Wednesday, August 27, 2008

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Financial aid maze, part II

The economy is forcing parents of college students to find ways to pay for tuition, books and housing. FVSU’s marketing and communications office scans Web sites daily looking for information to help our students and their parents. Shonda Lewis came across an ABC news online story about scholarship competitions which fund awards for women and students of color, but aren’t well publicized. Visit and Apparently, the founders of the site don’t advertise. Information about it is traveling by word-of-mouth. A free scholarship search site will be launched January, 2009. Lewis is a member of She received an email about scholarships for working moms. HBCU Connect partners with to offer information.

Students and parents should also visit According the ABC story, the site is the source of $16,000 in scholarships monthly. Through corporate sponsorships, the founders hope to increase that amount to $150,000 a month. Students who have tutoring skills can actually make extra money at another site, The company pays students to help other students with homework. Check our blog for other tidbits of information we receive.

The mother who posted a response to yesterday’s blog about financial aid should contact Dr. Canter Brown at for assistance.

--Vickie Oldham is the director of Marketing and Communications at Fort Valley State University

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Last-minute applications and financial aid heroics

An Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter called me for assistance in identifying students and parents for a story about “drop offs” - students brought to campus to register just before fall semester begins without securing housing, financial aid, or taking any of the necessary steps to begin school on the right foot. For a moment, I wanted no part of this assignment, but as I honed in on the premise, I saw an opportunity to tell the real story behind what HBCUs like FVSU do to usher students into college.

FVSU meets a need that major institutions don’t – one that they don’t have patience to deliver: personal, individualized service to first-generation college students trying to navigate the maze of the financial aid process, most times without the help of parents. This week I’ve seen the patience and true character of the financial aid staff and FVSU family as they walked students from one office to the next, helping them complete FAFSA forms and loan applications.

I talked to freshman Sekema Tannahill, who shared her story. Admittedly she missed the deadlines for filing paperwork and arrived on campus a week before the start of school. Her mother walked the student through the process the first semester but refused to do it the second time around, after she didn’t make acceptable grades.

For every student who dragged his or her feet in submitting verification forms, FAFSAs and the required tax documents from parents, others filed on time. However in some cases, parents didn’t qualify for loans or couldn’t pick up the slack where financial aid left off. Anticipating the money gap, FVSU’s Office of External Affairs, directed by the president, mailed 12,000 letters to alumni asking for donations to help students pay tuition, living expenses and books.

I received a call from a parent trying to reach the financial aid office. Four people live in the household on a meager sum. The mother was making sure she signed all the paperwork to get financial aid for her son, who is now on campus. Attending college is his one-way ticket out of the cycle of poverty.

Scholarship funds from community groups and alumni are trickling in. Flint Energies Foundation gave $5,000. The Peach County Development Authority wrote a check for $8,000. Zellner’s Chapel, a small, under-50-member church located across from the campus’s main entrance donated $24,000 to help students like this.

From showing students how to properly fill out forms and offering advice about classes to digging, scratching, fighting and finagling for scholarship funds, I am amazed at the miracles worked every day on this campus to get students into school. I have a renewed appreciation for FVSU as it seeks to fulfill its mission.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution decided not to go ahead with the story. Even so, I’m glad the reporter asked for my help. I got the chance to step away from the hustle and bustle of my office to witness firsthand the nurturing work that occurs in Wildcat Country. Not every student our counselors reach out to help can cut it in college, but for every one who does, God bless ‘em - the effort is well worth it.

Vickie Oldham is Director of Marketing & Communications at Fort Valley State University.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Guest blogger: What's your net worth?

