Securing financial aid is just one of many important milestones you’ll face in your college career. Discover additional college-related information to help you make smart decisions along the way:
Choosing the right school can be a challenge, these resources will help you find the school that meets your need. With thousands of schools in the US, how will you ever find the right one for you? In addition to providing the most popular free scholarship search service, Fastweb also provides a free and powerful College Search. This service helps you find the best college for you and features profiles of every accredited undergraduate college and university in the United States. Fastweb will match schools to your preferences for location, major, size and other factors as well as provide informative articles about college selection and admissions. In addition to providing college search services, Fastweb also help students buy or rent textbooks, prepare for standardized tests and navigate both the admissions process and student life on a college campus. Expert advice ranges from admissions essay tips to meeting your college roommate for the first time to campus safety.
Need financial help with college admissions fees. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling has a fee waiver program. Find out more: NACAC Request for Admission Application Fee Waiver program.
Online College Degrees
Online degree and distance learning programs provide an alternative to more traditional brick and mortar colleges and universities Distance education and online degree programs allow a student to pursue a college degree without needing to attend a brick and ivy institution of higher education. Many online degree programs are offered by colleges and universities that specialize in distance education. With the repeal of the 50/50 rule by the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005, traditional colleges and universities are offering more courses and degree programs online. The 50/50 rule prohibited colleges receiving federal student aid from offering more than half their courses or enrolling more than half their students through distance learning programs.
Online degree programs include everything from GEDs and certificates to associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. Majors include art and design, business, marketing, nursing and healthcare, culinary arts, education, accounting, law and criminal justice, psychology, hotel and hospitality, and technology among other fields.Distance learning programs provide an alternative path to a college education for traditional students.
Online education is especially attractive to nontraditional students who work during the day, since it allows them to study on evenings and weekends. Distance learning is also useful for military personnel and their children.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) sponsors the Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support (DANTES) to support off-duty education programs for the DoD.
Jobs & Internships
Internships and jobs are a great way to build on your education! What good is a college education if it doesn’t land you a job? Find lots of helpful free advice about discovering the right job for your skills in this section.
Fastweb, although known for its scholarship matching service, also offers job advice and internship matching by industry as well as location. Fastweb’s Internship Directory is a comprehensive resource for reviewing opportunities and finding the right internship.
Considering a job while in school is an important decision. A job can help you pay for college but can it also hurt financial aid chances. Fastweb reviews how a job can affect financial aid. Review the latest in Fastweb’s, Financial Aid Questions: Work in College or Go Full-Time?
By volunteering you can help serve your community, gain experience and maybe even win scholarships. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others in need.
Fastweb and DoSomething have teamed up to provide students with access to volunteer, community service and activism opportunities in addition to scholarships to help pay for school. Each month, they highlight a Cause of the Month – or chance to get involved in the greater good while trying to win scholarships.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program provides for forgiveness of federal education loans after ten years of full-time employment in public service. The borrower must make 120 payments while the loans are in the direct loan program and while employed in public service. At the end of the ten-year period, any remaining outstanding principal and interest is forgiven. The benefit is maximized when the borrower repays the loans under the income-contingent or income-based repayment plans. This forgiveness program is best for borrowers with high debt and low income.
There are also many community service scholarships as well as volunteer scholarships and internship programs.
Tuition Refund Insurance
Provides insurance coverage to refund tuition in case the student has to withdraw for illness, injury, death or other reasons. Tuition refund insurance, also referred to as tuition insurance, provides coverage in case a child is forced to withdraw from college for medical or other reasons. A handful of colleges and private secondary schools offer tuition refund insurance through a third party. (See also loan repayment protection.)
Tuition refund insurance is generally not recommended for college students except when the student has a serious illness that may force the student to withdraw from school. However, tuition refund insurance plans may include a preexisting condition exclusion of 6 months to a year that can preclude coverage in such situations. Some plans will waive the preexisting condition exclusion after 6-12 months of coverage. Since most 17-20 year olds are healthy, tuition insurance is often not financially worthwhile, but does provide peace of mind.
Because of the peace of mind benefit, tuition refund insurance is more likely to be of interest to parents whose children are attending more expensive colleges and who are paying most of the cost out of pocket.
