Saturday, August 3, 2013

Financial Aid for College Checklist and Ideas/from BBB


Quick Check List
  • Early on—Study, Work Hard, and do your best to Earn Good Grades;
  • Know the ins and outs of standardized tests. High test scores open doors to more colleges and high dollar scholarships and grants.
  • Save now for college;
  • Be sure to complete all high school courses you’ll need for college admission. Most four-year colleges require the following:
  • four years of English;
  • three years of math;
  • three years of lab science;
  • three years of social studies;
  • two years of electives;
  • Seek out scholarships and grants before looking at student loans;
  • Consider Federal loan programs which offer lower interest rates;
  • Manage student loan debt by knowing how much you can afford to borrow and repay. Working while in college can help to reduce your debt after graduation.

Over the past 20 years, the cost of a college education has risen twice as fast as inflation. Tuition at public universities alone jumped 234 percent between 1980 and 1995. But despite the huge rise in tuition, it can be easier for people to afford higher education. Today, close to half of students at public colleges and universities and over 70 percent of students at private institutions receive some sort of financial aid. This is good news since a higher education can mean more money and wider job choices in the present and future job market. To get the most from your educational potential, you should begin mapping out your future as soon as possible.
Define Your Goals
The best way to make the most of your opportunities is to work hard and know generally what you want to do in life so you can plan wisely for the future. Asking yourself questions like the ones below can help you define and achieve your goals.
  • What are your strongest skills and talents?
  • What are your values and dreams for the future?
  • How do you define success?
    Is it family, wealth, charity, etc.?
  • What activities or achievements do you find most rewarding?
  • What careers excite you most?
Establish a Career Plan
Once you’ve thought generally about what you might want to do in life, you should consider developing a career plan. A career plan will help you work towards a specific job—such as a heart surgeon—or help you find opportunities in a general field, such as medicine. Following the steps below is a good beginning:
  • List Your Skills: Write down your natural talents such as music, art, writing, etc. Include training you have gained from your parents, school, or jobs. Rank your skills in terms of what you do best and like most;
  • Research Careers: Take time to research any career fields or specific careers that you feel qualified for or that are of strong interest to you. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great place to get in-depth, up-to-date information on hundreds of specific careers. Look for their Occupational Outlook Handbook at your local library or visit their searchable career database on the World Wide Web at;
  • Gather Good Intelligence: Learn as much as you can about the careers you like. Be sure to read articles, biographies, etc. about people in the jobs you’re considering. Whenever possible, talk to someone in those career fields. Also, take every opportunity—after school, during summer break, etc.—to intern at a job that’s in your favored career field. Internships are excellent ways to gain good work experience and network with people who can help you get future jobs. An internship lets you discover if a career is what you thought it would be and whether it offers the salary and job satisfaction you desire.
Choose a Type of School
After identifying some of your goals and narrowing your career field choices, you can begin deciding what educational avenues can prepare you best for success. Depending on your intentions and interests, your education options are many, and include:
  • Vocational Training Schools: These are privately owned and operated schools that offer wide-ranging career training in specialized occupations such as computers, graphics design, paralegal services, etc. Course study is specific and intensive. Time to graduation is short—usually three years or less.
  • Community and Junior Colleges: These schools can benefit students who ultimately want to go to a four-year college or university or those who simply want specialized job training. Generally, these colleges require two-years of study to graduate with an associate’s degree.
  • Four-year Colleges/Universities: These schools offer bachelor’s and/or master’s, doctorate, or professional degrees and a wide variety of studies and curriculum to choose from. Bachelor’s degrees usually take four years to obtain and graduate degrees two or more years additionally.
  • Public Colleges/Universities: These schools are subsidized by the states in which they reside. Often, they are much less expensive than private colleges, with the cheapest rates going to in-state residents. Out-of-state students usually pay higher fees.
  • Private Colleges/Universities: Funded through endowments, tuition, and donations, these schools cost more than public schools. Financial aid can offset the higher costs.

