The Complete Menu of Federal Financial Aid

Financial aid can basically be broken down into four different categories: grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans. Grants and scholarships are the best, and make up a relatively small part of the funds available to you. Work-study programs provide undergraduate students the opportunity to earn money by working a part-time job while they’re in college. There are also a number of low-interest government education loans to consider applying for, and these loans make up the majority of financial aid.

EDUCATION GRANTS

Education grants are sums of money awarded to students based on their financial need. The money you receive from a grant is truly a gift, meaning it does not have to be repaid. Pell grants are the most common education grant awarded. They are available only to undergraduate students and the maximum amount you can receive for the 2013-2014 school year is $5,645 per year. For the 2014-2015 school year the maximum amount you can receive will be raised to $5,730. Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are university-based federal government grants that are based on financial necessity and provide amounts from $100 up to $4,000 per year.
Good advice isn’t always expensive. In fact sometimes it’s free.

SCHOLARSHIPS

If you have an exceptional academic record, or are extremely talented in a specific extracurricular activity such as a sport, music, art, poetry, drama, debate, chess, public speaking, etc. you may want to consider applying for scholarships. Scholarships are awarded to students based on outside-the-classroom skills and have nothing to do with how much money the student’s family has. This means even if your family is very well off financially you can still receive free money to go to school through scholarships. The idea behind these programs is that exceptional skill deserves recognition inside and outside the classroom, and regardless of income. There are thousands of scholarships awarded every year by thousands of private, non-profit organizations, such as the Bill Gates Foundation, however scholarships only make up about 5% of the total financial aid given out each year.

ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS

Often times colleges want specific players to play for their team and they make this happen by offering scholarships to athletes with exceptional talent. Unfortunately these scholarships are quite rare, and very hard to get – harder than many high school coaches allow student athletes and their parents to believe. Scholarships are well publicized, so people always hear about them, but the truth is very few people get them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go for an athletic scholarship if you have the skills, it just means you should be realistic about how likely it is, and certainly shouldn’t rely on it as your primary means of financing your education.

MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS

Scholarships are usually given to well-rounded students with numerous skills, but if you have a specific talent, such as playing the guitar, you may be able to find a college that will pay for a part or all of your education by awarding you with what’s called a merit-based scholarship. These scholarships award students based on exceptional skills as well as other personal qualifications which vary for each scholarship. There are still more athletic scholarships given out each year in comparison to merit scholarships but the number is slowly increasing. The truth of the matter is it’s hard to get any kind of scholarship, and colleges consider multiple variables when they consider you for a scholarship such as your grade point average (GPA), areas you may excel in such as music or sports, and whether or not you have demonstrated leadership qualities, or other qualities deserving of attention.

LOW-INTEREST LOANS

Federal student loans are the most common way students pay for college. The loans do have to be repaid, and there is interest, but the terms are better than most other loans you can get at a bank. Repayment for a student loan doesn’t usually start until after you’ve graduated from college. Also, the interest rates are very low, and the loans aren’t based on your credit history.

FEDERAL DIRECT LOAN PROGRAM

Most colleges nowadays participate in the Federal Direct Loan Program. These are considered “direct” because the schools rather than banks act as the lending institution and the money is provided by the federal government directly. The process is faster and simpler than the traditional Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and therefore some students prefer these Federal Direct Loans.

FAMILY EDUCATION LOANS

The lion share of federal government student loans come from the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). Unlike the Federal Direct Loan Program where the college is the lender, in the FFELP private lenders such as banks and credit unions provide, manage, and profit, by funding these loans. However the federal government uses tax dollars to guarantee the loans, which keeps the interest rates low because the loans are basically carrying zero risk – if the borrower ends up being unable to repay the loan the government will end up repaying the loan for them. (When this happens the borrower’s credit record is still damaged).

STAFFORD LOANS

Both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans are available through the loan programs mentioned above, the FFELP and Federal Direct Loan Program. A subsidized Stafford loan means that the government will pay the interest that accrues on the loan until the student (the borrower) graduates. An unsubsidized Stafford loan means the student is responsible for paying the interest for the life of the loan, including before graduation. Your eligibility for a subsidized Stafford loan in based on your financial need. The amount of money you can borrow depends on whether or not you are a dependent, or independent student. If you are a dependent student you can borrow up to $5,500 each year. Independent students can borrow up to $10,500.

PARENT LOANS

Also available through the FFELP and Federal Direct Loan Program are PLUS loans, which stands for Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students. Basically your parents can borrow up to the total amount of your education costs, less the amount of any financial aid you have received. Unlike other student loans, PLUS loans require a credit check and approval is not guaranteed. The lender, either the government for direct loans, or the bank for FFELP loans, must be willing to lend your parents the money based on their credit rating and ability to repay the loan.

PERKINS LOANS

If you are an undergraduate student or graduate student that demonstrates great financial need you can take advantage of a Perkins Loan, which is a campus-based loan where the school functions as the lender. A portion of the funds come from the college and the remainder comes from the federal government. The maximum annual loan amounts are $4,000 for undergrads and $6,000 for graduate students.

WORK-STUDY PROGRAMS

Work-study programs are basically part-time jobs available to students, but the money you’re being paid for working comes from the federal government. The typical time commitment is 15 to 20 hours per week. The jobs always pay minimum wage or higher. Sometimes the job will be related to your field of study, and sometimes it will be completely unrelated. For example you might be able to get a job driving a golf cart around campus to deliver the school newspaper. In order to qualify for a work-study program job you’ll have to be enrolled at least part time in an undergraduate or graduate program, and you will have to demonstrate financial need. The jobs available are usually on campus, but not always – sometimes they are off-campus jobs available through community service programs. Work-study programs are great because it allows you to earn money on campus, which is convenient, and unlike a loan the money will never have to be repaid. It’s possible that your college won’t allow freshman to participate in work-study programs so you’ll have to check with your school’s financial aid officer about what’s available.

