Archive for 'College Finance'

Need help filling out the FAFSA if you’re an independent student?

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One of the most common questions we get asked about financial aid is what the income limit is to qualify for grants and other financial assistance – in fact, it’s been a topic of discussion on Facebook. Many people assume that your income is the one hard and and fast variable that determines your financial aid eligibility, but the truth is that there is no income limit for financial aid.

Income Limit on Financial AidThere is a mathematical equation that the government uses to determine what financial aid you are eligible for. This equation takes into a number of financial items that may apply to you, including:

  • Enrollment status (full-time, part-time, etc.)
  • Your dependency status
  • The number of people in your family
  • The number of people in your family who are attending college
  • The state you live in
  • If one or both parents work (if you are a dependent student)
  • The amount of money you have in your checking & savings accounts
  • Your earnings from work
  • Other tax-deferred or untaxed income from child support, grants & scholarships, military pay, etc.
  • The income tax paid the previous year
  • Your investments & assets
  • Your parents assets (again, if you are a dependent student)

Some folks may go along the assumption that the less they make, the more financial aid they will qualify for. While that’s not necessarily true, need-based federal education grants such as the Pell Grant are typically awarded to undergraduates with a high degree of financial need. In fact, most Pell Grants go to students with a total family income around or below $20,000. But, students whose families have a total income of up to $50,000 may be eligible too.

The only way to know what financial aid you will get is to fill out a FAFSA. The FAFSA asks you a number of questions that help determine your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount of money the government thinks you and/or your family can pay for your tuition for that school year. For more information on the EFC and the formula used to determine your eligibility, see How Financial Aid is Distributed.

State deadlines for the FAFSA  may be different than the federal deadline. State forms do not replace filling out the federal FAFSA form.

If you want federal financial aid, you must fill out the FAFSA! Don’t miss your state’s deadlines, as they will vary state to state, and may require additional forms or letters of recommendation, etc.

fafsa deadlines

KEY:
* Additional form may be required. Contact your financial aid administrator or your state agency.
^ Applicants encouraged to obtain proof of mailing.
# For priority consideration, submit application by date specified.
@ Deadline by midnight, Central Daylight Time.
& Deadline by midnight, Central Standard Time.

Source: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003a.htm

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The U.S. Department of Education said it’s received approximately 5,000 FAFSA forms that were wrongfully filled out. Students who were trying to fill out the 2010-2011 FAFSA form mistakenly filled out the 2009-2010 form.

Affected students will be notified by mail with this statement.

The problem with the forms was caused by a technical error that began after an update to the website on February 23, 2010. Apparently some 2010-2011 applicants that were trying to access the FAFSA form with an unsupported Internet browser were misdirected to the 2009-2010 form, after receiving a warning message indicating that their Internet browser was not supported.

This website error has affected less than 5,000 students, which is approximately 0.2 percent of the more than 2.8 million applications received during the relevant period. Any information shared in the FAFSA continues to remain safe and secure.

You will be contacted if you have been affected by this error. If you wish you speak to someone, feel free to call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at #1-800-4-FED-AID.

Source: USA Today

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With our current economy, it is hard to pay for college and frustrating to search for affordable schools. U.S. News provided these factors for low-to-middle income students to consider when researching schools.college search

1. Low sticker price colleges. Community colleges and public universities in your community are usually priced less than private colleges and universities.

2. Meet full needs colleges.  These types of schools promise to provide enough scholarships and grants to all regularly admitted students, to help them avoid debt. These colleges do not carry over this promise to international students or wait-listed students. Each school defines a students need differently. Schools may expect students to borrow a certain amount of money each year, or make a certain amount of money each year from summer or part-time jobs.

3. Need-blind colleges. These types of schools, like public colleges and universities,  accept students based on their academic qualifications and not their need for financial aid. However, most public schools can’t afford to cover all the financial aid that their students need.

4. Colleges with high percentages of low-income students. Colleges who accept a majority of students receiving Pell Grants (usually meaning students coming from families earning below $45K a year) provide extra financial counseling and support.

5. No loan colleges. Some colleges promise no-loan packages, which offer bigger scholarships and earnings opportunities to students from low-and middle-income families. However, many students find they still may need to borrow to meet their expected family contributions which are determined by the FAFSA and schools.  

