Tag: financial aid

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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FAFSA Deadlines

FAFSA Deadlines

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is used to apply for financial aid from your school, state, or government.  The application deadline for federal student financial aid and state student financial aid may be different, and you may be required to fill out additional application forms.

The FAFSA needs to be filled out in order for you to receive federal aid, state aid, or school aid.

  • School financial aid is given as loans, grants, or scholarships from the school you are attending (or wish to attend)
  • State financial aid is given by the state you live in as loans or educational grants.
  • Federal financial aid is given by the government as Pell Grants or Stafford Loans.

Federal Student Financial Aid deadlines

For the 2009 – 2010 school year (starting July 1, 2009, ending June 30, 2010), FAFSA online applications must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on June 30, 2010. Any corrections to the online forms must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on September 21, 2010.

If you apply for financial aid for the 2009-2010 school year (which we are currently in), you can use that aid to cover what you have already spent on schooling. This aid can also be applied towards any additional schooling or classes taken and completed before June 30, 2010.

For the 2010 – 2011 school year (starting July 1, 2010, ending June 30, 2011), FAFSA online applications must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on June 30, 2011. Any corrections to the online forms must be submitted by midnight central daylight time on September 21, 2011.

In order for you to actually receive financial aid, your school must have your correct and completed FAFSA information before the last day of your enrollment.

State Student Financial Aid Deadlines:

Most deadlines for state financial aid applications are different than the federal financial aid application deadlines, and will vary by each state. It is extremely important to check with your financial aid advisor to find out when these are so you don’t miss them! You can also check out http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003a.htm#state_deadlines for more details.

Since all financial aid – federal or state – is awarded on a first come, first served basis, it’s in your best interest to get all the FAFSA information you need to submit your application as soon as possible!

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The key to filling out the FAFSA is to be prepared. How do you prepare for a long, detailed form like the FAFSA? You gather all the personal identification information and financial documents the FAFSA will ask you for and you apply for a FAFSA P.I.N. so you can fill out your official FAFSA online (FAFSA-on-the-Web).

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how to do the FAFSA. (For a few important FAFSA Facts first, see EducationGrant’s FAFSA page).

Before We Start: Understanding FAFSA Application Periods

Each FAFSA application period runs from January 1st of any given year to June 30th of the following year. This 18-month period provides financial aid coverage for the traditional September–to–May school year and a short summer school session at either end.

For example, as of January 2010:

  • If the education program you want to enroll in starts between now and June 30th, 2010, fill out the 2009-2010 FAFSA.
  • If the education program you want to enroll in starts between July 1st, 2010 and June 30th, 2011, fill out the 2010-2011 FAFSA.

Key to Filling Out the FAFSA: A Step-By-Step Plan

Step 1: Collect the documents you’ll need for the FAFSA and use them to do the Practice Worksheet

Required personal identification information and financial documents:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN)—or your alien registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen
  • SSN of your parent(s) if you meet the FAFSA criteria for a Dependent Student
  • Your driver’s license if you have one
  • Your most recent bank statements
  • Your W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
  • Your Federal Income Tax Return (and your spouse’s, if you are married): IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, foreign tax return, or tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia or Palau
  • Your parents’ Federal Income Tax Return, if you meet the FAFSA criteria for a dependent student
  • Records of your untaxed income such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare, or veterans’ benefits
  • Your most recent business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and records of stocks, bonds, and other investments

Step 2: Get a PIN for FAFSA-on-the-Web OR download a paper application

The Department of Education strongly recommends that you use FAFSA-on-the-Web. Filing online is shorter, easier, and faster, and you get an answer back more quickly, too. (Read more about FAFSA-on-the-Web in Step 3.)

FAFSA-On-the-Web (FAFSA Online)

  • Apply for your PIN online at www.pin.ed.gov.
  • Your PIN allows you to “sign” your Online FAFSA, and to access your FAFSA file every year that you apply.
  • Apply for your PIN ASAP because processing your request will take at least 2-5 business days.
  • Your parent(s) must have a PIN too if you meet the FAFSA definition of a Dependent Student
  • Providing an email address will speed up the PIN process.

Downloadable Paper FAFSA to Submit by Mail

  • Download a PDF copy of the FAFSA from the Student Aid Website or call the Federal Student Aid Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID.
  • Check the federal school code page to find the code for each school you plan to apply to.
  • Throughout January and February 2010, volunteers across the country are holding events where they are providing in-person help to students filling out the FAFSA. If you could use some help, see if there is a FAFSA event in your area.