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Grants to Start a Small Business: Finding Start-Up Capital

Take a poll among any number of individuals hoping to start a business and ask them what is keeping them from actually doing it. At least five times out of ten, the answer would be insufficient capital to get things off the ground. The truth is that finding start-up money is one of the most challenging aspects of putting up a business, despite what the so-called business-financing “experts” have to say. These self-proclaimed insiders often hold seminars from one city to another, raring to share the secret to obtaining government grants for small business capital. They would have you think that the process is so easy that they can actually file everything on your behalf to spare you from dealing with the necessary bureaucracy for just a one-time upfront assistance fee (of course!).

We sincerely hope that you’re not pinning your entrepreneurial dreams based on these too-good-to-be-true claims because as far as government business grants are concerned, the odds of winning one is just too poor. First of all, there are just too few grants to go around; unless your business proposal is so unique and game-changing, you probably won’t even get through the pre-screening process for application. Sadly, the government just doesn’t have a lot of money to give away, even if it’s for worthy endeavors. The grant money that does happen to be available are typically allocated for highly specialized niches such as socially-relevant research and issues. Starting a new business just doesn’t fall into either category.

If you have ever inquired about this with the United States’ Small Business Administration (SBA), then you already know all this. In fact, the SBA gets several queries a day about entrepreneurial financial assistance. Their official response is that the SBA does not provide any grants to start or even expand small businesses.

It can be a bit disheartening to be told this, but we do have some good news: while the SBA is a dud as far as small business grants goes, there are viable alternatives. One of these is the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program which has been providing venture financing to more than 90,000 small businesses since it was established in 1958. Unlike run-of-the-mill venture capitalists which will demand quick returns on their investment, SBICs maintain a unique and successful partnership with the U.S. government; their purpose is to provide venture capital and start up financing to small business all over the country. This kind of funding allows small entrepreneurs a more beneficent opportunity to grow their business.

SBICs are privately owned and managed investment firms that are licensed and regulated by the SBA. There are around 450 SBICs established all over the United States as of the present. In over 50 years of existence, the SBIC program has released almost $30 billion in the form of loans and equity investments to qualified petitions. In fact, many of the established brand names today actually started out using seed money from SBIC, such as America Online, Apple Computer, Callaway Golf, Federal Express, Gymboree, Outback Steakhouse, Staples, Sports Authority, etc.

Despite the massive resources as its disposal, knowledge of the SBIC program has remained to be kept away from the general public, simply because the industry of venture financing happens to be highly competitive. As expected, many of those who expect to benefit from the SBIC program have been motivated to keep it as a secret, to prevent potential rivals from gaining the same advantage. All in all though, it has worked out for the greater good as a low-profile have helped keep it from high-risk prospects.

NetSpend beginnings

One of the more impressive up-and-coming ventures that obtained SBIC funding is NetSpend Holdings, a company that has now become a leader in the prepaid debit industry.  NetSpend cards are currently being sold in more than 62,000 locations all over the country, certainly a far cry from its humble beginnings in a one-bedroom Austin apartment back in 1999. This success story of brothers who transplanted their families from Mexico to Texas has a very sweet ending: last month, the company was bought out by payment processor TSYS for $1.4 billion in hard cash. The money move? Back in 2000, brothers Roy and Bertrand Sosa realized that the company was on the verge of exploding and they got several SBIC to accelerate their growth. By 2012, NetSpend had expanded into a 500-employee company. That same year, they posted a revenue of $351.3 million.

Moving unto bigger and better things

One of the reasons why SBIC have achieved a great track record in powering small ventures into the big-time is that policies and investment decisions are made by qualified private fund managers. It goes without saying that SBIC are entirely free to invest in whatever area of interest they deem feasible. Some SBICs prefer to invest generally, while others prefer to pick a particular industry where their managers have expertise. There are even Specialized Small Business Investment Companies (SSBICs) who chose to deal exclusively with small business applications from entrepreneurs who come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Do note, however, that if there are any concerns that your primary business activity is contrary to public interest, you cannot qualify for venture funding through the SBIC program.

Although the government regulates the SBICs, it does not make direct investments nor meddle in the process of selecting eligible ventures. However, the U.S. government is actually the largest single investor when it comes to private equity funds. That’s because for every dollar that the SBIC invests in a business, the SBA matches it with two. The form of SBA funding available to a particular SBIC varies, and it will affect the type of investments they can engage in.

How to get in touch with SBICs

The National Association of Small Business Investment Companies (NASBIC) is a good place to begin your search, as is the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC). The NAIC is particularly oriented to provide financing for minority-owned businesses.

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Career Specific Grants

Profession-Specific and Subject-Specific Grants

As the United States struggled to come out of the recent economic recession, a lot of people have found themselves suddenly unemployed as businesses all over the country failed. In many cases, even the corporate elite were not able to escape unscathed. However, despite the downturn, there were some professionals who found themselves securely entrenched in their jobs not so much because of tenure or skill but simply because they were working in fields with a high level of demand. Nursing and education are two of such fields, and the shortage of new hires continues up to the present. In fact, the shortage is so dire that government and private agencies are offering profession-specific grants to encourage more college students to enroll in these courses.
If you are sincerely interested in studying to become a teacher or a nurse (or other professions where there is currently a great hiring shortage) profession-specific grants can be a way for you to receive a good university education without resorting to student loans. Many of these grants are based on need, while others will have additional criteria for awarding such as scholastic achievement, proof of community involvement, etc. There are even grants reserved for those willing to serve in high-need areas after graduation.