6. Merit aid colleges. These schools will give out merit scholarships to students who raise the student body’s grade point or test score average, raise the competitiveness of an athletic team, or find a spot in the school band, for example.

7. Military academies. Students interested in the military won’t have to pay for school – but in return they are required to pay for their education by serving their country in the armed forces.

For more information on Financial Aid:

Financial Aid

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Many parents fill out the FAFSA for their children. According to The College Solution blog, here are some common mistakes that parents make when filling it out:common fafsa mistakes

1. Don’t leave answers blank. Leaving blanks on your form can cause miscalculations, and the application could possibly be rejected. If your intended answer is zero, write “0”.

2. Double check your Social Security and driver’s license numbers. Make sure you have written the correct numbers – even one wrong digit can mess up the entire application.

3. Don’t enter the wrong income tax information. Make sure you enter the federal income tax you paid (or will pay) based on the 2009 federal tax return. Do not enter the tax withholdings on your (or your spouse’s) W-2 forms.

4. List your current marital status. You need to state what your marital status is on the day you fill out the FAFSA – whether you are married, separated, or divorced.

5. Don’t include retirement assets. The FAFSA asks about how much money you have in cash, checking, and savings accounts. It does not ask about your 401 (k), IRA, or other retirement accounts you have – so don’t include this information!

6. List colleges your child has applied to. You are able to include up to 10 colleges that your child has applied to – but you will need each college’s Federal School Code. The federal processors will send the relevant FAFSA information to the schools you have listed.

7. Don’t exaggerate your education. If both parents didn’t graduate from college, don’t list “college” as the highest level of education – even if they did attend some college courses over the years. There are many schools that favor applicants who are considered first-generation college-students.

8. Home equity is irrelevant. The FAFSA doesn’t ask if you own a house (or second home, or real estate investments…), so the value of your house does not matter.

9. Retirement accounts are irrelevant. The FAFSA doesn’t ask about your retirement accounts – so your chances for financial aid help aren’t affected by how much money you have saved up in these accounts.

For more helpful information regarding the FAFSA visit:

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Here are some of today’s financial aid news stories:financial aid in the news

Students in race for state’s college financial aid funds

The Chicago Sun Times reports that financial aid applications are being filled out quickly, since students are afraid of  being shut out from state aid. More than 180,000 Illinois students filled out financial aid forms in January and February, which is 21 percent more than those two months last year. Last year, Illinois ended up denying financial aid applications that were submitted after May 15, which was the earliest cutoff date in history. Because of this, more than120,000 eligible students didn’t get a dime of financial aid for the fall semester.

College acts to disregard fiscal needs in admissions

The New York Times reports that Hamilton College (a small liberal arts college in Clinton, NY) is adopting a need-blind admissions policy. This means that they will consider applicants regardless of their ability to pay. Previously, some students were admitted to Hamilton College partly because they required no financial aid, and others were rejected from the college because they did. Over the next four years, Hamilton expects to add about $2 million to its annual financial aid budget. Full tuition, room and board, and other fees to attend Hamilton total nearly $50,000 per year, where the average financial aid award is about $32,500.

Don’t put off applying for college financial aid

Buffalo News reports that financial aid will be in high demand again this year, so students need to fill out their financial aid applications quickly. Financial aid applications for the The University of Maryland-College Park are up 12 percent from last year, although federal funding for work-study and certain education grants has been cut down.

Don’t wait till the last minute to fill out your FAFSA! Fore more financial aid information, check out:

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Do you need help filling out the FAFSA, or have questions regarding the financial aid application process? Here are 4 financial aid resources which should help make filling out the FAFSA easier for you!help with fafsa

FAFSA on the Web

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA on the Web site has live online representatives who are available to help when you’re filling out the FAFSA, by hitting the “Live Help” button. Also, you have the option of speaking to a customer service representative by calling the FAFSA phone number: (800)-433-3243.

FAFSA on the Web Worksheet

  • By downloading the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet, you will be able to gather all the required financial and tax documents ahead of time. It allows you to take a practice run at filling out the FAFSA, before you sign online to officially fill it out and apply. Also, by filling out the practice worksheet beforehand, you’ll have less of a chance of making errors on the real FAFSA.

College Goal Sunday

  • College Goal Sunday is a non-profit program (sponsored in part by the YMCA) that offers personal FAFSA counseling at certain events throughout the country. Representatives are available at these functions to speak with you in person about your FAFSA or financial aid questions. Check out College Goal Sunday’s website to find a financial aid event near you.

