National / International News

A move to simplify the dreaded FAFSA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:42

A huge chart outside of Terri Williams’ office at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy tracks where all 90 seniors at the Baltimore high school are in the college application process. “Have they gone on any college tours, how many applications have they done, have they completed their FAFSA?” says Williams, a college access specialist with the CollegeBound Foundation.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is used by the federal government, states and colleges to figure out who gets aid, and how much. Most of Williams’ students don’t have a shot at affording college without help, so she sends out letters and text messages – even intercepts students on their way to the bathroom – to make sure they complete the form on time.

The FAFSA goes live each year on Jan.1 and is due March 1 in most states. “I don’t care where they are,” she says. “I’m going to stop you so we can get it taken care of.”

Taking care of it means answering up to 108 questions. Questions like: Have you had a drug conviction? How much do your parents make? Is either a “dislocated worker?”

For many students, just tracking down some of that information can be a challenge. “They feel like ‘This is too much, I can't do it, and I’m not going to get anything anyway,’” Williams says. In reality, most of her students would be eligible for the maximum Pell grant, which is $5,730 this year. Because more than 1 million high school seniors don't bother to fill out the FAFSA each year, they fail to claim millions of dollars in financial aid.

The government is trying to make things easier. The Obama Administration proposed eliminating 27 questions. A bipartisan bill in Congress would replace the FAFSA with a postcard asking just two questions about household size and income. For most families, those two questions tell the government everything it needs to know, says Carrie Warick of the National College Access Network. “Most of those additional questions are really targeted at families with much more complicated financial situations,” Warick says, like wealthier families with assets and investments.

 The FAFSA does have some defenders. The vast majority of students now fill it out online, says Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “Skip logic” technology lets them bypass questions that don’t apply. “The average student today can complete the entire FAFSA, start to finish, in 20 minutes,” Draeger says.

But that doesn’t count the time it may take to dig up and sort through tax files and bank records. Draeger is all for getting rid of questions that don’t have anything to do with a student’s financial need, like the one about drug convictions.

Still, Draeger says, colleges rank students according to their relative need when they distribute their own grants and scholarships, and they need a lot of details to do that fairly. “If we make the application too simple, that ultimately means that more colleges will introduce their own applications,” Draeger says. “The net result for students is nothing. Nothing’s changed.”

There is one change pretty much everyone agrees on: The current FAFSA asks for data from the most recent tax year, but if you’re applying for aid right now, that would be 2014. Most people haven’t filed their taxes yet. 

If families could use their returns from one year earlier, they could import their tax information directly from the IRS, says Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. They could also apply for aid earlier. “If you can file the FAFSA more easily and earlier, you’re much more likely to benefit from all the available aid that can help you pay for college and get to graduation,” she says.

In many states, grant money is handed out on a first-come, first-served basis — until it’s gone. A recent report from Edvisors, a publisher of student aid information, says students who file their FAFSA in the first three months of the year get more than twice as much grant aid, on average, as those who wait longer.

Taylor Swift, trademark diva

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:32

Taylor Swift is the very model of a shrewd entrepreneur.

She has secured trademarks for a whole mess of lyrics from her most recent zillion-selling album, "1989," including "Party Like It's 1989," "This Sick Beat," and "Nice to Meet You. Where You Been?"

She owns them for "public appearances," "clothing" and "ornaments" among other goods and services, according to the trademark.

As the website Vox points out, singers make an increasing slice of their income not from actual singing, but from all of the related stuff. 

 

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BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:30
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NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:28

The British firm that developed the strain of mosquito says it has already tested the insect in tropical countries, and found it can reduce populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes by 90 percent.

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In 'The Americans,' Art Imitates Real Life Lies

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:26

Robert Siegel talks to Joe Weisberg, creator of the FX television series, The Americans, about the similarities between his show and recent real-life spy-related events in New York and Argentina.

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Mali & Guinea want lots rule changed

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:21
Managers and players from Mali and Guinea feel the drawing of lots should not be used to decide their Africa Cup of Nations fate.

Russia boycotts European rights body

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:20
The Russian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resumes its boycott in protest at Ukraine sanctions.

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NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:17

Bob Ryan former, long-time columnist for the Boston Globe joins Robert Siegel to talk about the two very different men, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.

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Israeli Soldiers Killed In Renewed Fighting With Hezbollah

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:15

Two Israeli soldiers and an UN peacekeeper were killed in border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah on Wednesday — prompted by a Hezbollah revenge attack.

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Yes, Your Toilet Paper Squares And Rolls Are Shrinking

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:06

Robert Siegel talks to Steven Chercover, a research analyst who studies the paper and forest industries, about the trend of shrinking toilet paper rolls.

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Jordan Tests Coalition Against ISIS With Offer To Negotiate

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:02

Robert Siegel talks to Rula Al Hroob, member of the Jordanian Parliament, about how people in Jordan feel about a prisoner exchange for a pilot captured by ISIS in Syria.

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Ad Fumble: GoDaddy Pulls Super Bowl Puppy Commercial Amid Outrage

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 13:01

In the ad, the lost puppy returns home only to find that his owners have sold him using a website made with GoDaddy. Its an apparent parody of the latest Budweiser Super Bowl commercial.

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Remaking The U.S. Government's Online Image, One Website At A Time

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:52

A team called 18F aims to bring a Silicon Valley approach to government IT — one aimed at the users of websites rather than the agencies behind them.

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Bill 'for millions' over rail chaos

BBC - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:39
Network Rail issues Thames Water with a "multi-million pound bill" after leaks and a burst water main forced the cancellation of 1,000 trains.

Jordan Considers Handing Over Prisoner For Hostage Pilot

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:34

The Jordanian government says it might trade a notorious attempted suicide bomber for a pilot being held by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.

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At 100, Dartmouth Grad Still Writing His Class Notes

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:29

Edward Gerson is a 100-year-old alumnus of Dartmouth's class of 1935. He's turned his class notes into a column.

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Judge Throws Out Convictions Of Civil Rights Pioneers, 'Friendship 9'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:28

It's been 54 years since students from Friendship College were arrested for a sit-in at McCrory's Five and Dime in Rock Hill, South Carolina. On Wednesday, a Rock Hill judge exonerated them.

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Deal May Be In Sight For Pacific Coast Longshoremen

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:25

After nearly eight months of negotiations, it's still not clear whether a labor deal could end a worsening congestion crisis on the west coast.

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End Of Life Care Can Be Different For Veterans

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:25

Many veterans who served in World War II and the Korean War are now finding themselves needing end-of-life care. These vets are served by hospice care facilities across the country. But caring for vets isn't always the same as caring for others: as veterans approach the end of life, old traumas can resurface or appear for the first time.

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