Where You Want to Be
Think about the traits of a college or university that appeal to you. If you plan to attend a four-year college or university, you will almost certainly want to find qualities that can enrich your personal and social life as well as your academic performance. Consider the following in your college search:
  • Academic programs and degrees;
  • Overall academic reputation;
  • Academic reputation in your field of study;
  • Job placement rate;
  • Cost of attendance/financial aid;
  • Geographic location and size of student body;
  • Student diversity;
  • Political or religious affiliation;
  • Student Life (housing, meals, sports, health clubs, student government, fraternities/sororities, clubs, etc.)
To get answers about the subjects above, contact a college’s or university’s admissions office for an admissions catalog. Better yet, you can go to the following sites on the World Wide Web which can give you direct access to the home pages of nearly every college and university in the United States:
This site lists colleges by region of the country.
Financing Your Education
You can finance your or your children’s education in any number of ways—saving, pay as you go, borrowing, grants and scholarships, or a combination of these. Types of financial aid can be divided into three general categories:

Grants and Scholarships: Money from grants and scholarships is not repaid and is often awarded on the basis of academic, athletic, or artistic abilities or talents.
Loans: Money from loans must be repaid with extra costs from interest over a prearranged period of time. Sources for such loans are plentiful, but specific loans for higher education are available at interest rates lower than those of the marketplace. Ordinarily, repayment of such student loans begins within six months to a year after graduation with a preset interest rate that lasts the life of the loan.
Work-Study: Money from work-study is earned by students working at full-time or part-time jobs for their schools during the summer and/or the academic year. Work-study jobs can be either on-campus or off-campus.
Federal Aid
The federal government is the largest source for financial aid; ahead of state and local governments, banks, and savings and loan companies. Some of the most commonly used federal aid are described below:
Pell Grants: This program provides grants which do not need to be repaid. It is designed to specifically help low income undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. However, students coming from families with higher incomes may qualify.
Perkins Loans: This low interest federal loan is available for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. A student’s school is the lender. The loan is made from government funds with a share contributed by the school that the student attends. This loan is repaid directly to the school.
Stafford Loans: Similar to Perkins loans, under Stafford loan, students may borrow greater sums of money as they continue their education. This loan is open to both undergraduate and graduate students.
All student loans must be repaid whether or not a student finishes school or gets a job after graduation. Failure to pay a student loan can ruin your credit rating–—another reason to learn a school’s job placement rates beforehand.
For more information about student loans, contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800.433.3243 or web site at and its Free Application for Federal Student Aid office at 800.801.0576 or web site Also contact the following: FINAID at, NELLIEMAE at, and SALLIEMAE at
Grants and Scholarships
Most high school guidance counselors and libraries have current announcements about scholarships, grants, and fellowships offered by civic and fraternal organizations, foundations, corporations, professional clubs, or charitable organizations.
The Internet, accessible through schools, local libraries, homes, and offices, is one of the best ways to find scholarships. Many web sites have searchable databases which take your personal information and give you a list of awards that fit your profile. Some of the most helpful sites are listed below:

ROTC: The Reserve Officer’s Training Corps is a special type of scholarship that pays for almost all college expenses in exchange for one to four years of military service.
Beware of Scholarship Scams
Every year, thousands of students and parents fall victim to scholarship search service scams. Looking for the warning signs below can help you avoid getting ripped off.
It’s probably a scam if a company:
  • GUARANTEES A SCHOLARSHIP OR “YOUR MONEY BACK”: Grants or scholarships are awarded on basis of performance or qualifications. No one can “guarantee” that you’ll get one;
  • CLAIMS YOU CAN’T GET THIS SCHOLARSHIP INFORMATION ANYWHERE ELSE: Free scholarship information abounds—in school libraries, with federal, state, and local governments, on the Internet, and with private companies;
  • WANTS A CREDIT CARD OR BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER FOR AN APPLICATION FEE OR TO HOLD SCHOLARSHIPS: Never give your credit card or bank account number over the phone. Free money shouldn’t cost anything. Most legitimate companies don’t charge application fees;
  • SAYS THEY’LL DO ALL THE WORK: There’s no way around it. You must apply for scholarships or grants yourself;
  • CLAIMS THAT “YOU’VE BEEN SELECTED” OR THAT “YOU’RE A FINALIST” FOR A SCHOLARSHIP OR GRANT YOU NEVER APPLIED FOR: You’ve got to go after grant or scholarship money. It won’t come looking for you.
For more information on scholarship scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s web site at; the Council of Better Business Bureaus web site at; and FinAid web site at
Precautions Against Scholarship Scams
  • INVESTIGATE: Carefully investigate the background of any company, especially if their offer exhibits any of the scholarship scam warning signs;
  • GET TRUSTED, INDEPENDENT OPINIONS: Don’t rely solely on a company’s claims. Check them out with a high school guidance counselor, college financial aid administrator, the Better Business Bureau, or other knowledgeable group or person;
  • CALL DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE: Check Directory Assistance to see if a company is listed or has an 800 number. Absence of a number should raise your suspicions;
  • GET ANY OFFER IN WRITING: Never rely on verbal promises. Ask a company for printed information about cancellation and refund policies and “guarantees.” If they won’t provide it, watch out!;
  • COMPLAINTS: If you feel you’ve been victimized by a scholarship scam, contact your local Better Business Bureau at, the Federal Trade Commission at 202.FTC.HELP (202.382.4357), or your state’s Attorney General’s Office.