Step 3: Set aside some time to do the FAFSA

Block out a couple of hours on your calendar to sit down and just get the FAFSA done. The Department of Education recommends using FAFSA-on-the-Web for several reasons:

  • Online instructions are provided for each question and live online help with a customer service representative is available if you get really stuck.
  • FAFSA-on-the-Web is designed to find mistakes and prompt you to correct them.
  • You can get the federal school code while you’re right there in the form.
  • You can fill out all the questions at once or save your application for later changes and updates. This is a great feature for submitting all the information you have other than your tax return. You have 45 days from when you first submit information, or until the application deadline passes.
  • Once you click “Submit My FAFSA Now” your information is immediately sent to the Department of Education.
  • Your application is processed more quickly.

Tips from FAFSA Experts

  • Do a dry run. Print out a FAFSA Practice Worksheet and fill in as much of the information as you can. This way you’ll have all your data in one place and can easily transfer it to your official FAFSA-on-the-Web.
  • About taxes. You can do your FAFSA-on-the-Web before filing your tax return. Estimate your tax information on your FAFSA, then submit a FAFSA follow-up with any corrections after you’ve completed your tax return. (You have 45 days.)
  • Dependency status. If the FAFSA defines you as a Dependent Student but you have no contact with either parent, make an appointment with a financial aid officer at your school. The financial aid administrator will work with you to determine if you qualify for Independency status in spite of meeting the Dependent Student criteria, and then will submit your FAFSA-on-the-Web with a Dependency Override. Another option is to submit the FAFSA-on-the-Web without parent information, which will qualify you only for an unsubsidized student loan. In this case, you will get an incomplete Student Aid Report (SAR), and if the financial aid office of the school you want to attend agrees to give you Independency status later on, they can do the dependency override then.

Ok, it’s a lot— but it isn’t that different from doing your taxes, another process that benefits from having all your ducks in a row before you begin. For the 2007–2008 academic year, the federal government provided over $14 billion in Pell Grants to more than 5.4 million undergraduate students. Start collecting all your documents as soon as you finish reading this post. The key to filling out the FAFSA is just a little preparation.

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Here’s a treat for a Monday: a chance to share good news about the challenging FAFSA. This month and next, volunteers are standing by to help you fill out a FAFSA, in person, so you can get federal financial aid for college.

Kim Clark, who is always on top of financial aid news at U.S. News & World Report, just alerted her readers about the free FAFSA assistance in her article, Applying for Financial Aid Will Be Easier in 2010. Apparently, some of the volunteers will be tax professionals who will help students with both the FAFSA and their tax returns.

Since the FAFSA is the application you have to fill out in order to get a Pell Grant (and maybe other federal grants for college), getting free help with both the FAFSA and the 1040 sounds like a well-spent afternoon.

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Thinking about going back to school, but don’t know where to start? Amanda Ly, a freshman at East Los Angeles College, wrote a gripping and informative LA Youth article about her initial experience with choosing and paying for college:

Hit with the real cost of college

Although her college plans didn’t turn exactly as she had hoped, Amanda’s financial situation will feel familiar to many students and her description of her experience in navigating student loans, and her hard-won advice, will benefit all readers—whether you’re a new high school graduate or a nontraditional student returning to school. For an introduction on college planning, take a look at this student’s thoughts about what she learned during her college selection and application process.

Top tips: What to find out from the school(s) you’re considering and how early to start planning how you’ll pay for college.

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Yesterday, one of our companion sites received a helpful email from an administrator in the Financial Aid Office of University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Ms. Pamela Ramanathan pointed out that when it comes to dependent student vs. independent student status on the FAFSA, “Students must provide parent information on the FAFSA unless they meet the qualification for independent student. Not being claimed on your parents’ tax return does NOT make a student independent. Even if students are not claimed on their parents’ tax returns, they usually still have to provide parent information.”

This is the kind of insight that is valuable for having come straight from an expert working with real people in real situations. Thanks, Ms. Ramanathan! The clarification prompted a curiosity to know more about this FAFSA issue.

What’s the difference between Dependent Student and Independent Student status on the FAFSA?

Essentially, dependent students must report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA in addition to their own. Independent students report their own income and assets (and those of their spouse, if they’re married). Generally, they do not have to report their parents’ income or assets.

In fact, it’s easier to define independent student status first, because dependent student status, well, depends on whether or not you fit independent student status.

Reminder: If you’re planning to enroll in a higher education program that starts between now and June 30, 2010, you must file a 2009-2010 FAFSA. If your education program doesn’t start until after July 1st, you’ll submit the 2010-2011 FAFSA.

