve been popular in the state of Michigan, but apparently there are over 200 farms and 2500 llamas in the state. Who knew? Well, even if you aren’t a llama farmer you can join their organization and show your interest in llamas and farming to qualify for their $500 scholarship.

23. National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFAH) Health at Every Size Scholarship

While it is tempting to describe this as a scholarship for fatties, you don’t actually need to be obese to qualify for this scholarship. Instead, you need to be actively involved in research surrounding the effects of obesity on health. You will need to submit a 750 word essay on your research and can expect a $1000 check in return.

24. International Boar Semen Scholarship

Not only is this a weird one, but it’s also quite gross. Still, animal husbandry is an important aspect of agribusiness so it is not surprising to see a scholarship for it. Having grown up in a small town myself, I can attest to the validity of this subject. Although this is probably the scholarship on this list that is easiest to make fun of, the people involved in this business do make a good bit of money. If you happen to be pursuing this line of work then this is a scholarship well worth looking into.

25. American Nudist Research Library Scholarship

If you happen to find the idea of spending 3 years living in a nudist colony to be your thing, then the American Nudist Research Library will reward you with a $1000 scholarship. While I can’t imagine many people would want to live as a nudist for 3 years for $1000, if you already happen to be a part of this fringe culture, then why not take advantage of what they have to offer?


Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching molecular biology scholarships as well as scholarships for anthropoplogy students. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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Proposed Pell Grant Cuts: Will They Seriously Affect College Students?

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives levied a $5.7 billion cut to the Pell Grant program, which provides aid to low and moderate income students. The changes, if passed, would take effect in the 2011-2012 school year. The amount of aid for the most needy students would decrease from $5,500 to $4,705, a difference of $845.

If the bill becomes law, over 9 million students will have a reduction in their federal funds. Also, approximately 1.7 million students who receive small Pell Grants will likely be made ineligible. Approximately 27 percent of U.S. college students currently receive Pell Grants. The primary cut to the Pell Grant program would be the year-round provision which allows recipients of the grant to receive more than one per year.

In general, the most needy students are barely able to pay their bills, and losing $845 a year would be a significant loss to them. These students will be forced to take out bigger loans. Pell Grants have allowed many part-time students to attend college on a full-time basis. A reduction in the Pell Grant may force some of these students to return to their part-time status.

Many students will be forced to work longer hours, which may decrease their study time and affect their grades. Other students may decide to pass on a bachelor’s degree and instead go for a less expensive associate’s degree from a community college. Pell Grants are also provided to working low-income adults who want to go back to school to specialize in something. These folks may decide to skip college altogether.

Some colleges and universities will find ways to make up for the loss in Pell Grant funding. For example, Thomas McWhorter, the Executive Director of Financial Aid at the University of Southern California, said his office would use other university need-based aid to fill gaps caused but cutting Pell Grants.

An article at the Chronicle of Higher Education website stated that the spending bill for the 2011 fiscal year, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would not only slash Pell Grants in the short term, but would also reduce funding of the program by $64 billion over the next decade (according to the Congressional Budget Office).

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, said, “It’s hardly a devastating cut when you are cutting such a small amount.” However, according to a report from the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA), the cut in Pell Grant funding will reduce the number of low income students obtaining bachelor’s degrees each year by approximately 61,000.

If this bill is passed, there will be a lot less money available for college students in need. This would make looking for scholarships and other sources of funding all the more important.

Wes Harrison writes helpful articles about a variety of college topics for New Jersey Colleges.

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How to File the 2011-12 FAFSA

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

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Useful Tips for Financing A Graduate School Education

Monday, December 27th, 2010

There is plenty of financial aid available for worthy graduate students, as long as they apply for it as early as possible. Graduate students taking out loans need to be realistic about the job opportunities and additional income generated by obtaining a graduate degree.

You can typically save thousands of dollars by enrolling in a graduate degree program at a public university in the state where you’re a legal resident. Also, some states have reciprocal agreements with neighboring states which lets each state’s residents attend their colleges and universities at state tuition rates. For more information contact your state department of education or some schools of interest. Some states consider out-of-state students as residents after they have attended the school for one year.

