Posted On: 2006-01-06
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Good Friday, January 6, 2006. This is the Financial Aid Podcast #155. My name is Chris Penn welcoming you back or welcoming you for the first time to the Financial Aid Podcast. I hope you'll find it to be useful and reasonably entertaining. We got a lot to talk about today some financial aid stuff some seed money for foreign languages, information on an upcoming interview next week, a Scholarship Search Secrets update, some belt tightening measures for the new year about how to tone down your communication spending and of course some Podsafe Music at the end. We are still on the diet format for the show here so we're going get started with the news and move on right from there.
Topping the news today, lots of misinformation and inaccuracies in reporting about student loan eligibility in various papers. A lot of local papers are starting to pick up on the various FAFSA stories; that you need to be getting ready for your FAFSA and that you need to be applying for the 2006/2007 school year and there have been a couple of inaccuracies. One of the most glaring ones that I saw was a statement in some news paper in Des Moines, Iowa, what they said was that if you file your FAFSA that everyone is eligible for the Stafford Loan and that's not true. Everyone is eligible for the unsubsidized portion if you're an independent student or you're a dependant student and your parents have been turned down for the plus loan. However, the subsidized Stafford Loan, which is what the paper was referring to when you're talking about the 2625 year, you're only eligible for that if you can demonstrate financial need. The reason for that is the interest for that loan is paid for by the government while you are enrolled in school in the 6 month period after you graduate...so a little inaccuracy. Be sure that when you are reading and you see news reports about financial aid and things like that, be sure to fact check the reporters. Not because they are willfully misrepresenting anything but because financial aid is such a complex and detail oriented subject that it's very easy for little numbers here and there to get mixed up or eligibility facts get mixed up. Put it this way, financial aid is a complex enough subject with enough news information about it that you can actually have a podcast about it that people can listen to...I hope. It's not something where you can hand out an index card about it and you're done. So, double check everything. If you have any questions visit our websites: www.studentloannetwork.com, www.staffordloan.com for information on Stafford Loans, www.parentplusloan.com, www.financialaidnews.com, www.financialaidpodcast.com, www.alternativestudentloan.com. All these different website have a lot of very detailed information and we do our very best to make sure it's accurate and it explains what you need to know to get through the financial aid process and get as much aid as you can qualify for. Also, if you're surfing one our website and you have a question about it and something is unclear and you want some help with it, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll cover it on the air because anything we can do to make the websites better, more clear, more informative it's going to be a good thing, not only for the company but for you too. For every one person who has a question there are probably 10 other people who have that same question but are not as enthusiastic enough to ask that question. So, please ask the questions. I will happily take the feedback and be more than happy to try and clarify things as much as possible. Financial aid can be confusing if you're not used to dealing with it on a routine basis like we are here.
Second thing, did an interview yesterday with Jay Fleischman at the Debt Podcast, by the way if you don't subscribe to that show you definitely should. It's a very good consumer finance show with lots of helpful tips. He's going through New Year's resolutions for reducing your debt right now and rather than recycle any of that, just subscribe to his podcast and podcast subscription is free at least for the time being. I've heard rumors about paid podcast in the iTunes music store but I won't believe it till I see it. But check out Jay's podcast. It is very, very good. One thing I didn't know, he was saying that in bankruptcy proceedings that not only are student loans of all kinds not dischargeable which means they can't be cancelled by a bankruptcy, but any kind of education related debt, unpaid tuition bills, past due tuition bills, even some credit card debt if the debt can be proven that it was used for education related expenses may not be dismissible in bankruptcy. So, a very interesting catch in the new bankruptcy laws that took effect on October 17, 2005. Definitely, the lesson there is you need to keep on top of your education finance stuff even after you've graduated. You have to be making the payments on the bills because the bankruptcy laws are not going to work in your favor when it comes to education debt. So, you have to resolve to paying them down...the old trick of defaulting and then filing bankruptcy does not work anymore.
Finally, there's $114 million floating around out there now from the Pentagon. The Pentagon, the Department of Defense are looking around to seed colleges with additional funding to get colleges to sponsor programs in critical need foreign language to get students enrolled in programs to learn foreign languages like Arabic, the various dialects of Arabic because each country has their own various dialects. Egyptian Arabic, for instance, sounds very different from Saudi Arabian Arabic. Also, languages like Pashtun and more exotic ones in Afghanistan are high in demand but, unfortunately, very few people actually speak them. At least in the United States we're capable of learning and working for the Department of Defense. There's no word yet on whether the seed money is going to come with conditions like you have to go work for the Department of Defense. But, chances are if you have an expertise in one of these languages such as Pashtun or Iranian Farsi you'll have a job. So if you want something, if you like languages and you like learning languages and cultures and things like that this could be a great career path, at least in the foreseeable future as the United States continues its overseas campaigns in sandy places. If you speak languages spoken in those places with fluency you'll have a job. You'll have a multitude of jobs and some of them, like working for the National Security Agency, pay very well. You'll never be able to tell your kids what you do for a living, but you'll get paid very well. One last thing, we reported yesterday that Colorado University, basically expends all of its financial aid, the grants, the free money, on only 1/3 of its students. They just can't dill out to everyone who demonstrates financial need who is eligible. If they spread it out to everyone who had financial need, everyone would get like $6 which wouldn't help them all that much. So, the lesson here is that Colorado's FAFSA filing deadline for the state it's set by the school but is generally seems to be around anywhere from March 1st to April 1st depending on the school. When you think about that, if financial aid is first-come-first-serve and only 1/3 of the students who apply are going to get it. That means you basically have until the end of January to file your FAFSA in Colorado to stand a chance of getting aid. If other states have similar structural deficits for the financial aid programs, you better make sure your FAFS is in, IN to the state's Department of Education by the end of January. You don't want to take the chance. The aid that is available is going to allocated to someone else. Get your FAFSA done and in by the end of January. Make that your goal. Your W2 forms have to be out by January 31st by law so there's no excuse to not have that data by the end of January. You can file your FAFSA at www.fafsaonline.com and I'll have a little more information on the site later on today about how you can get that out there. So check out the site. Let's move onto the scholarship update for the day.