Consider these figures: the average total cost of a four-year study in a public college is around $20, 000. For students enrolled in a private college or university, the cost can reach $30, 000 or even higher. Since not everybody is fortunate enough to easily afford these fees out of pocket, many students and their families are searching for ways to come up with the money for a college education.

A good way to start your search for educational funding is to get in touch with the local chapter of the Student Assistance Commission, or alternatively, the financial aid office in your college. Both venues will have a lot of information on what’s available from both federal and private sectors. When it comes to looking for profession-specific grants, don’t be timid about casting about for opportunities: you will never know what kind of financial assistance you could be eligible for if you don’t ask.
Some grants are given to students based on need, which means that you will have to demonstrate that you cannot otherwise afford to pursue your education without financial assistance. Other grants are merit-based, meaning that they are awarded to students who meet certain academic performance criteria. Some will also be based on a combination of need and merit.

To help you get started in your search, we provide an overview of the most popular options:

Federal Profession-specific Grants

To apply for federal grants, you will need to fill up a document called the Free Application for Student Aid or FAFSA. FAFSA forms are distributed after January 1. Before applying for and accepting grant awards using FAFSA, make sure that you have understood all attached conditions, especially any post-graduate commitments such as years of service.

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program is a profession-specific federal grant. TEACH Program awardees can receive up to $4,000 in student aid. To qualify for this grant, you should be prepared to teach in low-income school districts and major in high-need fields of study such as special education, foreign languages, science and math, etc. for at least four academic years. The U.S. Department of Education will determine which school districts are to be classified as high-need; in general, these are the ones serving low-income and minority populations. You will be asked to sign a contract to this effect. In the event that a TEACH grant awardee belatedly decides not to comply with the conditions of the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve, then the money received is converted into a federal loan. A six-month grace period will be given on the loan before entering repayment status.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) awards nursing scholarships for nursing students who commit to a 2-year service term in a critical shortage health care facility. The scholarship is provided in the form of a monthly allowance plus tuition and other fees.

To qualify for the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grant, you have to meet the following pre-screening criteria: (1) you must be a Pell awardee; (2) you must be a third- or fourth-year college student majoring in science, technology, engineering and math; (3) you must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher; (4) must be enrolled in at least one class in the eligible field of study on the year that the granted will be awarded; and (5) you must demonstrate a need for additional funding beyond the assistance provided by the Pell grant.

Students who win a SMART scholarship get up to $4000 for each year of study. This scholarship is part of a national effort to boost the number of students in the STEM subjects, since the United States is already falling behind other countries in terms of the number of professional degree holders in these subjects.

Aside from federal funding, there are also certain state incentives for going into careers that have a high local demand. A good example of this is the Illinois Future Teacher Corps (IFTC) Program for third- to fourth-year students who are planning to stay and teach in Illinois after teacher certification. Indicating your intention to seek assignment in Illinois school districts with high teacher churn will increase your chances of being awarded.

School-Awarded Career Grants

Another source of possible funding is specialty colleges. If you already have your heart set to follow a certain career, then your search for funding should include community and technical colleges that specialize in the field you are interested in. Many of these colleges have grant funds set up by specific departments or by the alumni body. The University of Minnesota (UM), for instance, has grants under the administration of the Women’s Center. UM students, staff, and even faculty members who want to pursue women’s studies and related special projects with the aim of enhancing the campus climate for women are eligible to apply for these grants.

For those who are working towards post-graduate degrees or research, there are also grants or fellowships available for almost any field of study. These grants can be used for endeavors that will give you valuable experience and enhance your professional credentials, such as internships, academic research, and other career advancement activities. Law school students and alumni of Santa Clara University who are interested in pro bono activities and other volunteer positions for summer and the interim can apply for said funding.

Just like nurses and teachers, the supply of social workers in the United States has fallen so far behind the actual demand. For post-graduate students who are considering this field, The Licensed Mental health Services Provider Educational Program awards as much as $15, 000 to doctoral level students who are already a licensed mental health practitioner with a practice in a high-demand area of mental health in California. The amount is intended to be used towards the repayment of student loans.

Grant Opportunities from Outside Organizations

Aside from federal agencies, private groups, and schools who provide financial assistance to qualified college students, there are many outside organizations that are also willing to do the same. Some notable organizations include:
• The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities (NFAH) –the NFAH has opportunities available for students who intend to pursue a career in library science;
• The National Association of Black Journalists – offers several grants for black student journalists who are also association members of good standing;
• Corporations – generally offer funding for training and professional development activities to valuable and loyal employees and other beneficiaries. For example, the popular Denny’s chain offers a one-time need- and merit-based scholarship award worth anywhere between $500- $5000 to full-time college undergraduates majoring in business, marketing, or entrepreneurship.

Whether you are just starting college or in the process of studying for a career change, one of the first things you need to do when searching your grant opportunities is to exhaust all possible options within your reach, especially those being awarded through local channels. The truth is that there are many grant opportunities available no matter which area of study you are interested in.
Different awarding organizations will have various requirements after the period of study has been completed: some will require you to render year/s of service while others will ask nothing more from you except maybe try to pay it forward. Many, however, are classified as grant-for-service programs, which are also known as award-for-service programs. The purpose of these is two-fold: (1) they provide talented students with the financial aid that they need to complete their training in high-need areas of study; and (2) they are effective means to ensure that talented professionals are retained in the communities where they are much needed. A grant agreement is a binding contract; you should only enter in it if you are ready to commit to fulfilling all conditions that have been outlined. Otherwise, any money awarded will revert to a standard student loan; you are expected to pay the principal amount plus the interest.

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Tips For Applying For Government Jobs

How to Land a Government Job

Working for the government used to be seen as a dead end because it offered lower compensation and reduced possibilities for advancement and promotion. For those on the fast track to success, climbing the corporate ladder was the way to go and working for a public office was virtually career suicide. Government employees were often portrayed as unmotivated bureaucrats who clocked out at the dot of five.

