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Malia Obama decides which Ivy League college she'll attend

Malia Obama, 17, will join the Harvard University class of 2021 after taking a gap year, the White House announced Sunday. 

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The decision was made public on May 1, National College Decision Day. 

Harvard accepted 5.2 percent of applicants this year, making this admissions cycle the most selective in its nearly 400-year-long history, The New York Times reported.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama attended Ivy League schools; the president attended Columbia, and the first lady went to Princeton. Both later graduated from Harvard Law School.

“The one thing I’ve been telling my daughters is that I don’t want them to choose a name,” Michelle Obama told Seventeen magazine earlier this year. “I don’t want them to think, ‘Oh, I should go to these top schools.’ We live in a country where there are thousands of amazing universities.”

The teenager visited dozens of schools, including the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Barnard, Tufts, Brown, Yale and Wesleyan. The first lady said in September that the family talked over Malia's college plans "every night." 

It's unclear what Malia, who turns 18 on July 4, will do during her gap year. Most people work or travel during a gap year.

It's also unknown what she'll study, but the eldest Obama daughter has expressed interest in working in television and productions. She spent a day in 2014 working as a production assistant on "Extant," a series produced by Obama donor Steven Speilberg that stars Halle Berry. Last year the teenager interned with the HBO series "Girls."

"Just like her father, she is an avid reader, and she enjoys movies and the whole process," Michelle Obama previously told People magazine. The president has described his eldest daughter as someone who never felt comfortable achieving only average scores and grades. 

Earlier in the year President Obama revealed that he declined an offer to speak at Malia's graduation from Sidwell Friends School in June. 

"I'm going to be wearing dark glasses, and I’m going to cry," he said.

He also spoke about his daughters during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres.

"Both of my daughters are wonderful people. Malia's more than ready to leave but I'm not ready for her to leave," he said. "She's one of my best friends. It's going to be hard for me not to have her around all the time, but she's ready to go. She's just a really smart, capable person and she's ready to make her own way."

The Obamas have said they will stay in Washington, D.C. while their youngest daughter, Sasha, 14, finishes school at Sidwell. The president and his wife still own a home in Chicago.

"Our decision has actually presented a bit of a dilemma because traditionally presidents don't stick around after they're done," Obama said at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. "And it's something that I've been brooding about a little bit."

After his speech, the president presented a humorous video about what he could do after leaving office.

Obama administration launches website to help student loan payback

The White House is stepping up efforts to help people repay their student loans.

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About 1 in 7 borrowers default on their federal student loans within just three years of beginning to repay them.

President Barack Obama's administration is launching a new website that clearly outlines income-based repayment plans. It provides personalized repayment plans so Americans can pick what best suits their needs.

Administration officials say income-based repayment plans can slash monthly payments. They extend the repayment period from 10 years to 20 years. Remaining balances of federal loans will be forgiven after 20 years.

Education Secretary John King said the goal is to enroll at least 2 million more borrowers in repayment plans. He told reporters on a conference call that he is still paying back loans that he took out in graduate school. King said the goal is to protect consumers' credit.

Defaulting can damage credit, making it difficult to obtain other types of loans.

More than 40 percent of Americans who borrowed from the government’s student-loan program aren’t making payments or are behind on payments, raising worries that millions may never repay.

Federal student loan debt now exceeds $1.3 trillion.

How to qualify for Obama's new student loan forgiveness initiative

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The Obama administration announced Tuesday a plan to forgive $7.7 billion in federal student loans held by an estimated 387,000 permanently disabled Americans, of which roughly half, 179,000, are in default.

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While the administration tried to streamline the discharge of student loans for the permanently disabled four years ago, few eligible borrowers took advantage. Now, the Department of Education is starting to identify and contact eligible borrowers to help them take the necessary steps to discharge their loans.

“In 2012, the administration took steps to streamline the process to allow for Americans who are totally and permanently disabled (TPD) to use their Social Security designation to apply to have their loans discharged. But too many eligible borrowers were falling through the cracks, unaware they were eligible for relief,” U.S. Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell said in a prepared statement. “Under the new process, we will notify potentially eligible borrowers about the benefit and guide them through steps needed to discharge their loans, helping thousands of borrowers. Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief. And we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to receive the benefits they are due.”