Here's today's scholarship update. It's a service patch or release update, a refresher for the Scholarship Search Secrets we have up on the website in our RSS feed. By the way, if you don't subscribe to the podcast by the RSS feed you haven't gotten a copy of this book and it's free. It's $49.95 value but It's a free book through the feed on how to use search engines to find scholarships. In the past we've talked about locating specific scholarships to you. What I want to talk about today is time limited scholarships. The important thing about scholarships is they almost always have a deadline...almost always and that deadline can sneak up on you very quickly. If you want a great way to find scholarships that you'll have enough time to apply for, get together all your scholarship materials and a couple pages of the Scholarship Search Secrets E-book deal with how you can put together your portfolio of information for scholarships. Once you've got all that information together, figure out how long it take you fill out a scholarship application. Usually it's not going to take more than a day or so. Start looking for scholarships that are a few days or a few weeks, or even a few months in advance and start searching by that deadline. So, if you're looking for , let's go to Google, start with a basic key word phrase, "Scholarship deadline February 1, 2006", if I type this in here and say go to Google I get a whole bunch of scholarships, 1.2 million of them and these are scholarship pages, these are the actual award pages that tell you how to apply because very rarely on spammy, blogs and things like that will you actually find things like deadlines. Let's do a little refining here. We were talking about my relative Katie, and her scholarship, so let's do a biology scholarship deadline of February 15th. Ok, that's down to 265,000 awards. We have quite a few here. We have the Fellowship Resource and Advising Center, we have BGSU Majoring in Biology Scholarship, Keystone Symposium Scientific Conference on Biomedical Life Scholarship, GFWC Illinois Women's Club Biology Scholarship. So, take any of the key words that you've been using in the past for refining your search and now attach deadline and then the date you want the deadline to be. Typically scholarships have two or three different deadlines. They're usually the last day of the month, the first day of the month, or the 15th of the month. I don't know why it works out that way but that seems to be the case. So, if you want March, let's say you're feeling less than ambitious, let's do March 15th. You get 271,000 scholarships for that date. Let's do March 1st, now remember these are just Biology scholarships, just hunting for the cancer survivor scholarships here, you have the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Biological Department Scholarship application at Mesa State University. So, this is a great way to find scholarship pages to then add to your personal database. And speaking of scholarship databases, if you haven't visited www.studentscholarshipsearch.com recently you should. It's completely free to use. We don't ask for any registration information unless you want to give it to us. You'll find a number of awards there and I forget what the total is up to now but I think it's up to about $300 billion of scholarships. So, today's scholarship update is the refresher using the deadline and a specific date to find the specific scholarship pages that you want to be applying for. Believe me folks, this will come up with some great, and really, really helpful scholarship results.
Alright, let's move onto some News You Can Use. Let's talk today about how you can do some belt tightening measures in the New Year. Like I said earlier in the podcast, if you're looking for some really comprehensive stuff on managing debt and stuff, definitely check out Jay Fleischman's Debt Podcast at www.debtpodcast.com. In terms of belt tightening, one of the easiest areas to tighten up on are things like communication and entertainment services. Anywhere from cutting back on the number of times you go out to eat in a month to taking a look at your entertainment utility bills. So, we're talking internet access, cable TV, cell phones, and any other type of phone things like that. Ways you can cut back without sacrificing a whole heck of a lot. For example, instead of doing movies-on-demand on cable television which tends to be very expensive, take a look at some of the movie-on-demand services on the internet. For example, I personally don't get any money for this, there's not endorsement for this but...[sound blanks out]...instead of the premium channel on cable, look into the DVD rental services. There's a whole bunch of them out there: Netflix, Blockbuster, and it seems to work pretty well. The discs arrive relatively quickly and there are thousands of movies out there. It costs around $18 a month and when I look at my cable company's offering to get the really good movie channels where you can find the new releases and things like that, it's an extra $55 a month. Granted I have RCN and I here Comcast is even more expensive for the premium packages. This is a good way to trim back without having to sacrifice that entertainment. Obviously if you are in dire financial straights, then you may have to sacrifice everything entirely there.