How To Avoid Scholarships Scams From The 'Better Business Bureau'

The Better Business Bureau is warning college-bound students and their parents to be wary of financial aid fraud perpetrated by companies promising big bucks for college tuition, but who ultimately take your money and leave you with nothing.
Consumer complaints against scholarship, loan and grant services to the 114 BBBs across the U.S. increased by 60 percent in 2006
“Funding a college education is expensive, and finding money for college can be an intimidating process,” said Steve Cox, spokesperson for the BBB System. “The fallout from this year’s student loan scandal, combined with the efforts of tireless scammers, means there is a real trust crisis in the financial aid industry. There are many unscrupulous businesses and outright scams taking advantage of overwhelmed parents who are just trying to put their child through school.”
Along with a significant rise in complaints in 2006, the BBB has seen a steady flow of loan, grant and scholarship complaints so far this year from consumers fed up with the industry. Following are the most recent examples of complaints and common scams taking advantage of college-bound students and their parents.

Financial Aid Seminar Scams
Parents from New York to California have contacted the BBB saying they paid a Utah-based company as much as $1,000 for help finding financial aid and never heard from the company again.
Parents report their college-bound child received an email from College Money Matters stating they’d “been accepted” to attend a free financial aid seminar. The seminar was essentially a sales pitch and, for a fee, the company would submit the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and find college scholarships and grants for the student. Victims report they paid $700 to $1,000 and never heard from the company again. Not only did they not receive the promised help for finding grants and scholarships, but many discovered that their child’s FAFSA form was never even filed.
College Grant Scams
The BBB continually hears from consumers who have received emails or letters with offers for “Free Grant Money” – saying they qualified for private or government grant money as financial aid for debt relief or to help pay off college bills.
When victims received the grant in the form of a check, they were instructed to deposit the check and then wire a smaller amount of money back to cover processing fees. Because checks looked professional, it often took several weeks for banks to discover they were counterfeit. Not only did victims have to pay the banks back for money they withdrew on the counterfeit checks, they were also out the money they had wired to the scammers. The Wisconsin BBB reports that a University of Wisconsin student was recently a victim of a grant scam. The student was promised $25,000 in grant money. After initially receiving a counterfeit check for $5,000, he was told that in order to receive the remaining grant money he had to send them $2,500 through stored-value cards. He had transferred $500 and was planning to transfer the rest but the scam was discovered by his bank.
“Parents nationwide are devastated and very angry about being taken advantage of,” added Cox. “Some have saved for years to help give their children a college education. And now, money that could have gone directly toward tuition and expenses has instead gone toward lining the pockets of scammers.”
How to Avoid Scholarship Scams
The BBB offers advice to avoid being snared in scholarship traps, recommending that you be suspicious if a representative tells you:
  • "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back." In reality no one can guarantee that they will get you a grant or scholarship. And the refund guarantees that are offered usually have so many conditions or strings attached that it is almost impossible for consumers to get their money back.
  • "You cannot get this information anywhere else." Actually, scholarship information is widely available in books, from libraries and financial aid offices and on the Internet, if you are willing to search for it.
  • "We will do all the work." Only parents and students can really determine and provide the financial information needed to complete the forms.
  • "You have been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship." If you have not entered a competition sponsored by the foundation, this claim is highly unlikely.
  • "May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?" This is never a requirement for a legitimate scholarship offer.
  • "The scholarship will cost some money." Legitimate scholarship offers never require payment of any kind.
For more advice and information on how to avoid scholarship and grant fraud, and for objective Reliability Reports on companies in the financial aid industry, go to

Friday, July 26, 2013

Volunteer Legal Service of Washington State

Neighborhood Legal Clinic
Law Help Center
Bankruptcy Clinic
Pro Se Family Law Clinic
Lakewood Pro Bono Clinic
PCAF Wills Project Clinic
Housing Justice Project

