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Financial Aid News!

4 Tips for Families Navigating College Financial Aid Amid Divorce
by Education News Headlines - Yahoo! News
Jan 21, 2016
“Tiffany and Clem Clay always wanted the best college education possible for their children. That the Massachusetts couple now has six children between them -- three from Tiffany's prior marriage and three from Clem's -- doesn't change that. But their divorces and remarriage make navigating the financial aid process harder.”
Abigail Seldin talks College Abacus and being a woman in tech
by Education News Headlines - Yahoo! News
Jan 01, 2016
“When building our arsenal to face some of our country’s (and the world’s) most pressing problems, education stands as the most powerful weapon at our disposal. While the importance of access to information and the dissemination of knowledge as a whole has been widely recognized as a necessity, creating the infrastructure needed to actually make good upon these goals is often lacking. This seems particularly true when considering women in technology, whose lacking presence in the industry is often blamed upon a late introduction to the field or a lack of resources early on. So to address some of these problems, Abigail Seldin and her team of power women at Innovation Lab who are working to make college more affordable through the power of consumer tech. At the forefront of their efforts is College Abacus, a free online tool made possible by the nonprofit education entity ECMC. By giving prospective college students and their families deeper insights into the true cost of institutions, Seldin told me via email that she feels her team has created “the of college financial aid.” The tool calculates its results based off the net prices of over 5,100 colleges across the U.S., allowing rising college freshmen to “calculate and compare their individualized financial aid options across schools all in one place, all at one time.” More impressive still, Seldin’s tool is the only one “to access the net price calculators of schools directly and is one of only a few tools to integrate data from the White House’s College Scorecard initiative released this fall.” Seldin recognized the need for such a resource after speaking with her mother-in-law, who serves a university president and has thus seen firsthand the “incredible stress and anxiety” families of first-year students face, especially when financial aid is a serious consideration. Today, Americans collective owe over $1.3  trillion  in student loan debt and college tuition is around 12 times higher than it was a single generation ago, Seldin points out, creating an even more pronounced need for a platform like College Abacus. “Higher education has always been a ladder to economic opportunity in America, and that’s especially true today,” Seldin told me. “Though there is a lot of chatter about the value of a college education, we know that the majority of American employers now require a college degree.” And although she notes that your major doesn’t have to translate directly to your career path, she adds, “… you do need to be able to understand the world around you and think both creatively and critically.” Related : Up Next aims to make sure students make a smooth transition to college by texting them “Women in particular can use credentials to break down preconceptions around competence that can prevent them from advancing professionally,” she continued. “Even in our digital age, these biases continue to manifest and hold many women back, and a strong track record that includes education serves as both an important “offense” to help open doors and a critical “defense” to keep them from closing.” As a female entrepreneur, Seldin has often come across these biases, despite noting that both the “education and access communities are typically more gender-balanced.” Recalling her frustrations around traditional gender roles within her professional career, Seldin said, “At times, some have questioned the substantiveness of my role in the company compared to that of my husband — and College Abacus co-founder — even after I began leading College Abacus full-time and he kept his day job.” But considering the incredible women with which Seldin is surrounded on a daily basis, she says that she’s “both hopeful and optimistic that these dynamics will continue to equilibrate over time.” Surrounding herself with a diverse crowd, however, is a conscious decision on Seldin’s part. Noting that it’s “critical for all employers to promote diversity in their staff,” the entrepreneur believes, “Not only does it make for a better workplace culture and often a better product, it’s a signal to your users that you care about and understand their own diverse needs and perspectives.” Ultimately, catering to a homogenous user group is simply an unstrategic decision, Seldin says. “I think there’s a growing acknowledgement that successful companies employ people who are similar to their target users.” Particularly as it pertains to College Abacus, the co-founder points out that having diverse backgrounds and perspectives around the table have been instrumental in understanding the issue at hand. Indeed, without her multifaceted team, many of the innovative solutions College Abacus has pushed forward may not have been possible. So for the young women looking to create meaningful startups of their own, what advice does Seldin have to offer? “First,” she says, “identify a problem that no one is addressing effectively and come up with a way to solve it.” Second, “define what success means to you. Success isn’t necessarily about attaining a $1 billion valuation; it could mean achieving a stable business, completing a quick exit, generating strong returns for your investors or delivering a consistent and quality product to your users.” And last but not least, Seldin says, be sure to stress test a new idea. Imperative to a young company’s success, she says, is understanding “the potential vulnerabilities in their plans while they still have the time and available resources to address them.” So young ladies, get yourself to college with College Abacus, and then follow Abigail Seldin’s road all the way to the top.”