Starting April 18, borrowers identified in the match will receive a letter from the government explaining the steps needed to receive a discharge. They will not be required to submit documentation of their eligibility, unlike disabled borrowers who apply for the discharge on their own. Notification letters will be sent over a 16-week period and will be followed by a second letter after 120 days.

The letters will inform borrowers of the tax implications of the discharge, since the government can tax the loan amount forgiven. While the president’s 2017 budget proposal seeks to exclude TPD discharges and other Department of Education loan forgiveness programs from taxable income, it will require congressional action to make that happen.

What to do if you’re eligible but not contacted

Eligible borrowers who do not receive notification from the Education Department can initiate the necessary steps to have their student loans forgiven by following the steps outlined on an Education Department website:

  1. If you are a veteran, you can submit documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs showing that the VA has determined that you are unemployable because of a service-connected disability.
  2. If you are receiving Social Security disability insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, you can submit a Social Security Administration notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits saying that your next scheduled disability review will be within five to seven years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination.
  3. You can submit certification from a physician that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:
  • Can be expected to result in death
  • Has lasted for a continuous period of no less than 60 months
  • Can be expected to last for a continuous period of no fewer than 60 months

Initial notification letters will be sent over a 16-week period and will be followed up with a second letter that will be sent 120 days after the initial letter if a signed application is not received. Notification will also include information to ensure that borrowers understand the potential tax implications of the benefit and can make an informed decision about electing a discharge.

Help for non-eligible student loan borrowers

Defaulting on a loan seriously damages your credit score, and because student loans are rarely discharged in bankruptcy, the debt can haunt borrowers for decades. (You can see how your student loans are currently affecting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

There are some options for people who are behind on payments to get back on track, even if forgiveness isn’t an option. To get out of default, you can combine eligible loans with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan, or you can go through the government’s default rehabilitation program. If you make nine consecutive on-time payments (the payments can be extremely low), your account goes back into good standing, and the default is removed from your credit report.

Satirical article claims Stanford admitted zero students to class of 2020

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In what has been called a "fun April Fool's" column, the New York Times identifies Stanford University as the most selective institution of higher education in the country after an announcement that it admitted less than five percent of applicants to the class of 2020.

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“We had exceptional applicants, yes, but not a single student we couldn’t live without,” the New York Times reported an anonymous Stanford administrator as saying. “In the stack of applications that I reviewed, I didn’t see any gold medalists from the last Olympics -- Summer or Winter Games -- and while there was a 17-year-old who’d performed surgery, it wasn’t open heart or a transplant or anything like that. She’ll thrive at Yale.”

The article, which has been called satirical but not yet identified as such by the author, Frank Bruni, is intended to bring attention to the "absurdity of college admissions today."

Last year, the Stanford received a record number of applications -- 42,487 -- and invited less than 2,500 high school seniors to join Stanford’s class of 2019.

The five percent admission rate was a record low until this year's 4.69 percent rate. 

“This is the worst thing that has happened to anyone, ever,” Bruni quoted a high school senior from Washington, D.C., as saying. "Whether she accepts an offer of admission from M.I.T. or one from Duke, she’ll defer enrollment and take a gap year to regain her confidence," he wrote, poking fun at the sentiments of discouraged young people and also pointing out the privilege and sense of entitlement stereotypically embraced by many young millennials. 

A total of 1,318 high school seniors were accepted to Sanford's newest undergraduate class on Friday. An additional 745 early action students were accepted in December. The 2,063 admits came from a pool of 43,997 applicants, the largest in Stanford’s history. Anoter 3.6 percent of applicants were given a place on Stanford’s waitlist, according to The Stanford Daily. This year's admits come from 50 states and 76 countries. 

“We are honored by the interest in Stanford and overwhelmed by the exceptional accomplishments of the students admitted to the Class of 2020,” Richard Shaw, Stanford dean of admissions and financial aid, told the Stanford Report. “Our admitted students reflect the deep and profound diversity of the world in which we live. We believe these students will impact that world in immeasurable ways.”

Though rejecting so many applicants seems like grounds for financial concern, Stanford donors haven't pulled back, the New York Times reported. In fact, the rise in the school's donations might be growin "in tandem with its exclusivity."

Admitted students have until May 1 to accept Stanford’s offer.

Read the New York Times piece here.