How to contact the
Volunteer Legal Sevices Program
Access to Civil Justice Center
715 Tacoma Ave South
Tacoma, WA 98402
Phone: (253)572-5134
Toll Free: 1-888-822-5134
Fax: (253)274-1888

Click on links below:

More help, Information and court forms are
available on the following websites:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pursue Your Passion (Monthly Scholarship)

Awarded by:

Award Amount:
$1,000, non-renewable
Twelve awards offered annually. One award per month.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Deadline Info:
Applications are available on the provider's website. Students must first create an account on and then submit a short essay explaining why they are passionate about learning. The essay should also outline how they would spend the $1,000 scholarship to increase their education. Students may not apply more than once each month. Winners will be contacted by email or phone and must respond within 72 hours.
  • Must be 18 years or older to apply for this award.
  • This award is for U.S. and international students.
  • Must currently attend OR have graduated from an accredited U.S. college or university.
  • Must be a resident of the 50 states or District of Columbia.
Additional Info:
The monthly scholarship winner will be chosen on the merits of his/her essay and academic strengths.
Contact Title:
Scholarship Committee
Primary Email:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Food for Fines-Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Restock local food banks. Reduce your library fines. All without raiding your wallet.

Food For Fines LogoThe availability of food items at local food banks are traditionally at an all-time low after the December holidays, but the Tacoma Public Library is hoping to change that through a new program where library patrons can help feed the hungry while eliminating overdue fines. Beginning on February 19 Tacoma's libraries will hold a community food drive at all 8 locations. It's a food drive with a twist, however: for every three non-perishables items a patron donates, the library will reduce their overdue fines by $10, without a limit to the total amount waived.  The 'Food For Fines' food drive continues through March 2. All food items donated will be delivered to a neighborhood food bank.  More information is available by telephoning the library at 253.292.2001.
"We hope that this program will encourage people to return overdue items and clear their library records, while having the opportunity to donate food to help people in their community rather than just pay fees." explained librarian Rhonda Kristoff, coordinator of the two-week program.
Each library branch is working with a nearby food bank to ensure donations stay in the neighborhood.  There is no limit to the number of food items the library will accept, nor to the size of the overdue fines the library will forgive. 
The library is unable to accept rusty or unlabeled cans, perishable items (fruits, vegetables and raw meat), alcoholic beverages or mixes, opened or used items, home-canned and home­made items, and items within 30 days of their expiration date. "Food for Fines" donations can only be applied to overdue fines. Donations cannot be used to pay for lost or damaged items. "There's no limit to how much food a patron can donate," says Kristoff, "and food donations are welcome even if a patron has no fines."
According to Helen McGovern, Executive Director of the Emergency Food Network, "the number 1 item area food banks are especially in need of is peanut butter, followed by canned protein items (such as tuna fish, chili, canned beef and chicken, and stew), canned fruits and vegetables, baby food, baby formula and diapers." A complete list is included below.
"Our libraries are the heart of the community," says Ms. McGovern, "a place where people come together.  Our neighbors are in need and this is a way to show the generosity of the residents in Tacoma.  This is a win-win-win.  The fine is paid, material can be checked out and families can have access to nutritious food at their local food bank!"
According to the Emergency Food Network, there were 6,313,944 pounds of food distributed through food banks in Tacoma in 2012.  There were 530,278 client visits (a client can represent themselves or a family of any size).
The Library's "Food For Fines" community food drive continues through Saturday, March 2.

National and local Hunger Facts
  • 19.5% of Americans live in hungry or food-insecure households.
  • 1 in 5 households across Washington state reported they didn't have enough money to buy the food they needed in 2009.
  • Households with children have almost double the rate of food insecurity compared to those without.
Each month in Pierce County more than 110,000 children, seniors and adults seek help finding food. Of these individuals:
  • 53% are children and seniors (39% children under 18, 14% individuals over 55)
  • 99% fall below the national poverty line
  • Almost half are families with at least one adult working

Food Drive "Most Wanted" List Canned GoodsPeanut Butter
Beef Stew
Canned Tuna
Canned Chicken
Canned Beef
Assorted Canned Fruits
Assorted Canned Vegetables
Packaged ItemsHot Cereal (Oatmeal, Malt-O-Meal, Cream of Wheat, Grits, etc.)
Powdered Eggs
Ensure (or other Supplemental drinks)
Infant ItemsInfant formula