GW's endowment sees minimal growth
by The GW Hatchet
Feb 07, 2016
“Media Credit: Yonah Bromberg Gaber | Hatchet Designer
GW’s endowment grew by less than 3 percent last fiscal year, a significant drop from the previous year.
Those returns were slightly higher than the national average of 2.4 percent, the lowest return since 2012, according to new data. Experts said the sharp decline is due to a variety of global factors like a slump in oil prices and the economic downturn in China.
GW’s endowment – a financial foundation used to fund professorships, scholarships and construction projects – totals about $1.6 billion. In fiscal year 2014, it grew by 14.6 percent as healthy markets bolstered investments across the country.
The returns last fiscal year were also far lower than the 7.5 percent growth endowments need in order to “maintain their purchasing power,” according to the report. The returns were released last week in an annual survey of 812 institutions from the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
Harvard and Yale universities and the University of Texas system saw the largest returns – though all three also have the largest endowments in the country, according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Harvard University’s endowment is nearly $36 billion, an amount that has been buoyed by massive donations, like a $400 million donation last summer.
The majority of participants in the Nacubo study, about 80 percent, reported increasing endowment spending – despite the decline. Among the schools that increased spending, the median increase was about 8.8 percent, according to the report.
University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said capital markets performed poorly in fiscal year 2015 compared to the year before, which accounted for the lower returns. She said that because of GW’s long-term investment strategy, a year of lower returns will not hamper future growth.
“The endowment is invested with a long-term horizon to ensure that it will grow at a rate above inflation after spending, which it has done over the last five- and 10-year periods,” Csellar said. “We are pleased that our endowment continues to support students and faculty and provide them with a world-class learning experience,” she said.
Still, lower-than-expected returns can hurt institutions, which typically rely on endowments for about 10 percent of their operating funds, according to the Nacubo report.
“Lower returns may make it even tougher for colleges and universities to adequately fund financial aid, research, and other programs that are very reliant on endowment earnings and are vital to institutions’ missions,” Nacubo President and CEO John Walda said in the report.
GW’s endowment grew by 5 percent in fiscal year 2013, a smaller amount than those of its peer schools. Returns fell by 2.3 percent the previous fiscal year.
Georgetown, Northwestern and New York universities had the highest returns among GW’s 14 peer schools last fiscal year – about 5 percent each. Northwestern University’s $10.1 billion endowment is roughly six times the size of GW’s.
Ken Redd, director of research and policy analysis at Nacubo, said that if lower returns continued, institutions may have to lower endowment spending, “which of course would be felt by students.”
“Right now it is still too early to tell if lower returns will continue for the rest of this year or into next year,” he said.
Despite this year’s lower returns, Redd said that 78 percent of schools increased their spending for financial aid, research and other support services. He said that spending helps students and faculty feel secure, and shows that lower returns do not have an immediate effect on a university’s operating budget.
Between 2010 and 2015, GW’s endowment grew by nearly half a billion dollars. But, its size ranks No. 9 among its 14 peer schools.
About 40 percent of GW’s endowment is made up of investments in real estate – far higher than the national average of about 6 percent, Redd said. But real estate investments can be a risk because they are not easily sold off if an economy declines .
GW outsourced the management of its endowment in 2014 to the Arlington-based firm Strategic Investment Group. About 43 percent of the institutions Nacubo surveyed had also outsourced management, a percentage that did not change from the previous year.
Cristian Tiu, a professor of finance at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said real estate investments can underperform in years of low economic growth, hurting institutions that are heavily invested in that area. Still, he said one year of poor performance is not necessarily a signal of future trouble.
“I wouldn't be worried if the returns in one particular year were low,” he said.
Avery Anapol contributed reporting.”

