11 Benefits of a College Saving Plan

Most states offer college saving plans, or 529 plans, that allow families to invest money that can later be used for qualified higher-education expenses. These plans offer savings and tax benefits over other ways of saving for college. Here are 11 reasons you may want to consider a 529 plan, such as a College Savings Iowa plan.

1. You can choose, and change, your investment strategy.
College saving plans offer a variety of investment tracks to allow you to decide how to invest contributions. You may choose from among recommended investment tracks based on the age of the beneficiary and your comfort level with risk. Or you may wish to choose from among individual portfolios of specific bond and stock funds.

After choosing your initial investment strategy, you can make changes over time. You may make changes to existing contributions twice a year.

2. You receive tax benefits.
Your 529 assets grow deferred from federal and state income taxes as long as the money remains in the plan. Many states also offer additional state tax advantages for in-state residents.

3.Qualified withdrawals are not subject to taxes.
Withdrawals used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses are also tax-free. This means any growth from your principal investments in a 529 plan used for qualified expenses will never be included in your income tax.

4. The assets are less impactful on financial aid.
The formula used to calculate financial aid treats 529 plan assets more favorably than it treats savings or investments owned by the student. According to savingforcollege.com, a maximum of 5.64% of all parental assets, including 529 plans owned by a parent or a dependent student, is counted toward the expected family contribution for college by the federal financial aid formula, compared to 20% of student assets.

5. Anyone can start or contribute to a plan.
You don’t need to be related to the student you name as the beneficiary of a 529 plan you open. This means you can be a parent, grandparent or friend of the student who will use the money, or you can be the student. There are no income limits, age limits or annual contribution limits for account owners.

Someone who would like to make a gift to the student can also make one-time contributions to an existing account.

6. Minimum investments are small.
College Savings Iowa allows initial investments or contributions of $25 or more and a minimum of $15 for employers that offer payroll deduction. Investments in 529 plans can be as large or small as comfortable for families.

7. You are not limited to your state’s plan.
You may choose to use any state’s 529 plan even if you don’t live there or the student doesn’t intend to attend college in that state.

8. The money can be used for attendance and other expenses at a wide variety of institutions.
The student beneficiary can use the money to attend any eligible two- or four-year college, postgraduate program, trade or vocational school, online college and university programs and even some international institutions or study-abroad programs.

Besides tuition, money can be applied to other qualified higher-education expenses like fees, books, housing, meals, supplies, computers and printers, software and internet access.

9. Plans are transferable.
If the student beneficiary named on the plan doesn’t need the money, it can be transferred to an eligible family member of the student, like a sibling, child, parent or spouse.

10. You can always withdraw the money if needed.
If the student earns a scholarship or enrolls in a military academy, you can withdraw up to the amount of the scholarship or the value of the education tax-free. If the student passes away or becomes disabled and is unable to attend college, there is also no penalty for withdrawals.

If you withdraw money for any other reason than these circumstances and the withdrawal is not used for a qualified higher-education expense, a 10% federal tax penalty will may apply to any earnings. (You would receive the full value of your contributions minus any administration fees.) A tax adviser can help you understand tax consequences of non-qualified withdrawals from a 529 plan.

11. A 529 plan may encourage college attendance and graduation.
Researchers have found that when money is set aside for college, families save more. Even when budgets are tight, families with even relatively small amounts of money earmarked for college find creative ways to save more. Additionally, the perceived value of higher education increased and a high percentage of parents felt their children would finish college.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

What to Do If a Financial Aid Award Is Inaccurate or Incomplete

When that financial aid award notification arrives, check it carefully. Here are some circumstances you may run into and what you can do.

Situation What to Do
Contact information is incorrect. Contact the financial aid office with updated information. The student should also log in to the FAFSA portal to update information.
Financial information has changed since you submitted your FAFSA. Contact the financial aid office about drastic financial changes due to loss of a parent’s job or other circumstances.
The student wants to be considered independent for financial aid purposes due to a severed relationship or abusive situation. Students with extenuating circumstances in regard to their relationship with their parents may contact the financial aid office to clarify the situation and determine the dependency appeal process.
An expected federal or state award is not listed. If the student qualifies for but didn’t receive a federal or state grant or scholarship, first determine if the award is automatically granted to all eligible applicants.