However, recent economic developments changed all that, and now government positions are considered as plum posts. First of all, the economic recession saw a massive amount of private sector jobs falling prey to downsizing and pay cuts. As the federal government is virtually the only one who is hiring, displaced employees who previously looked down on public service jobs are now changing tack. After all, compared to the prospect of unemployment, being a pencil pushing bureaucrat is not really that bad. Second, the US government estimates that more than 270,000 jobs will be opening up during the next three years. This is largely due to the fact that the baby boomers are going to be hitting retirement age during this time.

Third, compensation for federal jobs has become more competitive with those offered in the private sector. For instance, the potential pay for a computer and systems information manager with the Department of Homeland Security was recently listed at $160,000 a year. Meanwhile, by 2013, an average federal employee is expected to earn upwards of $75,000 annually. Given the extremely low risk of being fired, the regular eight-hour work days and the added benefits like pensions and health care, working for the federal government is clearly a rather smart move.

This is not news though; in fact, a lot of people have come to the same realization. As a result, competition for federal jobs have become more cutthroat, so much so that you even can find applicants with Ph.Ds lining up to get hired for any available position, including clerical or secretarial jobs. However, there are ways to get hired, if you are willing to do your leg work and not in a hurry to start working (getting a job offer can take as long as 4 months to a year after submitting your application). The following strategies below can help you land that government post.

Be ingenious about finding job openings

Here’s a tip: the law requires all federal agencies to publicly list any job openings. Now, virtually everybody uses the USAJOBS websites to post open positions but note that this is not mandatory. Therefore, some jobs may be listed elsewhere. It is always wise to check a specific agency’s website. For instance, the FBI and the federal courts favor using their own sites when advertising for job openings. Careers sections is different government portals can also give you some great leads.

Spread yourself out

As with any private sector gig, getting the inside track on a juicy position is all about knowing the right people. Networking with groups and other organizations relevant to your field is very helpful. Also try to attend regular job fairs and the other venues where you can interact with current government employees. Even if they may not have anything for you right now, they could potentially throw some insider tips your way when something does come up.

Contact a recruiter

Sometimes, getting in touch with a recruiter could get you on the right path to getting hired by Uncle Sam. Look for recruiters with a good placement record in government positions. You should also consider checking in with your college career services department.

Be in the right field

The Partnership for Public Service reveals that hundreds of thousands of government positions are going to be hiring within the next three years. There are going to be approximately 54,000 jobs available in the medical and public health field, while 52,000 positions will open in security and protection services. Other fields such as compliance and enforcement (31,000 job openings), legal (24,000 job openings) and administrative and program management (17,000 job openings) are also going to be wide open. And if you are contemplating joining the CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, the Justice Department or the Department of Veteran Affairs, you’re in luck—these agencies will likely add a lot of workers to their roll.

Make your application stand out

Given the stiff competition for job openings, your resume will only be one among thousands. Part of the reason why getting a job offer from the US government takes so long is that your application needs to make it through a lot of screenings.  This, your goal is to convince low-level screeners that you meet all minimum requirements and then impress the hiring managers who will be evaluating your candidacy at the later stages.

When writing your resume, make sure that you include critical requirements that are listed in the job listing. Applications for federal jobs are rated for suitability on a range of 1- 100 and automated software are often used for initial screenings. Including certain keywords can raise your score and get you through the next level. Use bullet points rather than narratives—this makes it easier for reviewers to run through.

Aside from the particular requirements for the specific position you are applying for, you can also leverage other related experiences such as past military service, volunteer positions, etc.

Lead them to the bottom line

You can better impress a hiring committee if you point out what makes you great. For example, cite specific contributions to the previous institutions you have previously worked for. Enumerate policy goals that you helped achieve, paint a clear picture of how much money you saved the company by expediting a process, etc. If the job you are applying for asks you to submit an essay in the form of a Knowledge Skills and Abilities (KSA) document, take it seriously and include all demonstrable skills relevant to the job. Don’t worry about taking up too much space, as a job application for a federal post is typically three to five pages.

Knock their socks off in the interview

If you have gotten as far as the personal interview, then you are doing great. The goal at this stage will be to impress them with your skills and ability to conduct yourself well. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that most federal personal interviews are generally conducted by a panel rather than just a single person. This actually works in your favor as it reduces the possibility of bias.

If the prospect of coming under multiple scrutiny fazes you, prepare yourself well. Ask your friends or family to help you practice so that you can feel more confident in this setting.

Generally, you will find a panel interview to be very systematic and organized. One person will pose his or her questions and then pass you along to the next panel member. The aim is to personally evaluate your suitability for the position you are applying for, so be ready for questions that clarify or elaborate on your profile and KSA forms. You may also be quizzed on past jobs and training. Sometimes, you would be thrown a hypothetical situation to help the panel gauge your responses to job-related issues.

You may find that the process of applying for a government job is more rigid and bureaucratic than its corporate counterpart but that it simply how it works. Nonetheless, given the chance at a stable and benefit-laden job, you would no doubt agree that it is certainly worth your best effort.

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How to go to College Without Taking Out Any Loans

If you would like to go to college but don’t have the money to bankroll your education, a better option would be applying for a student grant or a scholarship. Among college students who cannot afford to pay tuition out of pocket, roughly 40% of college students get by on grants.

A smaller number, about 2%, are able to get scholarships which are typically based on academic merits. The rest, which makes up the majority, ends up getting student loans which are then paid off for a given number of years after graduation. A study-now-pay-later option may be preferable than not going to college at all, but individuals who take out loans for college will have the burden of debt right around the time when their careers are taking off.