Elias Economou: It's a privilege to receive help paying for college
by The GW Hatchet
Feb 07, 2016
“Read an opposing viewpoint to this piece by opinions writer Nate Muramatsu here .
If someone handed you $60,000 every year, you probably wouldn’t take it for granted. Most of us would likely put that money to good use, and wonder how we ever managed to get along without it. At the very least, we would say, “Thank you.”
While that’s more like a scene out of a dream than anything that would ever happen in real life, some students come close. Many students, myself included, are lucky enough to receive help from parents or family when it comes to paying tuition, at least partially.
The concept of financially capable parents helping to fund their children's college education dates back to a court case from 1982. The topic also came up in December 2014, when a student sued her parents because they were not paying for her to go to college – and astonishingly, she won. But I think families should not be obligated to pay for their 18-year-old to attend college – it's a privilege, not a right.
To be a full-time student living on GW’s campus, it can cost more than $62,000. It’s a huge sacrifice for a family to put a student through school at a place like GW.
While I can’t imagine going a single day without thinking about how grateful I am for my family’s help, some students don’t see it that way. In fact, some students feel entitled to that money, and see it as a right rather than a privilege. Instead, they should understand that they’re incredibly lucky for all of the help they receive – because really, their families don’t have to help them at all.
When you have help paying for your tuition, it’s easy to forget that not everyone does. There are plenty of students, both at GW and elsewhere, who are completely on their own. Of course, most of them have scholarships and financial aid – but what’s left is up to them. So instead of spending extra time studying, going to parties or exploring D.C., there are a lot of students who have to work, sometimes two or three jobs, so they can continue going to class. Maybe some of their families would help them if they could, but they can’t afford to do so.
Meanwhile, other students’ families choose to help them – even if that means making sacrifices and trimming their own budgets. That’s not something that anyone should take lightly. Those of us with help should remember those sacrifices every time we pass on studying to go out with friends, or take assignments less seriously because we’d rather enjoy the weekend. Instead, having help should make us work harder and make the most of every opportunity.
Children whose parents are paying more for their education have lower GPAs, according to a study by a professor at the University of California, Merced. While that may be true, those students’ grades may have been lower because they took the help for granted and didn’t feel pressure to do well. But because my family helps me pay for college, I am motivated to work harder so that their sacrifice is worth it. And more students should have that attitude. The study also showed that students who received help were more likely to graduate – students should be thankful for that support.
We have fewer than 100 days left before Commencement, and every speech that weekend will remind students of the great times they had at GW. They will think about everything in between that day and the first time they came to D.C – their first college party, first paper, first midterm, first time away from home.
And, who do they have to thank? Their families. But students shouldn’t wait until May to say thank you. Their education is a privilege, and family support is a gift. And it’s more than a thank you and a hug after graduation: It’s a deeper understanding of the sacrifices their parents took to send them to school.
Remember that there are plenty of reasons why parents may choose to not help their children pay for college. Families often have more than one child that they need to support, and paying all or part of tuition for multiple children is a huge financial burden. That doesn’t even include all of the other expenses parents or caregivers can encounter – from paying for their housing and food, to perhaps paying off their own college loans.
In reality, it may actually be easier for families to justify not helping children with their tuition, rather than paying for it. They might feel a student who pays their tuition on their own learns financial responsibility and can master the balance of work and school.
There are plenty of reasons for our families to cut us off and leave us to figure out our debt on our own. But most of them haven’t – and that isn’t something we should never forget.
Elias Economou, a junior majoring in finance, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.”

Staff Editorial: Right now, affordability isn't a reasonable goal for GW
by The GW Hatchet
Jan 25, 2016
““Affordability” is a buzzword in higher education. Over the past few years, schools across the country have pledged to make their degrees more affordable. Presidential candidates have promised to make public universities less expensive. Students talk about affordability on social media, and compare the debt they expect to incur after graduation.
Of course, GW hasn’t been left out of the conversation. Two years ago this month, University President Steven Knapp tasked a group of staff and administrators with making GW more accessible for low-income students. The task force met for about a year, interim Provost Forrest Maltzman said in an email.