College Refund Policies and R2T4
Before deciding whether to get tuition refund insurance, it is a good idea to review the college’s refund policy.
The federal regulations in 34 CFR 668.22 concerning the return of “unearned” federal student aid, nicknamed R2T4, are rather complicated. The gist is that federal student aid that was or could have been disbursed is earned pro-rate based on the percentage of the period of enrollment that was completed through the date of withdrawal. If the percentage is more than 60% the student is considered as having earned 100% of the aid. Any unearned aid must be returned to the government (in the case of grants) or the lender (in the case of loans). There is a preference order for the return of the student aid that generally returns loan funds before grants.
Many colleges have refund policies that parallel the R2T4 regulations, but not all colleges provide such generous refund policies since there are no statutory or regulatory requirements for refund policies. Some colleges limit the availability and amount of refunds after 30 days into the school year. Refund policies may differ depending on whether the student is receiving financial aid. If a college does not permit refunds and a student withdraws before the 60% threshold, it is possible that the student could end up owing money to the school. For-profit colleges are more likely than nonprofit and public colleges to have refund policies that differ from the R2T4 regulations, but it is best to check each college’s refund policy. Aside from such differences between a college’s refund policy and the R2T4 regulations, the other main risk is for the family’s portion of college costs. This includes amounts paid out of pocket and amounts paid with non-need-based loans such as unsubsidized Stafford, PLUS and private student loans.
Colleges that offer college-specific tuition refund insurance are less likely to have generous refund policies. It is unclear which is the cause and which is the effect. At these colleges the tuition refund insurance may be as much for the benefit of the college as for the benefit of the student.
Also potentially relevant are the discharge provisions on education loans. Federal student loans provide for a discharge of the debt in the event of the death or total and permanent disability of the student or if the school closes before the student graduates. Most private student loans do not have such discharges.
Most tuition refund insurance programs will provide coverage for medically necessary withdrawals due to illness or injury, death of the student or death of the parent or guardian. Some will provide coverage for involuntary job loss or relocation, mental health withdrawals, voluntary withdrawal and dismissal or suspension for academic or disciplinary reasons.
Be sure to ask whether the coverage is full or partial. The coverage may involve coinsurance where the tuition refund will be reduced by a percentage, typically 10% to 40%. In most cases coverage for death or medically necessary withdrawals is 100% (mental health is 60%). But in all cases the benefit is reduced by the amount of any refund from the school.
Also ask about exclusions. Many plans exclude suicide or intentional self-injury, injuries from participation in protests and demonstrations, and withdrawals due to the use of controlled substances or alcohol abuse.
Tuition refund insurance typically costs 1% to 5% of the face value of the coverage per year, ranging from $100 to $1,000 depending on the college’s costs and claim history.
Companies offering Tuition Refund Insurance
Tuition refund insurance policies are offered either through selected colleges or through group plans. The group plans are available for use at any accredited college.
Only one company offers a group policy. GradGuard Tuition Insurance is a group tuition refund insurance policy offered in conjunction with membership in College Parents of America. Families can enroll at any time (not just at the beginning of the academic year) and can pick the amount of annual coverage from $5,000 to $50,000 in $5,000 increments. (Coverage for each term is half the annual coverage.) $5,000 in coverage is automatically provided with membership in College Parents of America. Families who purchase at least $15,000 in coverage also receive the “Student Protection Plan” which includes emergency medical evacuation insurance, small gadget theft insurance, five-year warranty extension protection, and computer repair for physical damage and virus damage. All policy levels include identity protection and resolution services. The policy provides 100% coverage for medical disability withdrawal or for death of the tuition payer or student, and 75% coverage for withdrawal due to emotional, nervous or mental disorders, up to the coverage limits. The policy is underwritten by Markel Insurance.
Three companies offer tuition refund insurance through colleges:
1) A.W.G. Dewar, Inc. – A.W.G. Dewar’s Tuition Refund Plan provides up to 100% coverage for medically necessary withdrawals at more than 180 colleges and 1,000 private elementary and secondary schools.
2) Education Insurance Plans (EIP) – EIP’s Tuition Guardian product provides $5,000 to $25,000 of coverage per semester.
3) Markel Insurance Company