What the $$$$ Just Happened to My Student Loans?!!

Paying for college is tough enough, but have you heard about the recent hikes in interest rates for student loans? Read on to find out how this affects you as either a current student or someone in repayment, plus how government officials plan to resolve the issue of crippling student debt.

As of yesterday, Stafford Loan interest rates doubled from 3.4% to 6.8%. Congress did not pass an alternative measure before the July 4th break, which will end at 2:00pm on Monday, July 8th. However, it still has the option to pass a measure that will retroactively affect the rise in interest rates, altering the Stafford Loan rates for this year’s students and perhaps others. This article will outline a few of the options Congress faces, what changes may be made, and how those changes might affect students with Stafford Loans.

Student Loans Crippling Many

Protestors advocate against increased interest rates.

What is a Stafford Loan and how does it work?

Stafford Loans are the most common kind of federal student loans available. They are available to students at accredited institutions

in the United States, a category to which most colleges and universities in the United States pertain. Stafford Loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized. Of these, subsidized loans tend to have lower interest rates, and the federal government pays the interest that the loans accrue. Contrastingly, the interest that accumulates on unsubsidized Stafford Loans is capitalized, meaning that it is added to the part of the loan on which interest is paid.

Subsidized Stafford Loans are available to those who demonstrate financial need via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which must be renewed each year a student wishes to apply. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are available to all students who meet the Stafford Loan requirements, which can be found here.

In addition to Stafford Loans, the government gives out PLUS Loans, which are unsubsidized loans and in the past have had higher interest rates than Stafford Loans. PLUS Loans are available to graduate students and parents of students.

The Option Proposed by President Obama:

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Social Media and the Classroom: How to Use Vine

Social media is already transforming classrooms. If you teach, there’s a good chance you’ve used Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest to draw your students’ attention to their work in exciting new ways. But now there’s a new app on the scene: Vine. Luckily the blog at OnlineUniversities.com was on hand to help us all become a little more familiar with this new social forum and figure out how to implement it in our ever evolving classrooms. Take a look and let us know what you think!

What is Vine?

Vine, a mobile app created by Twitter, allows users to create and share short video clips. Like Twitter, brevity is valued and video clips can’t exceed six seconds in length, so users have to be quick about getting their point across. Vine is a pretty new addition to the social media canon. The service was founded in June of 2012, but just launched to the public in January of 2013 as a free app on the iPhone and iPod Touch. In this time, Vine has seen amazing growth, with users tweeting an average of 2,300 Vine videos every hour. Below is an example of the creativity one can bring to the app.

Why Vine is Special

Just like Twitter, Vine imposes limitations on how much content users can generate. While this might seem constricting at first, if Twitter has proven anything it’s that it’s easy to say a lot with very little. Limitations, in this way, aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, the constraints may actually force users to get to the point more quickly and to be more creative and innovative about how they present their content.

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Spring Survival Tips for the ACTs and SATs

High school students, it’s that time of year again… Exam time! Oh joy of joys. To assist you in this hour of need, we’ve got a few tips to help you out on the ACT and SAT exams that are fast approaching, along with some important dates and deadlines to help you stay on track.

Have a question regarding either exam? Post it in a comment and we’ll answer it for you ASAP!

SATs

Important Dates: If you’ve already registered for the next test, it’s just around the corner on May 7th. If you haven’t yet taken the test this Spring, you should register for the June 1st test date by May 7th. Head to collegeboard.org to register online asap.

Study Materials: The College Board site is a veritable treasure trove of helpful links. Nobody should go into the exam without becoming very familiar with it–and that includes much more than taking the PSAT in your junior year. One extremely useful page is the SAT Study Plan area. This is your homepage from where you can navigate practice tests and questions, as well as tips on various sections of the test. What’s even better is that it is completely customizable; those of you who have never taken the test before will see different content than those who have taken the SATs at least once. Plus, for those in the latter category, there’s even a page where you can get even more personalized feedback based on your PSAT scores. You can check that page out here.