TuitionCoach

  • This financial aid website offers free financial aid webinars, and has step-by-step instructions on how to complete the FAFSA, as well as a Q&A session.

Source:  CBS MoneyWatch.com

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The following 10 factors can and will affect an individual student’s chances at receiving financial aid, based on their specific school. It is important to find out how your school stands on determining financial aid offers. If you have questions or need clarification, ask your school’s financial aid office.10 factors determining financial aid

1. Your school’s policy on student loans
• Some colleges provide enough federal grants and work-study jobs to meet a student’s need
• Others schools will provide enough grants so that low-income students don’t have to borrow, while others students will have to take out modest loans
• Some schools even offer aid packages that include federal student loans of up to $7,500 a year

2. How your school calculates a family’s need
• Some schools are promising to provide enough grants to make sure families earning less than $180,000 pay not more than 10 percent of their income
• Some schools are promising enough aid so that the families only have to pay the expected family contribution (EFC) – which the school calculates based off the family’s income

3. How your school counts home equity
• Some colleges consider the equity parents have in their homes as a resource that should be tapped to help pay for college
• Other schools don’t consider equity of the parents’ home

4. The effect of the financial aid application on your chances for admission
• Some colleges reserve spots for students who can pay full price
• Other schools will meet the financial needs of their admitted students, and don’t consider a student’s financial aid application or their ability to pay when deciding about admission

5. Does the school offer merit scholarships?
• Some schools offer top students merit scholarships no matter what their expected family contribution is, or how rich their parents are
• Other schools do not offer merit scholarships

6. The school’s financial aid policy for international students
• Some schools will commit to meet the financial aid of noncitizens
• Other schools do not guarantee full aid for international students

7. The cutoff date for the meet-full-needs promise
• Some schools will only meet the needs of students who complete their aid applications on time
• Other schools commit to meet the need of those students admitted during the early or regular admission seasons and may run out of aid by the time they start admitting students off their waiting list
• There are some schools that say the timing of the application doesn’t affect the aid award at all

8. How the schools considers divorced parents
• Some schools analyze the incomes of both stepparents and birth parents to make their own judgments about which set of parents should be responsible for each student’s college costs
• Other schools only consider the incomes of the birth parents
• Schools that only use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) consider only the custodial parents’ income when determining financial aid

9. The college’s expectation for student contribution
• Some schools provide enough aid so that students aren’t required to pitch in summer earnings
• Other schools reduce the student’s need and aid package by at least $1,000, saying that the student is expected to contribute that much each year from their summer earnings

10. What the college considers as its cost
• Some schools keep their cost low by providing small allowances for books or miscellaneous expenses
• Legally a college’s total cost of attendance is supposed to include tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel, and miscellaneous expenses for other necessities

Source: U.S.News, http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/paying-for-college/2010/02/18/will-you-get-enough-financial-aid-ask-your-college-about-these-10-factors.html

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If you haven’t already, you should get a head start on filling out your FAFSA application. Each year, more than 16 million students apply for more than $100 million in student aid using the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.filling out the FAFSA

Vangent, a information management and strategic business solution company, announced that the “FAFSA on the Web” web portal received the highest citizen satisfaction score on the latest American Customer Satisfaction (ACSI) survey of U.S Federal Government 2009 news and information sites, according to a recent press release. Vangent co-designed, built, and helped operate the FAFSA web portal on the behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.

Vangent has been working with the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) for more than 25 years, and in January 2010, they launched a new simplified form that includes text pop-ups, skip logic, and a IRS Data Match – a feature that automatically transfers and verifies application tax data with the IRA in real-time. Approximately 99% of all financial aid applications are submitted electronically via the FAFSA on the Web portal, which has greatly improved efficiencies.

The new and improved FAFSA on the Web portal has increased user satisfaction, as well as meeting the Obama Administration’s objectives to simplify the financial aid application process.

Don’t miss FAFSA deadlines!

  • For the 2009-2010 year, all FAFSA applications must be turned in by midnight Central Daylight time, on September 21, 2010.
  • For the 2010-2011 year, all FAFSA applications must be turned in by midnight Central Daylight time, on June 30, 2011.

More information on the FAFSA:

The Key to Filling out the FAFSA in 3 Steps

FAFSA

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