Government Assistance

  • Federal Perkins Loans: Need-based program.
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans: Students must have financial need as determined by their school.
  • Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans: Not based on financial need.
  • Cooperative Education: Combines education with an off-campus job related to the student’s program.
  • Work-Study: Need-based program in which the college finds jobs for students. Salary is usually close to minimum wage.

Graduate Stafford Loans

Graduate Stafford Loans are fixed rate loans for graduate students attending a college or university on at least a half-time basis. These loans are one of the lowest-cost ways to pay for graduate school. Graduate students using Subsidized Stafford Loans are not charged interest before they begin repayment or during periods of deferment.

Graduate PLUS Loan

The Graduate PLUS Loan is a non-need credit based loan, guaranteed by the Federal Government. Students can borrow the total cost of graduate school, including tuition, supplies, room and board, travel, and lab expenses. It’s a fixed rate student loan and payment can be deferred while students are attending college.

School Financial Assistance

Many colleges and universities offer teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and administrative fellowships. These positions typically include tuition waivers and some of them offer health insurance.

The recipients of departmental fellowships and scholarships are often determined by the departmental chair and not the financial aid office. Prospective graduate students should talk to a department staff member who’s knowledgeable about financial aid opportunities.

Perhaps the best type of college based financial aid is the fellowship. It’s a cash reward that doesn’t need to be repaid and typically doesn’t require the student to work. Most are based on an excellent academic record, however some are based on financial need. Fellowships usually include a stipend.


Many companies sponsor tuition assistance programs. According to IRS regulations, employers can provide up to $5,250 for each employee per year on a tax-free basis. Additional employer tuition assistance is taxed. Employers may restrict the choice of a major to a subject related to the employee’s current or future position at the company. Some employers stipulate that the employee work for the company for a specific length of time after obtaining the degree.


The Foundation Center in New York City publishes a reference book about graduate study financial aid. Grants provided in different fields are included in Grant Guides, a fee-based databank.

The National Research Council provides hundreds of fellowships of up to $14,000 per year for students in the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

Mellon Fellowships cover tuition and provide stipends for graduates students in the humanities.

Medical School

Some of the loans available for Medical School are MedSHARE-Nellie Mae, AAMC Medloans-Alternative Loan Program, and Medical Access Loans-Access Group.

Business School Loans

Some of the loans available for business school are MBADHARE-New England Loan Marketing Association-Nellie Mae, Business Access Loan Program-Access Group, and M.B.A. Loans/Tuition Loan Plan.

Online Resources

There are numerous online resources that help students find graduate education funding, and these include the following:

  • National Association of Graduate and Professional Studies
  • FastWEB
  • Thomson Peterson’s Graduate School Planning
  • The Foundation Center
  • Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Programs
  • Education World
  • FinAid!
  • Education World

Putting together the best financial aid package requires a lot of research. However, taking the time to do this research could save you a lot of money on your graduate education.

Brian Jenkins writes about a variety of education topics for BrainTrack, including financial aid opportunities for college students.

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Tips for Winning Local Scholarships

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Applying for scholarships can be intimidating, and time consuming. However, if you do a little research at the

Nichols College in Dudley Massachusetts.  Click the image for your chance to win a $1,000 Spotlight Scholarship to Nichols!

Nichols College in Dudley Massachusetts. Click the image for your chance to win a $1,000 Spotlight Scholarship to Nichols!

beginning of the process, it can be very financially rewarding as well. In writing and speaking, it is always important to know your audience. That same goes when applying for scholarships. If you take the time to know who will be reading your application ahead of time, you can tailor your application to the reader.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. You always have your best chance at winning local scholarships. The money being given away has been raised by fellow members of your community and they want to see it go to deserving students from their home town. Since these are very geographically targeted, there are often less applicants for the scholarships and that means less competition. I am the chair of my local Rotary club’s scholarship committee, and I have also helped review applications for my local Chamber of Commerce, and now I am going to share some tips with you on how to tailor your application to the mission of the organization.