T. Harv Eker, author of "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind," explains that wealthy people understand that net worth is the true measure of wealth, not working income. Four areas determine net worth: income, savings, investments, and simplification.
Income can be classified as working or passive. Working income involves your own time and sweat; passive income is made without you physically working: for example, rental property income. Income enables us to address the other three net worth factors.
Once money is made, we can then save it. Remember, what you keep is more important than what you make.
“Once you’ve begun saving a decent portion of your income, then you can move to the next stage and make your money grow through investing,” says Eker. He explains that wealthy people take the time to educate themselves about investing and investments, while poor-minded people do the opposite.
Simplification is about living below your means. This increases your savings, which then increase the amount for investing.
Think of the four factors of net worth as four tires on a car.
“Poor and most middle-class people play the money game on one wheel only. They believe that the only way to get rich is to earn a lot of money. They don’t understand Parkinson’s Law, which states, ‘Expenses will always rise in direct proportion to income,’” says Eker.
Income alone will never produce wealth. By tracking your net worth, you will increase your wealth.
So how do you calculate your net worth?
“List all your assets, then list all your liabilities—all the money you owe, including credit card debt and mortgages. Your net worth is your total assets minus your total liabilities,” says Barbara O’Neill, PhD, CFP, and author of Saving on a Shoestring: How to Cut Expenses, Reduce Debt, Stash More Cash.
A net worth statement, listing your assets and liabilities, serves as a prepared financial statement. For instance, it is a good estimate of available emergency money when applying for a loan. Check your net worth every quarter.
“Where attention goes, energy flows, and results show,” says Eker.

--Edward Morrow is a senior business major at Fort Valley State University

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Saggy pants and the law

My girl friends and I were at lunch the other day and we were discussing the new law that was passed by the mayor and the Warner Robins City Council on Tuesday. The law says thos who wear sagging pants are guilty of indecent exposure. Punishment is no more than $500 and confinement in a county jail for up to 6 months. Sagging pants have been banned from schools, malls, restaurants and now streets. City councilman John Williams said: “They are using those sagging pants to shoplift!” Some people may agree that saggy pants are indecent exposure, others object and feel targeted, specifically the black community.
FVSU President Larry Rivers has voiced his opinion on the matter, and you can hear it on Georgia Public Radio. The Telegraph is running an editorial on the law today.
What do you think? Click on "comments" below to share your opinion. Keep it clean, no name-calling.

--Apple Jones works for the Office of Marketing and Communications at Fort Valley State University

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A student's perspective: Freshman induction

On the evening of the New Wildcat Induction Ceremony, I vividly remember changing outfits at least three times. Upon entering the doors of the HPE Complex, I realized that I was not the only freshman excited about the evening’s events. Once I acquired my seat, I began to feel sorry for the influx of students who arrived later than I, and were instructed to take a seat in the bleachers. However, true to Fort Valley form, the administration and Student Ambassadors came together to get more seats and tables, so that all the students and families could have a place to sit and partake in their meals.
While listening to the various speakers, seeing the enthusiasm of the upperclassmen and the unity of my fellow freshmen, something came over me, and I fell in mad love with the Fort Valley State University. The keynote speaker, Mr. Keith Brown, caught my attention by being clothed in a blue robe and pacing about the floor of the gym during his introduction. Almost simultaneously, he sparked my laughter and woke me up with his dance/rap number to the beat of "Everyday I’m Hustlin’" by rapper Rick Ross. His deep and wise insight, paired with attention grabbing, youth-oriented delivery, vehemently fought his case as perhaps the greatest motivational speaker I have ever encountered. Also, as a minister, I found it very touching that his ending number would be "Never Would Have Made It" by gospel powerhouse Marvin Sapp. Seeing the reaction of my fellow classmates, I was comforted by the thought that I was not alone in my love for and gratitude toward the Lord.
All points considered—negative and positive—I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the evening of the New Wildcat Induction Ceremony. I thank the Lord Almighty for affording me the opportunity to be a member of the Fort Valley State University family, and I look forward to attending many more programs hosted by my school.
There truly is no place like the Valley.

--Dominique Vidal Nichols is a Presidential Scholar at Fort Valley State University. Presidential scholarships are automatically awarded to qualified applicants to the school.