Internet access likewise, if you are paying a ton of money for internet access you may want to look into different options. One is, if you live in a major metropolitan area, you may be surrounded by free internet access and don't even know it. For example, when I drive into Boston in order to go to class, I turn my laptop on once I'm in the parking lots there and there are 30 or 40 wireless accesses there that are unsecured, and I know there's a court case out there right now regarding unsecured wireless network. But the reality is if the wireless network owner makes no attempt to protect it whatsoever, or even better, if they put it out on a publicly shared network, that's a great way to find access that is free. And usually it is pretty good quality, all things considered, even if it wasn't, hey, it's free. If you go to Newberry St., Newberry St. in Boson is lined with free access points to that you can go anywhere on the street, grab a cup of coffee or whatever and have free internet access. That's a great way to do it. Internet access is pretty pervasive in metropolitan areas. If you live in an area that's not quite so much, one thing you can do is put in your own wireless access point, preferably one that has a strong enough signal to reach a couple houses around you, in the neighborhood, and then approach the folks who live around you if they would consider going in with you on splitting the bill. So say you got the 4 MB home internet cable service, put out a wireless router out and do three houses and instead of having to pay the $70 a month for internet access you could be paying $25, $30 a month because not everyone is going to be swamping the connection at the same time. If you're just browsing and doing email and stuff like that, you can share a 4 MB with 8, 10, 12 people very easily and not have to pay a fortune for it. So, look into that as well.
The last area is cell phones. Cell phone companies are notorious for nickel and diming you to death. It's actually cheaper not to call anyone. Two options here: 1) make sure that you have the very, very best plan possible. There's a lot of plans out there and you just roll over your plan, there's actually going to be better plans because cell phone companies have to be evermore competitive because every time you go to a shopping mall there are like 20 cell phone kiosks, I don't know how they all say in business. That has always mystified me. The reality is, the plans that are out there; if haven't gotten a new plan in a while, if you've just been renewing the same one over again, you might be eligible for things like upgrades and reduced fees and things like that. Check with your cell phone lender and make sure you check more than one because you may be able to approach with a counter offer and say, hey I'm a customer of T-Mobile and they have this plan, what do you have that competes with that. If you're working with a cell phone company or vender that wants your business they'll say, well we have this but we'll give you this as a deal or incentive. If they just tell you to take a hike, you'll see what kind of customer service you would receive if you were a customer.
The other option is, if you have very light cell phone volume, basically have it as a 911 phone is pre-paid cell phones. Keep in mind the rates per minute on those phones are much higher then subscription cell phone plans. But, if you just have a cell phone just to have it in the car in case of an emergency or at most you make about 10 or 15 minute calls per month then you might want to look into the pre-paid plan. There are actually specifically 911 only phones but I don't know what the rates on those are.
Finally, the thing to think about as we move forward, is look for a unified messaging and free communications options whenever possible. Options out there like Skype, Gizmo Project, Google Talk, all these different ways that are good voice communications methods. If you have people you talk to a lot, maybe 3 or 4 circle of friends, and it's not usually on the road it's usually you're calling from home and you're talking to these people a lot and both of you have pretty good internet access, talk to them about setting up a free account on one of the Voice Over IP providers like Skype or Gizmo Project or Google Talk or iChat AV if you have Macintosh. The reason for this, hey, it's free communication and if you're going to be talking put on a wireless headset or a Bluetooth headset and you could roam around the house and talk to them just like you were talking on a regular phone. You could do this and save a ton of money considering if you never leave home all that much. Those are communication options for tightening your belt without sacrificing too much in the process in the communication and entertainment in the New Year. Additional stuff you can find over at Jay's podcast. He's setting up a podcast right now about setting up a comprehensive savings program and things like that. Links for all the products I've mentioned here are going to be in the show notes at www.financialaidpodcast.com. So you'll be able to find all the things we've talked about today.
Let's finish off the show with Jason Brock and Rule the World.
Rule the World from Jason Brock from the Podsafe Music Network at www.music.podshow.com. Alright folks that is going to do it for this Friday edition of the Financial Aid Podcast. Next week tune in, I just did a 45 minute interview with Jay Fleischman for the Debt Podcast and we're going to try and split that up because it's pretty long but we cover a lot of stuff about what's going on and predictions for 2006, so you won't want to miss it. There's some good information in there. If you haven't been over to the website lately, www.financialaidpodcast.com, go over there and while you're there stop by and vote for us on Podcast Alley and Yahoo Podcast. If you're not subscribed get subscribed. It's very easy. Download the latest copy of iTunes and then click on the "Add to My iTunes" button on the website. If you have feedback, comments, questions, clean jokes, email@example.com is the way to reach me. So, send stuff over. I'd be more than happy to listen to what you have to say and answer any questions you might have on the air. Like I said, show notes are at www.financialaidpodcast.com as well. So, if you're looking for links to any of the things we talked about you are going to find it there. I think that's going to do it for this lovely Friday. It looks like blue skies outside so I'm going to try and get this office running here and get another day of 2006 up and Adam. So, until next time, stay subscribed, we'll see you soon folks, Take care.