Definition of “Independent Student

For federal financial aid eligibility, you are an independent student IF AT LEAST ONE of these criteria applies to you:

  • You are 24 years old or older (Born before Jan. 1, 1986 for the 2009-2010 FAFSA; born before Jan. 1, 1987 for the 2010-2011 FAFSA).
  • You’re married on the day you apply for financial aid (even if you are separated but not divorced).
  • You are or will be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program (beyond a bachelor’s degree) at the beginning of the academic year* your FAFSA is for, 2009-2010 or 2010-2011.
  • You’re currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
  • You’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. (A “veteran” includes students who attended a U.S. service academy and were released under a condition other than dishonorable.)
  • You have children who will receive more than half their support from you during the FAFSA academic year*.
  • You have legal dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you now and through June 30, 2010 for a 2009-2010 FAFSA or June 30, 2011 if you’re filing a 2010-2011 FAFSA.
  • When you were age 13 or older, both your parents were deceased and you were you in foster care or a dependent or ward of the court.
  • As of the day you apply for aid, you are an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence.
  • As of the day you apply for aid, you are in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence.
  • At any time on or after the July before you file your FAFSA, your high school or school district homeless liaison determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
  • At any time on or after the July before you file your FAFSA, the director of an emergency shelter program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
  • At any time on or after the July before you file your FAFSA, the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.

These are the standard criteria for defining an independent student on the FAFSA. If none of them applies to you, you are considered a dependent student.

You can find additional details and downloadable tip sheets on dependent student vs. independent student status, parents and stepparents, and dependent students in special circumstances at Student Aid on the Web Publications, Forms, and Brochures.

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* A number of “independent student” criteria are restricted to specific academic years. For the purpose of federal financial aid and the FAFSA, relevant academic years are defined as:

  • 2009-2010: July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010
  • 2010-2011: July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011

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After a year of daunting news about student loan debt and broken state financial aid budgets, EducationGrant.com is happy to share this positive assessment of Santa Claus’s readiness for his big night, from his personal physician at University of North Carolina School of Medicine:

Although a bit conservative (they would like him to lose weight), the rest of Santa’s UNC medical team nevertheless appears optimistic about his continued employment. (Santa’s endocrinologist needs a little gender sensitivity training, however.)

For students in need of financial aid to attend college, North Carolina has a substantial collection of scholarship programs and sources. The Carolina Covenant program, for example, provides a debt-free education to qualified low-income students.

UNC Chapel Hill was the nation’s first state university (1795) and the only public university to award degrees in the 18th century. If you are or plan to be a UNC student, check the university’s Office of Scholarships and Student Aid for instructions on how to get started. The UNC Office of Adult Services and Evening Services has scholarship resources for single moms and other nontraditional students, and for North Carolina residents, the College Foundation of North Carolina has a long list of providers of both need-based and merit-based scholarships.

And check back here next week for information on the 2010 FAFSA. January 1, 2010 is the first day you can start filling out a FAFSA for a college program that starts after June 30th. The first step: applying for a FAFSA PIN (Personal Identification Number) and filling out a FAFSA practice worksheet to familiarize yourself with the official form.

Until then, EducationGrant wishes all its readers, and college students everywhere, safe and happy holidays!

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Worried about adding all that holiday shopping to your debt? Well, you may get some financial power back in 2010, when new credit card and student loan rules start leveling the playing field between customers and lenders.

A week ago, Congress approved a proposal to create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The new CFPA is designed to monitor financial transactions not covered by the Truth in Lending Act — including private student loans, which are currently unregulated. If the CFPA proposal eventually becomes law, the Agency will have the authority to establish and enforce rules for private student loans.

Also, a new credit card law goes fully into effect in two months (February 22, 2010). These new rules ban or restrict unfair fees, require more transparency about credit card costs, and help consumers make more informed decisions about which credit cards they acquire and how they use them.

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act:

  • Requires “Plain Language in Plain Sight” explanations of both account and contract terms before consumers open an account and the activity on consumers’ accounts after the account is opened. (For example, customers must be told before they open a credit card account what fees they may be charged. Then, after the account is open, credit card statements must conspicuously display fees the consumer paid both in the current month and over the year-to-date, along with the reasons for those fees.)
  • Bans unfair interest rate increases
  • Bans retroactive interest rate increases for arbitrary reasons and restricts retroactive rate increases due to late payment
  • Offers first year protection: Contract terms must be clearly spelled out, and they can’t be changed at all during the whole first year
  • Bans late fee traps such as a too-short payment deadline, weekend deadlines, deadlines that change each month, and deadlines that fall in the middle of the day
  • Requires over-payments be applied to the balance with the highest interest rate first, and bans interest charges on debt paid on time ( “double-cycle” billing)
  • Requires transparency about over-the-limit fees by requiring the customer’s permission before processing any transaction that would push the account over the credit limit
  • Restricts unfair sub-prime and low-limit card fees
  • Limits fees on Gift Cards and Stored Value Cards and requires more transparency in the disclosure about fees
  • Requires consumers under the age of 21 to provide the signature of a parent, guardian, or other individual 21 years or older who will take responsibility for the debt, or proof that the applicant has an independent means of repaying the debt
  • Requires a periodic review of all interest rate increases since January 2009 and requires rate reductions when a review indicates that a reduction is warranted
  • Requires the inclusion of real information about the financial consequences of decisions, including periodic statements that clearly display how long it will take to pay off the existing balance (and the total interest cost) if the consumer pays only the minimum amount due VS. the payment amount and the total interest cost if the existing balance was paid off in 36 months.