Of course, purchasing a physical study book is always a bright idea. The upside of the College Board SAT support site, though, is that it has all the helpful strategies, tips, and practice tests you’ll find in a book, with the added benefit of being free and only a click away. Maximize your time by receiving the SAT Question of the Day by email—you’ll be studying every day without even realizing it.

Finally, here’s one really helpful study material you might not have heard about… SAT Vocabulary Novels. If you struggle with the SAT Vocab section, as most students do, the absolute best way to expand your vocabulary is by reading. Seeing words in their context is infinitely more helpful than memorizing definitions on flashcards. It also ensures that you remember those words for far longer. The SAT Vocabulary Novel series contains books of all genres, all geared towards teens. Take Rave New World, for example, a futuristic dystopian novel about love and addiction. These books intersperse the most popular SAT words throughout, then highlight them with definitions at the bottom of the page. Really useful stuff to get you familiar with that intimidating SAT lexicon, and way more riveting than the dictionary.

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This is the Real World

And no, it’s not the kind where seven people are picked to live in a house. In our editorial intern’s final post, she tells you all the things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about in this time of inevitable worries—graduation.

Hi all,

Today is my last day as an intern at eNotes. Because they’re promoting me to an EXECUTIVE POSITION.

Hah, just kidding. They’re kicking me out. My internship has run its course and now we must part ways (sigh).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. As I walk away from this position and from my previous college lifestyle, I can’t help but feel like scissors are snipping at the ties that connected me to these things. Many things are finished and done. And it feels a little like that painful moment someone harshly yanks the blinds open after you’ve been sitting in a dark room for 5 hours.

Life after college…is a really strange thing. I’d like to equate it to a baby bird’s first flight. That moment you leave college is the same moment someone kicks you square in the back. You start to freefall downwards and it’s exhilarating but scary. You don’t know how to flap your wings or gain altitude because you’ve never done it before, but you’re trying with all your might to do something—anything. You know that you are capable of flight, you can feel it as the adrenaline rushes through you.

I think we are all humming Tom Petty in our heads right now.

When we leave college, we’re free for the first time. No homework, no essays, no school responsibilities. No strict guidance, no tunnel vision, no more college microcosm. We can take our lives in any direction we choose to. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily know how to handle the situation or understand it fully. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to know how to grasp the real world off the bat, or even comprehend it. We’re thrown into it, and told to make it work. We know we can because a lot of people can. We know we can because we have a desire to and that desire fuels us. But we’re young. I’m not talking about age. I’m talking about our understanding of the world and of who we are. We’re young. So, it seems, the freefall is the only way we can prompt self growth, but it’s definitely not the most comfortable of feelings.

I’m undeniably in this free fall right now. I’m actually writing to you as I pummel toward the earth.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve done a lot of worrying. A whole lot of worrying. To me, it makes perfect sense. New world, new life, new opportunities, and decisions that need to be made…these are all things that bring their own baggage—their own sets of worries and stressors. Throw ‘em all together and you’ve got one huge, heavy mess.

There’s a good chance this will happen to you at some point, so I’m going to go ahead and help you through it. There are some things that don’t need to be worried about. But we worry about them because we don’t realize we’re worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about. Let’s pretend like that sentence was really clear and not a run-on at all.

Here are some things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about, like I did.