  1. If possible, determine the criteria being used to evaluate the scholarship applications. Not all organizations offer complete transparency, but most will give you the general means of evaluating the application. Typically they will look at academics, service, need, and an essay.
  2. Look at the organizations website and see if they have a mission statement. Determine how they raise the money they are giving away and also seek out the other types of charitable works they do throughout the year. Service organizations like to give money to students who are very involved in community service. A kind of pay it forward mentality. If you are involved with any service work that is similar to work that the organization is doing, mention it. That will help you to create a connection with the reader.
  3. Read the application carefully. If they ask for three copies of your application, make certain to submit 3 copies of your application. In my Rotary Club, we also evaluate students by how they follow directions. Finally, if there is an essay question that is specific to that scholarship, don’t try to make another essay fit. Write an essay that answers that specific question. Most importantly, make sure to meet the deadline, and if a transcript is required from your high school, make sure you give them enough time to get the transcript for you.
Students enjoying the beautiful campus of Mitchell College. Click for your chance to win a $1,000 scholarship to Mitchell!

Students enjoying the beautiful campus of Mitchell College. Click for your chance to win a $1,000 scholarship to Mitchell!

It is important to remember that most of the people who are reading these applications are volunteers, and they work hard all year to raise the money that they are giving away. Show appreciation in your application without becoming too obsequious (good SAT word. It means excessive fawning. It has a similar meaning to a sycophant, or kissing up). Finally, take the time in the end to proofread your application before sending it and make sending the write essay to the write organization. Attention to detail is very important. Follow these tips and you will increase your chances of winning some local scholarships.

James Maroney, the author of this article, is the founder of First Choice College Placement LLC,, and  He is also a contributor to  He has toured over 100 different college campuses across the country and worked with students from all over the world to help them make their college dream a reality.  He is a member of the Higher Education Consultants Association, NACAC, the Education Industry Association, and the chair of the Devon Rotary Scholarship Committee.  You can contact him at

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3 Ways Private Colleges Offer More Tuition Discounts than Public Colleges

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

College is the hope of all young people who want to get ahead in life and obtain a better job with higher pay in the future. A mix of today’s economy and rising tuition prices make it hard for everyone who wants to go to college to be able to attend. But it is not impossible. Public colleges generally have lower tuition than private schools, but often lack the prestige of their private counterparts. However, one of the advantages of attending a private college is that they generally offer more tuition discounts than public schools.

Income-based discounts

First of all, most private and public colleges offer some type of needs-based financial assistance. However, because public colleges often have lower tuition to begin with, they tend to offer less dollar amounts than private colleges. One of the reasons public schools can offer lower tuition is that they are subsidized by taxpayers. Private schools, on the other hand, don’t rely on taxes for support. Rather they generate income through alumni, donors, and the prestige of their faculty, as well as the tuition of students. So, in general, private college tuition is higher, but those colleges are more likely to offer large amounts of financial assistance to promising students who otherwise might not be able to afford the cost. For example, Ivy League colleges, like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, offer needs-based tuition assistance to smart, yet underprivileged, students.

Religious and group affiliation

Private colleges can also offer more tuition discounts because they are able to offer discounts based on religious or group affiliation. Public institutions cannot offer tuition discounts for religious or group affiliation, but because private intuitions are not funded by public money, they have much greater discretion in offering tuition discounts. For example, Brigham Young University offers discounted tuition to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many other religious-based and bible colleges offer discounts to students who are members of a certain faith. Private colleges can also offer discounts to members of certain professional or social organizations.

Special incentives

Lastly, private colleges are much more likely to offer tuition discounts as special incentives to specific students. Public institutions often have policies regarding tuition discounts that outline specific requirements that they cannot deviate from and still receive tax funding. On the other hand, private institutions can offer tuition discounts to any student they feel is valuable, desirable, or brings certain skills or prestige to the school. For example, if a student has been accepted to multiple colleges and universities, a private college may offer a tuition discount as an incentive to that student, if they feel the student would be a valuable asset to their school. These types of tuition discounts are offered on an individual basis and are not generally offered to large groups of students.