Survey reports things graduates would do to avoid paying student loans

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If you want to get out of having to pay your student loan debt, you have very few options. Sure, there are student loan forgiveness programs and maybe you could get your employer to help you repay the debt, but for the most part, you’re stuck with those loans until you make the very last payment.

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For many people, starting adulthood tens of thousands of dollars in debt creates this sense of being trapped. As a result, people would do some pretty outlandish things to escape it -- or, at least, they say they would.

LendEDU, an online student loan marketplace, asked student loan borrowers what they’d be willing to do in order to eliminate their debts. The poll isn’t scientific or statistically representative of U.S. student loan borrowers -- the figures come from an online survey of 513 borrowers who have graduated -- but it’s entertaining.

The most common thing student loan borrowers would do in exchange for debt relief? Stay off social media for life. Nearly 58 percent of respondents were willing to do that.

Going without coffee for life came in at a close second.

Respondents had an average of $31,762 in outstanding student loans at the time of the survey, and 57.11 percent said they’d lay off the java for eternity if doing so would eliminate their debts. (It’s interesting to consider that 43 percent of people said they’d rather be in serious debt than take a sip of it again.

Almost as many people -- 56.73 percent -- were willing to trade their debt for a punch from Mike Tyson. People preferred that to giving up alcohol and drugs for life (56.14 percent).

Some less common but no-less-intriguing responses included the following: taking a year off their life expectancy (40.35 percent), giving up texting forever (35.67 percent), naming their first-born daughter Sallie Mae (28.07 percent) and wearing the same outfit every day for the rest of their life (20.47 percent). Things got more extreme from there, with 6.47 percent saying they’d cut off their pinky finger if it meant having no more student loan debt.

It’s unlikely that cutting off a finger would be less painful than repaying student loan debt. Then again, Americans have $1.3 trillion in outstanding education debt. Millions have fallen behind on those loans and face consequences like wage garnishment or losing out on Social Security benefits.

Unpaid student loans can severely damage your credit, which has a huge bearing on several common needs like housing, auto loans and insurance. If you’re having trouble paying your student loans, the first thing to do is reach out to your student loan servicer to find out what options you have for getting back on track, so you can eventually find your way out of debt and fix your credit. You can see how your student loans affect your credit scores by getting two free scores every 30 days on Credit.com.

College student lists dorm room on Airbnb, faces consequences from university

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Airbnbs provide comfortable and interesting home away from homes for many people around the world.

For travelers, it's an alternative to pricey and mundane hotels, and for those that offer their spaces for others to rent, it's a good source of income

One college student in New England decided to try his luck at the rental business by posting his college dorm room on the site

Jack Worth, a 19-year-old student at Emerson College, wrote in the listing's description that his dwelling offered “a private, single-bedroom unit with sweeping views of Boston Common, right in the heart of downtown.”

The second-year student was able to rent out his space in a 12-story building of about 750 other students on three separate occasions before the housing department at the college found out about his Airbnb listing. They told the teenager it was against school regulations.

"Really, the idea just came from the combination of understanding where Emerson is located in the city and it being in such a heavily-desired neighborhood," Worth told the Boston Globe. "And the thought of how I could make a little bit of extra money."

Emerson spokesman Andy Tiedemann told Reuters that the residence hall policy prohibits students from renting out their housing units “to protect residents and the community from exposure to safety and security risks.

Worth, who was fined $150 by Airbnb for violating rules and now faces a disciplinary hearing by the educational institution on "several charges of misconduct," has started a petition to support himself and "his honest, entrepreneurial endeavor."

"There is nothing criminal with providing cheap housing to travelers," Worth's colleague, Ari Howorth, wrote on the petition's page." Jack Worth gave travelers from far and wide a taste of Boston life and the Emerson experience simply because he wanted to help those who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to stay in the downtown area. If the Emerson community is as inclusive as it claims to be, it should act it." 

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 400 people had signed the petition.

Social media users took to Twitter to express their thoughts about the situation using the hashtag #FreeJackWorth.

Read more here. 

Posted by Jack Worth on Sunday, January 31, 2016

Posted by Jack Worth on Sunday, January 31, 2016

Playboy ranks top party schools in U.S.