  1. Don’t worry about failing. If you’re chasing something—a goal, a dream, a degree, a career—just chase it, with all the gusto you have. Don’t let your mind be boggled by the potentiality of failing. It will distract. You likely won’t fail. And if you do, well…failure is also a good thing. It teaches. The best lessons are learnt from failing at something. Either you succeed at your dream, and move on, or you fail at it, and move on. Both of these things will leave you more knowledgeable about yourself, about life, and about what you really want from both of those things. Hello…this is a win-win.
  2. Don’t worry about what your life is going to look like in 25 years. Mini van. Dog. Three kids. A house. Early retirement. It’s good to have an idea of what you want your life to look like, and it’s good to take action to make those things more of a possibility. But stop stressing over them. Most of our plans are just rough drafts or sketches anyways. Things rarely happen the way we expect or plan on them to. So why dwell? Silly goose.
  3. Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. “If I don’t get this job then I’ll be unemployed and I’ll lose all of my friends because I won’t be able to go out anymore and I’ll just have to hang out with a dog and talk to it and I’ll eventually lose all my money and my apartment and my ability to remain hygienic and basically my life is going to be OVER.” Yes, let’s not do this. Half of the things we worry about are things that haven’t come into fruition yet. They’re thoughts. Little puffs of air that we catch in jars and then stare at until our eyeballs hurt. There’s nothing there. Stop staring. Stop it! Be in the present, not trapped in the different futures you’ve managed to paint. If something worry-worth actually occurs, worry about it then, but only then.
  4. Don’t worry about what your friendships and relationships will look like as your life moves forward. Just keep in touch with your friends and loved ones. Those who remain in your life are meant to, those who don’t might turn up again later or might not. We can’t control these things except by how much effort we put forth. So show that you care and love these special people, but don’t worry that they’ll leave you. That just makes for messes, drama, and crying. The kinds of emotion you feel during the gut-wrenching, tear jerking portion of a rom-com. Yuck.
  5. Don’t worry about finding a perfect career that’ll last you a lifetime. This is just silly. In life, we change constantly, and so do our interests. It’s not really probable to assume that a career you pick now will make you happy forever. In all likelihood, it won’t. In order for you to actually succeed at and enjoy your career, you will need to find work based off of what you feel in the present—what’s driving you now. So, with that in mind, there’s no need to worry about finding the perfect career that’ll last forever. Just find yourself a path that feels right for right now. Don’t worry so much about what happens later.

A wise man and renowned poet named Robert Sylvester Kelly (commonly known as R. Kelly), once sang to the heavens these famous words: “I believe I can fly.”

Well, friends, I believe you can fly. 

It’s been nice knowing you, folks.

Good luck.


The Beginnings of a Sea Change

In an area of Nigeria that is “as densely populated as Paris” but contains only one primary school, innovative architecture aims to make education available to all.

In the water community of Makoko just off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria, an exciting new project attempts to turn the tide of limited education and unstable infrastructure. Though the Makoko’s population is soaring, a lack of well-constructed buildings means that the community  houses only one primary school to serve its approx. 86,000 residents.

Why the lack or solid infrastructure? It’s because the islands of Lagos amongst which the fishing village resides are vastly covered in water. Residents of Makoko have for years built their homes atop stilts embedded deep in the seabed. Now a team of architects led by native Nigerian Kunle Adayemi will update that idea in order to build schools that will not only withstand the rigors of West Africa’s current climate, but hopefully also for many years to come.

As pictured above, the increase in rainfall and rising sea levels Lagos has experienced over time, due to global climate change, renders the local Makoko housing unsuitable. Adayemi’s solution is to create a completely free-floating building—one unchanged by any rise or fall in water levels. He and his team have also worked to make sure the new schoolhouses will be eco-friendly and space efficient to boot:

Adayemi is hopeful that the design will help more than just the people of Makoko: “The building can be adapted for other uses, such as homes or hospitals. Ultimately, it’s a vision that can be used to sustainably develop [African] coastal communities.” But of course, such an inspirational story is inevitably accompanied by typical political woes; the government of Lagos is reluctant to encourage the expansion of a water-based community. Just in July of last year, “Nigerian government officials destroyed dozens of residences after giving residents 72 hours’ notice of eviction,” an act that resulted in the death of one Makoko resident. The reality Adayemi faces—one greater than the threat posed by natural disasters—is that this mere slum (for lack of a better description) occupies prime waterfront, a commodity the politicians of Lagos won’t readily relinquish.

Thus the project, while furthering the possibilities of architecture, science, and education, faces its biggest opposition in near-sighted bureaucracy: a reminder that advancing education in Africa is never as simple a task it seems on its glass-like surface.

For more on this amazing project, head to the Guardian. Its article contains an interesting video that provides a bit of visual insight into life on the waters of Makoko.


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