Student Loans

FAFSA goes mobile

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Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

On October 1, it will be time to submit your FAFSA. Remember, you need to do this every single year that you’re attending college! Starting this year, students and parents will have two ways to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): a newly redesigned FAFSA website and a new mobile app.

The website is now compatible with any device, including desktop/laptop computers, smartphones and tablets. It also features a more modern and user-friendly look and feel. New “tool tips” provide easy-to-use contextual information. The goal of the new website design is to make filling out the FAFSA as easy as possible for students and parents.

Visit the new FAFSA website here and stay tuned for information about the mobile app. The 2019-20 FAFSA will be available on October 1. Follow Iowa College Aid on FacebookTwitter or Instagram to get reminders and tips for filling out the FAFSA.

 

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Free publications available for 2018-19

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Iowa College Aid serves Iowa students and families by providing free resources to make college possible for all Iowans. These publications can be digitally downloaded any time, or physical copies can be mailed to you. Download them or order print copies here. Publications available are:

This all-encompassing guide offers help planning, preparing and paying for college. It includes a year-by-year checklist and a directory of Iowa schools. It is also available in Spanish.

This brochure provides a rundown of free state and federal aid available to Iowa college students.

This brochure covers the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Iowa Financial Aid Application (IFAA).

This brochure is a guide to student loans and repayment options, plus tips for paying off debt faster.

This brochure provides details about state and federal programs to help Iowans in high-demand jobs pay off student loans.

Loan payments too high to handle? These repayment plans can help

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Do you need a lower monthly payment on your federal student loans? Does your outstanding federal student loan debt represent a significant portion of your annual income? Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans are designed to make your student loan debt more manageable by reducing your monthly payment amount.

Some of the following income-driven plans may be right for you:

  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)
  • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)
  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)

You cannot use this tool if you are in default on your federal student loans. Only the ICR plan is available for Parent PLUS Loans.

Note: There is no application fee to complete an Income-Driven Repayment Request. You may be contacted by private companies that offer to help you apply for Income-Driven Repayment, for a fee. These companies have no affiliation with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or ED’s Federal Loan Servicers. Learn more here.

4 myths and 4 facts about student loans

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After you exhaust other financial aid and employment opportunities, student loans can be a good option to cover educational expenses. When borrowing, remember that unlike grants or scholarships, which do not need to be repaid, student loans must be repaid with interest. You should always be 100 percent clear about what you are signing up for.

Myth #1: I don’t need to worry about my student loans while I’m in school.

Truth #1: You need to think ahead. Don’t blindly take out student loans without considering your major or future career—or without finding ways to minimize your debt while in school.

Myth #2: I should borrow as much as I can.

Truth #2: You should borrow the minimum you need. Loans are a helpful way to get an education that might seem out of reach, but be informed before you borrow. Your future self will thank you!

Myth #3: I have to pay back 100 percent of my student loans.

Truth #3: Maybe not. Depending on the type of loan and your profession, forgiveness programs can help you pay back a portion or all of your student loans.

Myth #4: I need to pay someone to help me with my student loans.

Truth #4: You should never have to pay someone to help you with your student loans. Contact the financial aid office at your college for assistance.

Find more information about student loans here.

This is the best kept secret for college-bound students

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When you are selecting a college to attend, you want to know how much it’s actually going to cost, if you’ll make enough to pay off loans, what the current students are like, etc. Gathering all this information takes a ton of time, especially if you’re not sure where you want to go. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Education offers a valuable online tool to help you compare schools and make an informed decision. For any school that offers post-secondary education in the United States, the College Scorecard, collegescorecard.ed.gov, will show you:

  • Costs—Not the published costs, but the average annual costs that students actually pay, broken down by family income and compared to the national average.
  • Loan debt—How many students take out federal loans, graduates’ typical debt and monthly payments, and percentage of students paying down debt compared to the national average.
  • Earnings after school—Average graduate’s salary compared to national average, and percentage of graduates who earn more than students with only a high school diploma.
  • Student body—A demographic breakdown of the student population by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
  • Success rates—Retention rate after one year and graduation rate, compared to the national average.
  • Test scores—Standard range of SAT and/or ACT scores for students who are admitted and enrolled.
  • Academic programs—Available areas of study, as well as the most popular programs offered.

This combination of factors gives you a more complete picture of your investment and potential payoff from attending a specific school. A school with high costs, high loan debt and low graduation rates, for instance, might not offer your best chance of success. A school with high costs might be a more reasonable choice, however, if it also offers high graduation rates and high salaries for graduates.