Unlike student loans which have to be paid back for a number of years after graduation, student grants and scholarships are given with no payment expected. However, student grants and scholarships are based on need and granted on a first-come, first-served basis which means that you have to qualify for financial assistance and you have to get your grant application in early before the funds are parceled out to other applicants.

We also want to stress that you should get an early start when looking for a college grant, because the application process is highly competitive. At the very least, your application needs to be sent in at least 12 months before you actually start attending school.

If you are still in high school, consult with your guidance counselor. He or she should be able to give a good idea of which grants you may be eligible for, as well as an overview of the application process. Some grants are also awarded to those who want a second degree, or to individuals who are deserving of assistance such as single parents. Financial need, meritorious achievement, ethnicity or disability are just some of the condition which can pre-qualify you. There are also grants given out based on the field of study, so your chosen major can also play a role.

Below are some major grants available in the US:

State Grants

As with most financial assistance packages for education, state grants are for students who cannot afford to pay for college on their own. Some may be given to encourage enrollment in certain areas of study. Your state’s student aid department or commission on higher education should have this information.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants

These are applied for through college financial aid offices and are reserved for applicants with the greatest need. They bestow anywhere from $100 to $4000 per eligible student.

Institutional Grants

Institutional grants are funded by the colleges themselves and are typically awarded when federal and state aid is not sufficient for the number of qualified applicants, or to encourage a certain candidate to enroll in their institution as in the case of a sought-after student. Usually, institutional grants are not applied for as it is the college’s prerogative to extend a grant offer but you can increase your chances of being offered an institutional grant if you target certain colleges who have an incentive to want you in their campus.

Federal Pell Grants

This grant program is most comprehensive in scope, being available in all the states within the country. A student can receive anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars in financial aid. Each eligible institution is allocated a fixed annual fund and given the discretion to dispose it according to federal guidelines. Once it runs out, it will not be replenished again until the following school year.

Supplementary Pell Grants

In 2006, there were several additional grants introduced for college students who were already receiving Pell benefits. Pell awardees who are majoring in math, science or social science may additionally qualify for the Academic Competitiveness Grant which bestows up to $750 for the first year and $1300 for the second year of study. Math and science majors are also eligible for the National SMART Grant, which can award up to $4000 yearly for the third and fourth years of study.

Applying for Aid

If you qualify for a grant, a key step is to apply early. Most colleges set the deadline for applications by the middle of February. However, note that by the time the deadline rolls around, most of the grant reserves have already been given out. You can actually submit applications as early as the first week of January.

Request a FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid) form through your school’s financial aid office or the US Department of Education at (800) 433-3243. Note that when you submit your accomplished FAFSA form (which can be done online), you will need to attach tax information as basis for eligibility.

Grant Processing

Once submitted, your grant application will be forwarded to a federal center and processed. There, your information will be taken into consideration so that the amount of financial need can be computed. The amount of grant money that you are entitled to will be computed based on this.

If you also intend to apply for state aid, get in touch with their student-aid offices. FinAid, the College Board, and the Department of Education are good venues to start with in doing your research. There are also private companies which give out college financial assistance. Your parents should check whether their employers provides grants to their employees’ dependents, like the CocaCola Corporation does.

The submission of forms and tax returns need to be done each year to ensure that your grant corresponds to the correct amount of financial need.

Final Notes

Most of the time, you will find that a college grant is not really enough to provide all of your education-related expenses. Therefore, you need to be proactive when it comes to looking for additional funding for your studies. You will often find that there are various offerings from institutions, the state or the federal government which cannot be used simultaneously. In other words, if you are already receiving a certain grant, you are disqualified from applying for another. In this case, refrain from lying or omitting information because it can count against you in the long run. If found out to have given fraudulent data, you could end up losing all benefits altogether and blacklisted.

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Tips With Regards to Filing for Unemployment

Most individuals who have involuntarily lost their jobs are qualified to receive unemployment benefits. The benefits may be claimed against an insurance policy, through a para-government entity or even through a union or labor group and is awarded for a prescribed number of weeks. Most of the time however, unemployment benefits are part of a social welfare package by the government.

It is always best to file your state unemployment benefits claim soon after losing your job because processing can take several weeks. Before you do so, read the following tips below.

1.       Ensure that your paperwork is complete

The Employment Development Department of California reveals that around 30% of all submitted paperwork are incomplete, which often causes delays in the processing. When filing unemployment papers, make sure to accomplish all forms completely and accurately. Your answers should be reasonably comprehensive and all items should be filled in. Don’t forget to recheck your answers for correctness. Typically, information that you will be required to provide will include your full name, social security number, employer information, the dates on which your job started and ended, as well as the reason why you lost your job.

2.       File where you paid taxes.

Unemployment benefits from the government are part of the privileges you get from paying income taxes. If your state of residence is a different one from where you worked, then the right state to file your claim will be the state where your wages were reported, not where you live.

3.       Opt for online processing

Most states now accept claims submissions online, which means that you can file anytime even after regular business hours. Sending your information through the internet will lessen the wait before you start receiving benefits, as compared to using direct mail.

4.       Don’t get cut off.

If you remain unemployment for more than a few weeks, you will need to get in touch with the unemployment to update them regarding your current situation. In some states, this needs to be done weekly or every other week. Most of these filing systems use automated phone software wherein you need to talk into the phone to record the information that you will provide. It is best to use landlines rather mobile phones for this purpose to reduce the risk of the call being cut off during recording.

5.       Know whether you qualify for other benefits.

Service members and personnel directly employed by the federal government are entitled to specialty benefits aside from the standard unemployment compensation. These benefits were not deducted from your pay but are subsidized by the federal government, so it varies from one state to another.

