Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tips college financial aid specialists want students to know


All three experts agree that many students enter college with little information on money management. They’ve seen this lack of information lead to credit card debt, overspending early in the year, or financial problems that can impact college attendance. However, administrators say it’s never too late to learn money management skills. Nora Cargo advises, “Budget for what you need and to save for what you want. Do not fall into impulse purchasing. Plan.” She adds, “My advice to parents of college students is to talk to your student, not for your student. Learning to navigate life’s challenges successfully is a part of the higher education journey. School officials are happy to help, but we also want students to be fully engaged in their educational experiences.” Many colleges offer on-campus financial literacy programs and web-based resources, as do other providers and the S. Department of Education

2. Finish School on Time

Ganser states that national data shows a trend in longer degree completion times. Typical four-year enrollments are inching toward five or six years for many. Two-year programs are progressively turning into three. Hugh Ganser cautions that this trend is leading to significant increases in educational expenses and loan debt, and special programs colleges are developing to help students finish on time. “Many schools offer advising and incentive programs that can help students stay on track. Academic and career counseling are also available to help undecided students make the right career decisions and plan the best educational program to achieve their goals. Some schools even offer fifth-year tuition forgiveness for students who pledge to finish on time and fulfill their obligations, but are unable to graduate in four years.” Federal student aid regulations also require that students make satisfactory academic progress and complete their programs within a specific timeframe to assure continued financial aid eligibility.

3. File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Meet Deadlines

Some students assume they aren’t eligible for financial aid and don’t file a FAFSA. Anne Chapdelaine and Hugh Ganser advise all students to file a FAFSA, and to not rule themselves out in advance. Chapdelaine states, “Students should know that most aid programs, including federal loans, require a FAFSA annually. Ganser adds, “Missing deadlines can reduce aid eligibility for certain grant, scholarship or work-study awards, and result in higher borrowing levels.”

4. Look for Grant and Scholarship Resources

Grants and scholarships, whether from federal or state sources, your college, community groups, or larger national databases, are the best form of aid since they don’t have to be repaid. The FAFSA is the application for federal grants and most state and college grants. Check your state grant program’s information and your school’s website to see if any other forms are required. Chapdelaine states, “University and college websites have information about many of their scholarships and grants which have additional forms or steps required. Students should also check community organizations and other outside sources that provide scholarships.” There are also larger national scholarship databases students can investigate. Of all sources, national databases are the hardest and most competitive sources. As a general rule, the earlier students research and apply for outside scholarships, the better.
Nora Cargo is the Associate Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid at Texas A&M University. Hugh Ganser is the Associate Director of Financial Aid at the University of Buffalo (SUNY). Anne Chapdelaine is the Director of Student Financial Operations for The American Women’s College Online at Bay Path University.
Anne Del Plato is the Regional Director for U-fi Student Loans and is an expert in many aspects of financial aid, student loans and debt management. Anne’s experience includes positions in a number of areas of higher education finance including college financial aid offices, training and outreach development for a state financial aid agency, and most recently, as a Regional Director of Nelnet’s Partner Solutions team. Anne has spoken at numerous financial aid conferences across the Northeastern United States.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Federal Student Aid PIN to be Replaced with FSA ID

  • New log in process to improve security and customer experience for students and parents.
  • New FSA ID will be comprised of a user-selected username and password to replace the Federal Student Aid PIN, as the process by which students, parents, and borrowers authenticate their identity to access their federal student aid information.  
  • Implementation will begin May 10, 2015.  
  • There is nothing a user can or should do prior to implementation.
  • Only the owner of the FSA ID should create his or her account. 
  • The FSA ID serves as a legal signature, and only should be known and used by the owner.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Need Help? University Sponsored Loans May be Able to Assist you!

Whether it is help with a emergency needs, unexpected expenses, books, prior semester balance, or fees that are due,  the university may be able to assist you.  Information and Applications are available in the Office of Financial Aid or online at  by clicking on Types of aid, Loans, then University Sponsored Loans.