While these might be important factors, the most important pieces of the equation will be how a school fits with your needs. The College Scorecard lets you look up specific schools or search based on criteria such as location, size and degrees offered. It also offers predetermined searches such as “Affordable Four-Year Schools with Good Outcomes” or “Find a Community College in Your State with High Salaries.”

Happy college hunting!

Finished FAFSA? Here’s What to Expect Next

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By now, students and families with an eye toward college, or any kind of education beyond high school, should have a pretty good understanding of just how important the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is to helping them achieve their goals. If not, here’s a good place to get started with the FAFSA.

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Filing the FAFSA is crucial to getting money for school. But what happens after submitting the FAFSA? Here are some things for families to look out for, as well as some things to remember when dealing with information

Student Aid Report
After completing the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education will process the data and compile the Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR will be sent to families and the colleges selected during the FAFSA. If an email address was provided during the application, instructions to access an online copy of the SAR will be emailed; otherwise it will arrive snail mail.

Typically, applicants can access their SAR within three to five days if the FAFSA was filed electronically (approximately three weeks if filed by paper). The SAR contains the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as well as initial information about Pell Grant eligibility. Colleges and universities use the EFC to determine student eligibility for federal grants, loans, work-study and other financial aid programs.

How is the Expected Family Contribution Calculated?
Variables that determine a student’s EFC include income and net worth for the student and parents, family size, age of older parent, state and federal taxes and number of family members attending college. As a result, the EFC might change from year to year when the FAFSA is refiled.

Understanding Financial Need vs. College Costs
Each college or university listed on a student’s FAFSA application that accepts that student will determine financial need and present the applicant with an award letter describing the aid offered. “Financial Need” is determined by calculating the Cost of Attendance (COA) minus the EFC determined through the FAFSA.

The EFC will remain the same in a given year (unless an unusual family situation arises) regardless of which college or university the student attends. The amount of aid received cannot exceed the total cost of attendance at a college or university.

Award Letters
Each award letter will include federal, state and college-specific financial aid programs. It is likely that a student’s award letter will include one or more types of loans. These letters often don’t cleanly show which funds offered are scholarship or grant aid (free money) and which are loans (money which must be repaid). To get some tips on understanding award letters, check out our video series here and here.

Have You Been Selected for FAFSA Verification? Here’s What to Do!

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Verification is the process by which colleges review student financial aid applications for accuracy where the U.S. Department of Education identifies some FAFSA applications for colleges to review.  In addition, colleges may review additional applications based on answers provided to certain FAFSA questions.

Roughly one-third of all FAFSAs filed are selected for verification and the process must be completed before financial aid can be awarded. If you are selected for verification, you can expect the following:

  1. When you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) after completing the FAFSA, you will see a comment stating “Your FAFSA has been selected for a review process called verification. Your school has the authority to collect certain financial documents from you”.
  2. Your college’s financial aid office will contact you and inform you of documents you need to submit and any additional forms you need to complete.
  3. Your college may be required to verify the following data elements:
    • Adjusted gross income
    • Taxes  paid
    • Income earned from work (for non-tax-filers)
    • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions or pensions
    • IRA deductions and payments
    • Tax exempt interest income
    • Education credits
    • Household size
    • Number in college
    • Receipt of food stamps/SNAP benefit
    • Child support paid
    • High school completion status
    • Any other inconsistent or conflicting information.
  4. To verify the elements above, the college may ask for documents which may include, but are not limited to:
    • Signed copies of the prior year tax transcripts for parent and student (if the student is dependent) or Federal IRS Data Retrieval.
    • W-2s showing wages, 1099s and supporting schedules.
    • Statement of child support paid, documentation that child support payments were made, and/or copy of the separation agreement or divorce decree that shows the amount of child support to be provided.
    • Verification of net worth.
    • Documentation of food stamps/SNAP benefit.
    • Copy of the applicant’s high school diploma, final official high school transcript that shows the date when the diploma was awarded, GED certificate/transcript, state certificate or transcript received after passing a state-authorized exam (HiSET, TASC or other state-authorized exam) or a copy of the “secondary school leaving certificate” (or other similar document) for students who completed high school in a foreign country.

The best action you can take to reduce the likelihood of being selected for verification is to use the IRS data retrieval tool to automatically populate your (and if you are a dependent student, your parents’) tax information directly from the IRS into your FAFSA. When you use the IRS data retrieval tool, the tax information is considered to be already verified so you will not have to submit documentation.

If you are selected for verification, ensure that you respond to all requests from your college or university. If you do not submit documentation on time your financial aid may arrive after late fees have already been accessed to your account.