The Credit CARD Act also mandates stricter safeguards for college students and young adults, who are particularly vulnerable to sales gimmicks and traps in the fine print.

  • Credit card issuers and universities will be required to be very clear about any agreements they have regarding the marketing or distribution of credit cards to college students and young adults.
  • Credit card issuers and regulators will be held accountable for failure to abide by the new rules, including increased penalties for repeat violators.

Financial literacy is going to be a hot topic in 2010. Visit EducationGrant.com often for updates on new student loan regulations, credit card rules, and changes to the federal financial aid process.

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The subject of today’s post, though not exactly financial aid, feels like a higher education story for the holidays: a glimpse into how successful nontraditional students get their college degrees. Nontraditional college students (anyone other than an 18-year-old going to a 4-year college straight from high school, that is) are students of all ages and walks of life. If you’re one of them, you’re already familiar with the challenges that may have made it difficult for you to pursue your dream of a college degree.

This celebratory article, For one student, a long path to college degree, provides both inspiration and some insight into what it means to be a nontraditional student. It’s a great read. In this year of grim news, it’s nice to read about someone’s success for a change!

One of the resources the article mentioned is the Pell Grant. Pell Grants help millions of students a year, and data on Pell Grant recipients provides a familiar snapshot of nontraditional students. For instance, a recent National Center for Education Statistics report (July 2009) profiled Pell Grant recipients who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1999-2000. Here’s what the study found:

  • Majority were low-income
  • 23% were age 22 and under; 31% were 23-24; 27% were 25-29; and almost 19% were 30 and up
  • 60% were considered financially independent
  • 24% had dependents of their own
  • 11% were single parents
  • 34% delayed their enrollment in college after high school
  • 58% left college or career school for 4 or more months and later returned to complete a degree at either the same school or a different one

These percentages are from 10 years ago, so some may have grown or decreased in the recent recession. It would be a surprise if the percentage of Pell Grant recipients age 30 and older had not noticeably increased over the past two years.

Clearly, pursing a college degree is a big investment of time, money, and maybe even personal sacrifice, but to many people, it’s worth the effort. If not straight from high school, how do nontraditional students get started on their college degrees? Here are a couple of ideas.

What college will work for me?

The nonprofit education organization ACT, maker of the college entrance exam by the same name, has a checklist of 11 items for prospective college students to consider when choosing a college. The checklist is geared more toward the traditional college-bound high school senior, but many items are still relevant to nontraditional students working on their degrees across the years, colleges, and even states. Here are a few, with a nontraditional student twist:

  • Academics, particularly the programs, majors, and courses you need to stay on your degree track
  • Admission and transfer-admission requirements, and transfer policy
  • Total Costs: tuition, fees, books, transportation
  • Financial aid (who will give you the most?)
  • School size (can you get the personalized academic guidance and support you need to succeed, especially if you’re transferring in?)
  • Location (is it convenient for you?)
  • Housing for independent students if you need it
  • Facilities: certainly academic, maybe recreational, but also practical (is there a daycare center?)

Based on Catherine’s story in the AP article, it sounds like a checklist specifically for nontraditional students would also include:

  • Powerful belief in both oneself and the value of a good education
  • Determination
  • Support from family and friends
  • Stick-to-it-iveness: the ability to persevere against the odds

How do I get financial aid?

You start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A new and improved one is being released in stages and the FAFSA for the 2010-2011 school year will be available on January 1st. Submitting a FAFSA is required in order for you to get a Pell Grant.

In the meantime, try the FAFSA4caster on Federal Student Aid website. This little calculator, a sort of mini-FAFSA, allows you to plug in some of the information you’ll need to put on the FAFSA, including the school(s) you’re considering. The FAFSA4caster then gives you an estimate of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and your financial aid eligibility. It may be only the beginning of your journey to get your college degree, but a single step, or two, or three, can be a good start.

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