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Understanding the College Financial Aid Application Process

The first thing you need to know is that it’s not a good idea to sit back and relax while waiting around to get into college unless you have already completed BOTH the entire financial aid application process as well as applying to all the colleges you’re interested in attending. TONS of students make the mistake of only applying for one or the other (just applying for college, or just applying for financial aid) and then waiting around until the last minute to apply for the other. You’ve got to do both as early as you can and it will increase your chances of being accepted as well as getting the financial aid you need. Now… Colleges FIRST review the financial aid requests that are received from students who have already been admitted to the college. So, this means you should apply for the colleges you’re interested in as soon as you can (before applying for financial aid) and then apply for financial aid as soon as you’re allowed to do that. Later on in this article we will provide you with important dates and timelines for your specific state of residence.

There is no arguing the fact that applying for government education grants and loans can feel like a huge process, and an exhausting one, but it’s honestly not that bad. Just go over the information on this page a few times and speak to your Financial Aid Advisor (FAA) if you have any questions… Before you know it the process will start to make a lot more sense.

Step 1: Filling Out The Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Sometime between January 1 and March 1 you and your parents should fill out and submit the FAFSA so that you will be able to qualify for financial aid funding in September of the same year. All you really need is basic information about yourself, as well as your parents TAX RETURN from the following year in order to fill out the application. Your parents’ cut-off date for filing their tax return is April 15, but you will want to make sure that they don’t wait that long in order to file their return because it will be too late. You have to submit your FAFSA by March 1st at the latest so talk to your parents way before then and be sure they get their return filed in February at the latest.

Step 2: Going Over the Student Aid Report
Four to six weeks after submitting the FAFSA you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR), which will tell you what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is, and let you know whether or not you qualify for a Pell grant. Your EFC is calculated based on a number of variables such as your family’s household income, the size of your family, the number of siblings you have that are or will be attending college, assets, and whether you are a dependent or independent. Because the cost of attendance (COA) is different for every college your EFC will be different for each college.

Step 3: Count Your Chickens
The next step is to go over the letter(s) you will receive from the college(s) you’ve applied to or are already attending, which will tell you how much financial aid you qualify for. If you initially receive a rejection letter from the college you want to go to you can still negotiate an offer.

NOTE: Remember that income is only one of the criteria that colleges base your need for financial aid on. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to be “poor” in order to qualify for aid. Most of the time if a college’s COA is higher than whatever your family can pay (based on your EFC) you will qualify for financial aid to some degree.

NOTE: Don’t believe rumors that the amount of financial aid being made available to students is dwindling. Every year more and more tax payer money is being made available to pay for education.

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What Factors Determine Your Expected Family Contribution?

The objective of college financial aid programs is to ensure that the financial aid that is being made available with tax payer dollars will end up benefiting those who truly need it. For the most part, financial assistance for college is given out based on need. There is a standard formula used by colleges and universities to determine whether or not students will qualify for various forms of financial aid such as grants, loans, etc. The federal government requires all colleges providing assistance to use the standard formula.

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount of money that you and your family are expected to contribute towards the cost of your education per year. The standard formula mentioned above calculates your family’s EFC taking income, assets and expenses into calculation. Because the formula each school uses is the same your EFC should remain the same from school to school. You then subtract your EFC from the total cost of attending their college and that number is the estimated “need”. So the amount of need will vary from school to school based on the cost of tuition.

The standard formula also take into consideration the family’s equity in their home, the value of any family-owned businesses, savings, stock holdings, and other assets that might be sources of funds for education when determining a family’s or student’s need. And if any brothers and sisters of the student are in college and requiring the family’s financial support that will be taken into consideration as well. Remember that the lower your EFC is the higher your need will be and the more financial aid you can receive.
Merit-based financial assistance is money that’s given out to students who perform exceptionally well. Many colleges are against merit-based financial aid and therefore only provide need-based assistance. The argument for this is that merit-based assistance takes money away from students who truly need it and would have no chance of going to college without financial aid. To determine your eligibility for need-based aid simply subtract your Expected Family Contribution from the total cost of attending a specific college. The total cost is more than just the cost of tuition – it’s the cost of all related expenses such as books, supplies and room and board if you live on campus. If you don’t live on campus and you’ll be commuting to school then the cost of transportation is included as well.

If your family owns a home, has savings and assets, etc. it doesn’t mean that you won’t qualify for financial aid. It is a very common misconception that financial aid will only be offered to you when your family’s resources are completely used up. That is not the case. You will still most likely qualify for assistance because income is the major factor in determining the EFC. Only 6% of the parents’ assets are included in any given year.

Don’t decide not to explore a university or college just because it’s expensive. Colleges and universities that seem more expensive may actually have more money available to give towards financial aid, so you should always look into every college that interests you based on the assumption that you will receive financial aid if you apply for it. There are no guarantees that the college will be able to meet your need for financial assistance but it’s better to assume the money is available. Some colleges will pay the full need of some of the students who apply and other colleges will pay only a part of the need of every student who applies. It just depends on the college and there are never any guarantees.

When determining your Expected Family Contribution (the amount you are expected to pay) there are three basic family income groups… Low income families, middle income families, and wealthy families. You are definitely eligible for college financial assistance if your family’s income is under $25,000. If you are a parent and you consider yourself to be low income it is a good idea to explain to your children that they will be able to qualify for financial aid so that they don’t go through high school assuming that they can’t afford to go to college.

It’s important for middle income families to grasp where they stand in comparison to other families when applying for financial aid. This is especially true because a family’s household income isn’t necessarily the most telling number. The number of siblings in the family, number of children going to college, unusual expenses, savings and other assets CAN (not necessarily will be) taken into consideration. Nowadays 3 out of 5 families in the U.S. are considered middle income with incomes between $25,000 and $70,000. They will qualify for financial assistance from most colleges, but they are generally required to make a fairly large EFC.

