MTV co-hosts scholarship contest

The winner will receive $10,000 for creating a digital financial aid tool.

by Urmila Ramakrishnan

Applying for financial aid can be difficult and confusing, but a national competition is offering a $10,000 prize for students who build a tool to simplify the process.
The âÄúGet Schooled Challenge,âÄù sponsored by MTV and the College Board, is meant to raise awareness about the benefits of financial aid and the importance of higher education, said Jason Rzepka, an MTV spokesman.  
MTV is committed to college affordability and getting more students graduated from college, Rzepka said.
According to national studies, upwards of two million students each year donâÄôt apply for financial aid that is available to them.
The competition asks students to develop digital tools that will âÄúharness âĦ technology to make it easier for college students to find money for school,âÄù Rzepka said.
The guidelines encourage students to consider using social media, games or applications to help students find scholarships, volunteer opportunities and alert students to financial aid deadlines.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke Monday in support of the contest, praising the efforts to positively portray
higher education.
âÄúSo often the media just focuses on reporting on the bad news,âÄù he said âÄú[The contest] is helping to contribute to something
extraordinarily positive.âÄù
College affordabiity and accessibility is becoming more important, Duncan said.
Over the past decades, the United States has fallen from being the number one producer of college graduates in the world to the ninth, Duncan said.
President Barack Obama has made reclaiming the top spot a priority and launched several initiatives to address
the issue.
âÄúWe need an all-hands-on-deck approach,âÄù Ducan said.
The financial aid process can be difficult and tedious, University student Tim Marks said.
Because his parents are divorced, the application process is more complex because both parents canâÄôt access the account, Marks said. It would be helpful if the process was more accommodating of different family situations, he said.
Duncan said changes have recently been made to the most common aid form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to make it shorter and easier to use.