All Hail to the Pigskin Gods

Follow Gerilyn on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr

In the south, football is not just a pastime, it’s a religion.  Just like any religion it comes complete with colorful pageantry, deep rooted rituals, annual pilgrimages and, in the final minutes of a close game, plenty of praying!  Anyone who’s trekked to the annual Georgia Florida game knows what I’m talking about.    But no matter what team you are cheering for we, can all agree that the best part of this pastime is tailgating.  Here are the “10 Commandments” of good tailgating and a couple of recipes that you’ll want to add to you pre-game ritual.

  1. Thou Shall Arrive Early-  History has proven that it  ALWAYS takes longer to get to the game than you think it will.  I can’t tell you how many of my early tailgating parties were spent stressed out in gridlock trying to get to a parking space!  As a good rule of thumb it’s best to arrive 4 hours early and prepare to eat 2 hours before the game
  2. Then there was Fire….And it was good-  Is it me, or does the grill just make a tailgate? The grill harkens back to our tribal instincts….  All dressed up in our colors, sitting around a fire, and getting ready for battle!  The key to a good grilling tailgate is to prep early.  Pre make patties of hamburgers and store them with a sheet of wax paper between rows in plastic container.  Pre cut the “fixins’ like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cheese.  If your tailgate is a little more high-falutin, think about marinating steak and chicken skewers the night before. Since the fire’s hot, why not grill some crowd pleasing sides too like Mexican corn or Cajun vegetable.  Get recipes here. 
  3. Thou shall stock a cooler for everyone- Just like any watering hole, good times just seem to be centered around the cooler.  Try to have something for everyone in your crew AND for those  long lost friends that will inevitably stop by!  The college roommate that always ate the last cookie and left the bag will be the first friend to stop by your tailgate looking for a beer!  Try to think of the kids too and have plenty of water.  Now, a well packed cooler is a science and here are some tips and a helpful diagram- Start with a clean cooler.  Put bottles and cans on the bottom and cover with a layer of ice.  Pack foods in individual contains and cover with ice.  Any loose bags go on top.  Pack the cooler full so no warm air gets in.    With your well packed cooler, you have enough room for drinks to make everyone happy.    
  4.  Thou shall honor the team colors-  Oh yes, this is the glue that holds your entire tailgate together!   No matter what goofy side dish your mother in law brought, if it’s placed on a platter of your favorite team’s color or logo, you can bet the folks will dig in.  There are some really fun ways to sport your team colors that will have everyone cheering.   Download one of these FREE college football printables!  They are super cute, and come complete with invitations, banners, cupcake wrappers & toppers.  And did I tell you they were FREE??   Top your table off with Jello Shots and a cake in the exact color of your team.  Download icing formulas here so your UGA red doesn’t come out a crimson tide    Don’t have the creative itch?  Not to worry- pick up an inexpensive team party pack.  You’ll find everything you need from your car magnet to team tumblers here and they can be shipped to your door before game time!  
  5. Thou shall mark your territory-  Make it easy for friends to find you by attaching a unique flag or large balloon to  your car or tent.  This will make your tailgate stand out in the sea of team colored tents !
  6. Thou Shall expect the unexpected-  Whatever can happen will.  Wouldn’t hurt to throw a couple of ponchos and umbrellas in the car along with a first aid kit and some extra ice
  7. Thou shall be entertained-  Bring yard games like corn hole and ladder toss!  This is a great way to keep kids large and small happy.  Of course don’t forget the TV so you can watch all the pre-game action.  Here’s a list of dozens of fun games-  many don’t even need equipment 
  8. Thou shall be courteous and make friends-    A friend of my team is a friend indeed!  Nothing better than bonding over your team and sharing fond memories!  Be considerate of your neighbors….Who knows, you might need to borrow a cup of ice before the party’s over.
  9. Thou shall be clean- Consider packing medium plastic bins with all the plates utensils and food.  It’s an easy way to keep organize and tidy.  Bring lots of garbage bags too.  One quick clean up idea is to turn a case of beer into a cooler-  Remove the beer from the box.  Place a large garbage bag inside the box fill with bottles of beer and cover with ice.  Once the beer is gone, toss the box in the garbage. Done!
  10. Thou shall Stay late-  Ifyou did your tailgate right, you won’t want the party to end.  Whether you are celebrating a team win or mourning heartbreaking loss, why not keep the party going and wait for the crowds to leave.  If you packed enough ice there’s no reason for the party to be over.  And hey, that’s more time to practice #8, make new friends!     
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