20 percent of the population in the United States is considered “wealthy” and have household incomes above $70,000. Obviously these families are in the best position to make the largest EFC and for that reason it’s important to start planning and saving for college as early as possible if you fall in that category.

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Understanding Financial Aid For College

Anxiety over the decision of which college to attend, how to get accepted, and how to pay for it can get pretty intense for most students and their families. A little research and effort will go a long way towards making better college decisions, getting accepted, and perhaps most importantly securing the financial aid and/or grants to pay for your college education.

Coming up with the money to pay for education is normally not such a fun topic. But it’s a very important one. Too many students end up with inadequate college choices due to the lack of financial planning for college. The only way to be prepared for the future is gain as much understanding as possible regarding what it costs to go to college and what financial aid programs are available to you.

Basically, financial aid makes up the difference between what you or your family can afford to pay for college and what the total cost is for you to attend the college of your choice. The basic idea behind financial aid is that students who cannot afford to cover the full cost of their education should still be able to go. In the past, financial aid basically meant grants and scholarships, which are still very common, however nowadays government and private education loans are the main source of financial aid. This recent change in financial aid from grants to loans has resulted in some confusion and concern, mainly because college graduates end up having to pay off their education loans for years after graduating. And it’s not only the students. Even parents are borrowing money to help pay for their kids’ education needs.

If you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for your education you probably have a lot of questions. Is there money for everyone? Is there money for me? Where does it come from? The largest source of money for education comes from… Uncle Sam – the U.S. Federal government. This is called need-based aid because the more you need it the more you will qualify for. The money comes from tax dollars and majority of the money is made available by the Department of Education. Because the Federal government is the largest provider of student financial aid it will be hugely beneficial for you to know as much as possible about all of its financial aid programs.

The department of Education provides aid primarily through grant programs (free money that doesn’t have to be paid back). The money can be used for tuition, or for federally subsidized low-interest loans. The amount of money available for grants has decreased in recent years, and the amount of money available for loans has risen. However, one of the few things politicians agree on these days is that we need to continue increasing spending on education programs. Every year all of the government’s financial aid programs are listed and explained in a publication called The Student’s Guide: Federal Financial Aid Programs. You can have a copy sent to you by calling 1-800-4-FEDAID (1-800-433-3243). There is no fee to receive the guide. Keep in mind that the eligibility for these programs can change every year, so just because you didn’t qualify for program in the past doesn’t mean you won’t qualify this year.

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DMV Contact Information For All 50 States

Your state’s DMV will provide you with more than just vehicle registration and drivers license services. Your DMV will also provide you with organ donor information, voter registration resources, and access to numerous DMV employment opportunities.

Here is current DMV contact information for all 50 states:

Alabama Department of Public Safety
500 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104
(334) 242-4400

Alaska DMV – Dept. of Motor Vehicles
2150 E. Dowling Road
Anchorage, AK 99507
(907) 269-5551

Arizona Department of Transportation
Motor Vehicles Division
P. O. Box 2100
Mail Drop 500M
Phoenix, AZ 85001-2100
(602) 255-8152

Arkansas Office of Driver Services
7th & Wolfe Street
Joel Ledbedder Building, Room 126
Little Rock, AR 72203
(501) 682-7060

California DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles
2415 First Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95818
(916) 657-7677

Colorado Dept. of Revenue
Motor Vehicle Division
1881 Pierce Street
Lakewood, CO 80214
(303) 205-5600

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles
60 State Street
Wethersfield, CT 06161
(860) 566-4710

Delaware Dept. of Public Safety
Motor Vehicle Division
P.O. Box 698
Dover, DE 19903
(302) 739-2500

Columbia (District of Columbia)
Bureau of Motor Vehicle Services
301 “C” Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-2100
(202) 727-1159

Florida DMV – Dept. of Motor Vehicles
Driver Privacy Protection Act Requests
2900 Apalache Pkwy, Room B435
Neil Kirkman Bldg
Tallahassee, FL 32399
(850) 414-2426

Georgia Department of Public Safety
Driver Services Division
959 East Confederate Avenue SE
Atlanta, GA 30316
(404) 657-9300

Hawaii Motor Vehicle Safety Office
1505 Dillingham Boulevard
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 832-5820

Idaho Transportation Department
Division of Motor Vehicles
P. O. Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707-1129
(208) 334-8000

Illinois Motorist Services
Vehicle Services Department
Record Inquiry Section
501 South 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62756
(217) 782-6992

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
100 North Senate Avenue
Room N440
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 233-2349

Iowa Department of Transportation
Motor Vehicle Division
P. O. Box 9204
Des Moines, IA 50306-9204
(515) 237-3202

Kansas Department of Revenue
Division of Motor Vehicles
Sheila Walker
Topeka, KS 66626-0001
(913) 296-3660

Kentucky Division of Vehicle Licensing
Title Branch
P.O. Box 2014
Frankfort, KY 40602
(502) 564-5301

Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles
P. O. Box 64886
Baton Rouge, LA 70896
(504) 925-6335

Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Secretary of State
29 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0029
(207) 287-9006

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration
6601 Ritchie Highway
Glen Burnie, MD 21062
(410) 768-7274

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 199100
Boston, MA 02119-9100
(617) 351-4500

Michigan Department of State
Driver and Vehicle Records
7064 Crowner Drive
Lansing, MI 48918
(517) 322-1000

Minnesota Department of Public Safety
Driver and Vehicle Services
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
(612) 296-9525

Mississippi Driver Services Bureau
P. O. Box 958
Jackson, MS 39205
(601) 987-1200

Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles
P. O. Box 629
Jefferson City, MO 65105
(573) 751-4509

Montana Motor Vehicle Division
P. O. Box 201430
303 North Roberts
Helena, MT 59620-1430
(406) 444-4536

Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2281
TDD: (402) 471-4154

Nevada DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety
555 Wright Way
Carson City, NV 89711-0400
(702) 687-5505

New Hampshire Department of Safety
Division of Motor Vehicles
James H. Hayes Bldg
Ten Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03305
(603) 271-2589

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Services
225 East State Street
CN 160
Trenton, NJ 08666
1-888-486-3339
TDD: (609) 292-5120

New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Dept.
Motor Vehicle Division
P. O. Box 1028
Joseph Montoya Building
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1028
1-888-MVD-INFO

New York State Dept. of Motor Vehicles
6 Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12228
Upstate: 1-800-CALL-DMV
516, 914 area: 1-800-DIAL-DMV
212 area 645-5550, Spanish: 645-4465
718 area 966-6155, Spanish: 966-6230

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles
1100 New Bern Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27697
(919) 715-7000

North Dakota Driver’s License and Traffic
Safety Division
608 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismark, ND 58505-0700
(701) 328-2725

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
1970 West Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio 43223
(614) 752-7600
TDD: (614) 752-7681

Oklahoma Department of Public Safety
Accident Records Division
3600 North Martin Luther King Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73111
(405) 425-2000

Oregon DMV – Driver & Motor Vehicle Services Branch
1905 Lana Avenue
Salem, OR 97314
(503) 945-5000

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Driver and Vehicle Services
1101-1125 South Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104
(717) 391-6190
1-800-932-4600
TDD: 1-800-228-0676

Rhode Island Motor Vehicles
286 Main Street
Pawtucket, RI 02860
(401) 277-2970, ext. 2039

South Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles
P. O. Box 1498
Columbia, SC 29216
(803) 737-1654
1-800-442-1DMV

South Dakota Department of Revenue
Division of Motor Vehicles
445 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501-3185
(605) 773-5335

Tennessee Department of Safety
Driver License Issuance Division
1150 Foster Avenue
Nashville, Tennessee 37249-1000
(615) 741-3954
TDD: (615) 532-2281

Texas Department of Transportation
Correspondence Section
P. O. Box 12098
Austin, TX 78711-2098
(512) 465-7611

The Utah Driver License Division
4501 South 2700 West
Salt Lake City, Utah 84119
(801) 965-4437
(801) 965-4496 (fax)

Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles
State Office Building, 120 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05601
(802) 828-2000

Virginia DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles
P. O. Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269
(866) 368-5463 (Richmond & vicinity)
(757) 461-1919 (Tidewater)
(804) 309-1500 (Western Virginia)
(703) 761-4655 (Northern Virginia)

West Virginia DMV – Division of Motor Vehicles
1800 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25317
1-800-642-9066
(304) 558-3900

Washington Department of Licensing
1125 Washington Street, SE
P. O. Box 9020
Olympia, WA 98507-9020
(360) 902-3600
TDD (360) 664-8885

West Virginia DMV – Division of Motor Vehicles
1800 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25317
1-800-642-9066
(304) 558-3900

Wisconsin DMV – Division of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 7918
Madison, WI 53707-7918
(608) 266-1466

Wyoming Department of Transportation
Driver Services Division
P. O. Box 1708
Cheyenne, WY 82003-1708
(307) 777-4800

DMV History:

The DMV has come a long way since the beginning. There used to be very few vehicles, no license plates, and almost no rules of the road. State statutes of 1901 gave local city and county governments the authority to license bicycles, tricycles, automobile carriages, carts, and similar wheeled vehicles. In 1905 the Secretary of State was given the responsibility of the DMV and therefore had the jurisdiction to register and license automobiles. This was the first time a statewide system was put in place. Back then if you owned a vehicle you had to pay a $2.00 fee to get it registered, no matter what vehicle you owned. You would then be issued a small round tag which had to be placed on your vehicle in an obvious place. You would also have to display your license number on the backside of the vehicle, but not with a license plate. Instead you would simply paint 3 inch tall black letters and numbers over a white background. Some owners also painted their license number on the front headlight lenses. The DMV only required that any vehicle being registered had working headlights, brakes and some type of horn or bell for honking…

Updated DMV Info On Cell Phone Driving Laws:

5 states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have enacted jurisdiction-wide cell phone laws prohibiting driving while talking on hand held cell phones. Driving with a headset remains legal. Many other states ban cell phone use in specific situations. The DMV does not make or enforce laws regarding cell phone use while driving, or any other rules of the road.

Generally, state cell phone driving laws are based on issues specific to each state. For example, many states have decided that using a hand held cell phone while driving, especially by inexperienced drivers, is a serious safety problem and have thus made it illegal. In some states, localities restrict cell phone use through local ordinances or policies. Other states prohibit localities from implementing such ordinances. These are known as “Preemption Laws.”

DMV Frequently Asked Questions:

Do insurance companies always have the right to check my DMV record?
Yes. If you apply for car insurance, the insurance company can check your DMV record.

What shows on my DMV driving record if I get a ticket in a different state?
If you get a ticket for a moving violation in another state it only affects your DMV records in your home state. It shows up on your DMV record as though you go the ticket in your home state. However, there are two exceptions to this rule; Michigan and Wisconsin. These states do not participate in a non-resident violator compact agreement. In any of the other 48 states, a traffic violation will show up on your DMV records as though you got the ticket in your home state.

How many days do I have to transfer ownership of a vehicle I purchase or sell?
Buyer
In most states, if you purchase or acquire a vehicle from a private party, you have 10 days from the date of sale to report the change of ownership to the DMV. Transfer fees must be paid to DMV within 30 days of the purchase date, even if you do not have all of the required documents. Failure to pay your fees to DMV within 30 days will result in transfer and use tax penalties.

Seller
In most states if you sell or transfer ownership of a vehicle to another party, you have 5 days to report the transfer to DMV. You do this by completing a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability.

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