During that time, the task force encouraged the University to adopt a test-optional admission policy, announced a program that will give full-tuition scholarships to 10 low-income students and created a grant scholarship for D.C. students. Officials also recently “expanded” a division of the admissions office to focus on ensuring that students who come to GW succeed here, Maltzman said.
But unfortunately, GW is no more affordable than it was two years ago, and the task force hasn’t done much to change that. The financial aid pool has continued to grow, but GW is still an expensive option for most students who go here and families who consider it. That may be because at the moment, there isn’t much the University can do to make itself more affordable – and it shouldn’t even try.
Analyzing the work of the affordability task force, and GW’s overall affordability efforts, seems especially important considering GW’s most recent surprise announcement: Dean of Admissions Karen Stroud Felton will resign at the end of the semester. Felton was a member of a group of officials focused on making GW more accessible, and has been one of the administrators setting GW’s admissions-related policies for the last five years.
As students, we understand that it’s frustrating and disheartening to attend such an expensive school in an expensive area. While some University officials earn high salaries and continue to raise tuition, it feels like we’re being ignored – like the debt many students are in now and will be in in the future are unimportant. That frustration leads to angry Facebook statuses and tweets about how much we’re paying and what appears to be the University’s unwillingness to make GW more affordable.
But it isn’t necessarily the case that GW is simply unwilling to lower tuition: In fact, the University cannot lower tuition right now, and negative financial consequences would unfold if it did. GW relies on tuition to make up 75 percent of its revenue. That means lowering the amount students pay is impossible because GW needs that money to even exist. Rather, tuition increases are probably more likely, especially since tuition has increased for incoming students by about 3 percent every year for the last eight years.
We’ve seen the impact of lower-than-projected revenues play out already: After an enrollment decline in graduate and professional programs meant officials missed their budget projections last fiscal year, GW cut 5 percent from administrative divisions last year and accepted 45 percent of this fall’s freshman class to help increase revenue.
Right now, affordability is out of GW’s hands. Knapp announced yet another round of budget cuts in December that will require all divisions within the central administration – that includes admissions, fundraising and Title IX – to trim 3 to 5 percent from their budgets each year for the next five fiscal years.
Even though Knapp said these new cuts will only affect administrative units, it doesn’t mean that academic programs and departments are safe from harm: We’ve already seen cutbacks in some of those areas. The only way for GW to avoid cutting departments and programs students care about – like the music department and women’s studies and creative writing programs – is to dig itself out of its tuition-reliant hole.
As students, we need to accept this. It’s pointless to call on GW to do the impossible, or to complain that we’re paying too much without understanding the problem. Of course students have the right to be frustrated that meals are expensive, programs that are important to them are being trimmed down, or that it will take a long time to pay off their student loans. But right now, we have to let officials do what they need to in order to save the University in the future, and accept that making GW more affordable might not be on that agenda.
We, unfortunately, need to reconcile the fact that there isn’t one person we can blame for this. Back in the 1980s, tuition skyrocketed because GW grew – grew in campus size, student body, faculty – and perhaps too fast. Between 1988 and 2007, tuition nearly tripled, beginning at $14,000 and increasing to $39,000 according to Washington Monthly.
But we aren’t the only university dealing with these problems, which Knapp acknowledged when he announced the budget cuts in December. GW’s tuition – which crossed $50,000 last year – is already high, and family incomes are not growing at a fast enough rate. That means that even though officials want to see GW grow, they have to be cognizant of not maxing out their customers. This is a systemic national problem, not just a GW problem.
Unfortunately, sacrificing affordability likely also means sacrificing some socioeconomic and racial diversity at GW. We understand that diversity is a cornerstone of a well-rounded education and an essential part of student life. And of course it’s promising that GW would assemble a task force to make itself more affordable for lower-income and minority students. But keeping tuition revenue steady should be the University's top priority – at least for right now.
Easing tuition costs or granting students more money won’t fix the University’s budget crisis. In fact, it will worsen it. So in the meantime, we just need to ride out the storm, rather than demanding affordability that may never come.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Sarah Blugis and contributing opinions editor Melissa Holzberg, based on discussions with sports editor Nora Princiotti, design editor Samantha LaFrance, copy editor Brandon Lee, assistant sports editor Mark Eisenhauer and managing director Eva Palmer.
Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.”

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