Friday, May 16, 2014

7 common FAFSA Mistakes

1.      Not Completing the FAFSA
I hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA is too hard,” “It takes to long to complete,” I never qualify anyway, so why does it matter.” It does matter. By not completing the FAFSA you are missing out on the opportunity to qualify for what could be thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes most people 23 minutes to complete, and there is help provided throughout the application. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there is no income cut-off when it comes to federal student aid
2.      Not Being Prepared
The online FAFSA has gotten a lot easier over the last few years. We've added skip logic, so you only see questions that are applicable to you. There is also an option to import your tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA application. But, the key to making the FAFSA simple is being prepared. You’ll save yourself a lot of time by gathering everything you need to complete the FAFSA before you start the application
3.      Not Reading Carefully
You’re on winter break and probably enjoying a vacation from reading for a couple weeks. I get it. But when it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each question carefully. Too many students see delays in their financial aid for simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided.
Don’t rush through these questions:
  • Your Number of Family Members (Household size): The FAFSA has a specific definition of how you or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number.
  • Amount of Your Income Tax: Income tax is not the same as income. It is the amount of tax that you (and if married, your spouse) paid on your income earned from work. Your income tax amount should not be the same as your adjusted gross income (AGI). Where you find the amount of your income tax depends on which IRS form you filed.
  • Legal Guardianship: One question on the FAFSA asks: “As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents, even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardian. You are also not considered a legal guardian of yourself.
4.      Inputting Incorrect Information
The FAFSA is an official government form. You must enter your information as it appears on official government documents like your birth certificate and social security card. Examples:
  • Entering the Wrong Name (Yes, I’m serious): You wouldn’t believe how many people have issues with their FAFSA because they entered an incorrect name on the application. It doesn’t matter if you’re Madonna, or Drake, or whatever Snoop Lion is calling himself these days. You must enter your full name as it appears on official government documents. No nicknames.
  • Entering the Wrong Social Security Number (SSN): When we process FAFSAs, we cross check your social security number with the Social Security Administration. To avoid delays in processing your application, triple check that you have entered the correct SSN. If you meet our basic eligibility criteria, but you or your parents don’t have a SSN, follow these instructions.
5.      Not Reporting Parent Information
Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, and therefore, you’ll need to provide your parent(s) information on your FAFSA. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether or not you need to provide parent information by answering these questions.
6.      Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is entering in the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This year, the tool will launch on February 2, 2014. In most cases, your information will be available from the IRS two weeks after you file. It’s also one of the best ways to prevent errors on your FAFSA and avoid any processing delays.
Note: If you used income estimates to file your FAFSA early, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update your FAFSA two weeks after you file your 2013 taxes.
7.      Not Signing the FAFSA
So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their PIN and submit it. This happens for many reasons, maybe they forgot their PIN, or their parent isn’t with them to sign with the parent PIN, so the FAFSA is left unsubmitted. Don’t let this happen to you. If you don’t have or don’t know your PIN, apply for one. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA online.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fast Pass Appointments with Financial Aid Counselors are Available

Financial Aid Counselors are available to answer questions about paying for college.

Students and parents should feel comfortable asking questions of an institution’s financial aid administrators, even if they’re not sure whether they will ultimately enroll at that institution. Financial aid administrators want to help any prospective, current, and former students and their parents better understand college costs and make well-informed decisions for their college careers and futures.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Loan repayment can be an intimidating subject for borrowers.  Being informed can help you take control of your finances.  Avoid fees and extra interest costs, keep your payments affordable, and protect your credit rating.  Important information that could help you:

Know Your Loans: It's important to keep track of the lender, balance, and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details determine your options for loan repayment and forgiveness. If you're not sure, ask your lender or visit
Know Your Grace Period: A grace period is how long you can wait after leaving school before you have to make your first payment.. Don't miss your first payment!

Stay in Touch with Your Lender: Whenever you move or change your phone number or email address, tell your lender right away.) 
Pick the Right Repayment Option: If the standard payment is going to be  hard for you to pay, there are other options, and you can change plans down the line if you want or need to. Extending your repayment period beyond 10 years can lower your monthly payments, but you'll end up paying more interest - often a lot more - over the life of the loan. Some important options for student loan borrowers are income-driven repayment plans such as Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn which cap your monthly payments at a reasonable percentage of your income each year, and forgive any debt remaining after no more than 25 years (depending on the plan) of affordable payments. Forgiveness may be available after just 10 years of these payments for borrowers in the public and nonprofit sectors (see tip 10 below). If you expect your income to be lower than you'd hoped for more than a few months, check out Income-Based Repayment. Your required payment in IBR can be as little as $0 when your income is very low.  To find out more about Income-Based Repayment and related programs and how they might work for you, visit
Don't Panic: If you're having trouble making payments because of unemployment, health problems, or other unexpected financial challenges, remember that you have options for managing your federal student loans. There are legitimate ways to temporarily postpone your federal loan payments, such as deferments and forbearance. For example, an unemployment deferment might be the right choice for you if you're having trouble finding work right now. But beware: interest accrues on all types of loans during forbearances, and on some types of loans during deferment, increasing your total debt, so ask your lender about making interest-only payments if you can afford it.
Don’t Ignore Your Student Loan Payments Due! Ignoring your student loans has serious consequences that can last a lifetime. Not paying can lead to delinquency and default. For federal loans, default kicks in after nine months of non-payment. When you default, your total loan balance becomes due, your credit score is ruined, the total amount you owe increases dramatically, and the government can garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds if you default on a federal loan. For private loans, default can happen much more quickly and can put anyone who co-signed for your loan at risk as well. Talk to your lender right away if you're in danger of default. You can also find helpful information at
Lower Your Principal If You Can: When you make a federal student loan payment, it covers any late fees first, then interest, and finally the principal. If you can afford to pay more than your required monthly payment - every time or now and then - you can lower your principal, which reduces the amount of interest you have to pay over the life of the loan.
Pay Off the Most Expensive Loans First: If you're considering paying off one or more of your loans ahead of schedule, or trying to reduce the principal, start with the one that has the highest interest rate.
Is Loan Consolidation Right For You: A consolidation loan combines multiple loans into one for a single monthly payment and one fixed interest rate. If this is appealing, here are some pros and cons to consider. You can consolidate your federal student loans through the Direct Loan Program, and this calculator can help you figure out what your interest rate would be.
Loan Forgiveness: There are various programs that will forgive all or some of your federal student loans if you work in certain fields or for certain types of employers. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal program that forgives any student debt remaining after 10 years of qualifying payments for people in government, nonprofit, and other public service jobs. Find out more at There are other federal loan forgiveness options available for teachers, nurses, AmeriCorps and PeaceCorps volunteers, and other professions.