If you are contemplating going to college but are worried about the cost, it might be worth it to check out the extra assistance that private colleges may be able to offer you.

Gunter Jameson writes about several topics including travel, minimalism and online classes.

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A Financial Aid Checklist for High School Juniors and Seniors

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
The University of New Haven is a Liberal Arts college with an emphasis on Career Preparation.

The University of New Haven is a Liberal Arts college with an emphasis on Career Preparation.

The financial aid application process can be exhausting and complicated. Some students, through preparation or chance, will find the process easy because they have at their disposal everything that they need. However, many are left confused and alone five minutes before their colleges’ financial aid application deadlines. If you read (and use!) the following list, you will be one of the former rather than the latter.


The good news: You can take your time! Set aside 30 minutes each day and begin to browse through scholarships. Apply for all of them that you can find, which won’t be many compared to the number that you’ll find next year.

The bad news: It’s difficult to stay motivated during junior year, and your likelihood of winning multiple scholarships is low. Remember, financial aid is a marathon not a sprint; hang in there!

· Necessary Information:

· Your parents or guardians’ complete tax returns and W2 Forms

· A list containing the net value of each of their assets, including home value but excluding tax-exempt, 401K type retirement plans

· Your complete tax returns and W2 Forms

· A list containing the net value of each of your assets

Things to-do:

· Start your scholarship search.

· Apply to all of the scholarships for which you are eligible.

· Draft a rough list of the colleges to which you plan to apply, and check their financial aid offerings and requirements.

· Begin to consult with your high school counselor (make him or her your friend).

· Consult with your parents’ financial advisor, their tax preparer, or a family member who knows a lot about finance. Ask questions about the taxability of specific scholarships and financial aid components in order to get a better idea of how much college will cost.


The good news: You are the prime target for most scholarships! Seniors in general are more likely to win scholarships than students in any other grade, and it will be easier for you to start a confidence-snowball.

The bad news: The second semester of senior year is the 11th hour for financial aid. Get ready for late nights and weekends of essay writing. Just remember, many students will be in the same position.

Necessary Information:

· Your parents or guardians’ complete tax returns and W2 Forms

· A list containing the net value of each of their assets, including home value but excluding tax-exempt, 401K type retirement plans

· Your complete tax returns and W2 Forms

· A list containing the net value of each of your assets

Things to-do:

· Spend an hour or more each day looking for scholarships.

· Apply to all of them for which you are eligible.

· Finalize your list of colleges and figure out the net cost of each. Carefully read each college’s financial aid application instructions (you’ll submit much of the necessary information when you apply to each school, unless you plan to do so early).

· Consult extensively with your high school counselor about financial aid options, and ask him or her to proofread your applications.

· Pose any last-minute tax related questions to your parents’ financial advisor, their tax preparer, or a family member who has extensive knowledge of personal finance.

The financial aid application process can be taxing and confusing. However, if you use the checklist outlined above, you will have an advantage over many applicants.

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The American Opportunity Credit

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Students On Mitchell College in New London Connecticut

Students On Mitchell College in New London Connecticut

The American Opportunity Credit is one of the best education related tax incentives, and knowing how to use it can save qualifying taxpayers up to $2,500 per year.

Any part or full-time student who attends a postsecondary institution eligible to participate in federal student aid programs (this includes nearly all universities, colleges, and technical schools in the United States) may qualify for the credit. A qualifying student must also have been enrolled in postsecondary courses for fewer than four years prior to any year in which he or she uses the deduction. In other words, students are usually eligible for the credit during their freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years of undergraduate studies but not during graduate school. Parents may claim an American Opportunity Credit for each dependent child enrolled in a post-secondary institution; however, a student and his or her parents may not claim the credit simultaneously. Additionally, one cannot claim both the American Opportunity Credit and the Hope Credit.

The amount of the rebate is based on the amount a student (or his or her parents) spends on qualifying expenses during a particular year. Qualifying expenses include tuition, fees, and books and supplies necessary for a student’s program of study. The cost of room and board is not considered a qualifying expense. Any expenses paid by a scholarship or grand do not count toward the credit.

The exact amount of the tax credit is given by the following formula: 100% of the first $2,000 in expenses and 25% of the next $2,000. In other words, if a student has $4,000 or more in qualifying expenses in a specific year, he or she may claim the maximum $2,500 tax credit; however, if the student has only $3,000 of qualifying expenses, he or she may only claim a $2,250 credit. Up to 40% of the credit is refundable; thus, if a student needed to pay no income tax and could claim an American Opportunity Credit of $2,000, he or she would receive a refund check for $800.

Cutting through the IRS jargon, the rules for the credit are essentially as follows:

· Almost any student in the first through fourth years of postsecondary education may claim the credit.

· Parents of a dependent student may claim the credit; however, in this scenario, the student cannot also claim it.

· Students may not claim an American Opportunity Credit in addition to a Hope Credit or tuition and fees deduction.

· Costs paid by a scholarship or grant are not considered qualifying expenses.

· Nearly all costs (except cost of living expenses and room and board fees) related to necessary courses are considered qualifying expenses.

Over four years, the American Opportunity Credit could save a student’s family up to $10,000.  However, in order to accrue these savings, one must be aware of the credit’s guidelines and keep a record of qualifying expenses. Be sure to look into the proper tax software to help you get the most deductions possible.

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Paying for college with the TEACH Grant

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Are you interested in becoming a teacher?  Are you willing to teach in a high-need subject area in a low-income school?  If so, you may be eligible for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant.  The TEACH program was created in 2007 to help provide highly qualified teachers to low-income schools for the most needed subjects.  The grant is a non-need based program (meaning you can qualify no matter what your income), provides up to $4,000 each year and can be renewed each year for a total of $16,000 for undergraduate students and up to $8,000 for masters students.

The grant is provided to students who intend to teach in either a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves low-income students.  Low-income, for the TEACH grant, is defined as any school receiving Title I funding or on an Indian reservation.  You can search for which schools are identified as “low-income” in your area by visiting:

Recipients of the TEACH grant must also work in a high-need or teacher shortage field.  These fields are defined as subject shortage areas, not geographic areas (unlike some other programs).  The TEACH program defines national high-need fields as: Bilingual Education or English Language Acquisition, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Reading Specialist, Science and Special Education.  However, recipients can also work in state-wide or local high-need subject areas, which often provide a much broader list of subjects.  You can see a complete list of state-by-state subject need areas here:

TEACH grant applicants must work as a highly qualified teacher in a high-need subject at a low-income school as defined above for at least 4 years within the first 8 years after finishing college or grad school.  Here are the other eligibility requirements to receive a TEACH grant:

  • Must complete a FAFSA (though you do not have to demonstrate financial need)
  • Must be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Must be enrolled in a school that participate in the TEACH program (which is most of them)
  • Must be enrolled in coursework that is necessary to becoming a teach or building your knowledge in the field you want to teach
  • Much sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve (which just says that you understand the conditions of the program)
  • Must meet certain academic achievement requirements, which usually means maintaining a minimum 3.25 GPA in High School or in your first year of college OR scoring above the 75th percentile on a college admissions test

It’s important to be sure that you want to be a teacher before taking the TEACH grant, because if you do not fulfill the service requirements of the grant or you decide you do not want to be a teacher, the TEACH grant will be converted into an Unsubsidized Stafford Loan- meaning you will have to repay the cost of the grant with interest.  But if you are sure you want to teach and you are willing to spend a few years as a teacher in a high-need subject at a low-income school, the TEACH grant can be a great way get money for college without having financial need or extremely high test scores and grades.  You can find out more about the TEACH grant by visiting:

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