  • If an automatic award wasn’t received, contact the agency responsible for administering it and notify the financial aid office.
  • If the award is not automatic, funds may not be available for all applicants. You may try contacting the agency administering the award to see if any remaining funds will be awarded later.
An expected institutional award is not listed. Not all awards are automatically granted to all eligible students. If the FAFSA was filed by the college’s priority deadline, contact the financial aid office to determine if any institutional awards are still available. If the award was offered by a specific department, ask a financial aid representative if the office has been made aware of the award.
A state or federal award was submitted to the wrong college. Contact the agency responsible for administering the award. Also notify the financial aid office and the financial aid office at the other institution of the mistake.
An unexpected award is listed. Many colleges consider an application for admission to also be an application for other institutional awards. If the student doesn’t meet the qualifications for an award, contact the financial aid office to clarify.
A grant or scholarship awarded by an outside entity isn’t shown. Tell the college about all grants and scholarships received. If an award is missing, contact the financial aid office.
A work-study award is listed. This award may be dependent on the student finding a work-study position and earning a paycheck based on hours actually worked. Start with the financial aid section on the college’s website. If that doesn’t contain information about how to locate and apply for work-study positions, contact the financial aid office.
Not enough aid was awarded to cover costs of attendance. If there is a large difference between aid and costs, some options to consider are:

  • Contacting the financial aid office to inform them of the situation and see if any additional aid is available.
  • Increasing student employment to earn income to cover the shortfall.
  • Asking about monthly payment plans.
  • Exploring less expensive education options, such as a public university or community college.
  • Relying on gifts or federal PLUS Loans for parents to help pay for college.
  • Taking out private student loans to cover the remaining expenses.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Scholarship Tips for Parents

Many families find they need additional funds to pay for college. Especially if your family does not qualify for a lot of need-based financial aid, merit-based scholarships can help fill the gap.

While your student will be the one qualifying for scholarships, filling out applications and writing essays, parents can assist in several ways. Here are some steps you can take.

Encourage your child to participate in appealing extracurricular activities. Many scholarship committees are looking for well-rounded applicants who have accomplishments, leadership and involvement outside the classroom. Extracurriculars can include school, religious and community groups, volunteer efforts, sports, fine arts, employment and a variety of other activities. The specific activities—or the number or variety of them—should reflect your student’s interests and situation.

Frame the conversation by setting a budget. Many teenagers don’t have an accurate idea of how much college costs or how much their families are able or willing to spend on their education. Have an honest conversation about true current and estimated future costs for the types of colleges your student is considering and how much you can contribute. Then, you can discuss ways your student can contribute financially, including through scholarships.

Search early and often. Use free online search sites beginning as early as your student’s sophomore year to get an idea of the types of scholarships your student may qualify for. You can gather ideas about test scores, grades, activities or other specific requirements that your student may be approaching or considering. Your student should continue the search as he or she approaches senior year and throughout college because new opportunities arise at different stages.

Work together to brainstorm scholarship sources. Besides online scholarship searches, your family should consider additional sources of scholarships. Employers (yours, your student’s and those of other family members, as well as local employers), churches and nonprofit organizations, community and civic groups, local companies and high schools all may offer awards in varying amounts and for a variety of qualifications. Encourage your student to apply to both smaller and less selective scholarships as well as any more competitive awards he or she may qualify for. Don’t forget to investigate scholarships offered by the colleges and academic departments your child is considering; these are often the largest awards.

Set aside a specific time to devote to scholarships. As their senior year becomes more hectic with college applications, classwork and other activities, students may struggle to find the time to devote to a quality application. Help your child by designating a specific time to search for scholarships and manage applications and essays. The schedule may change in frequency as your student nears deadlines.

Help with ideas, editing and proofreading. Help your student come up with ideas for essay responses that fit the prompt while conveying what’s most important to your child. You may recall events or activities from earlier in high school that your student has now forgotten or considers unimportant. You can also provide a fresh eye to catch errors and other problems with essays and applications. Just remember that scholarship committees are used to reading student work and will recognize an overly involved parental hand.

Consider financial aid consequences. If your student will be eligible for need-based aid, like grants or work-study, investigate how each college treats merit awards. Some colleges will offset need-based aid with any outside scholarships; others allow a student to “stack” awards to maximize aid. If this information is not readily available in the financial aid, costs or admissions pages of the college website, contact the admissions office directly for details.

Recognize the accomplishment. If your child earns one or more large scholarships or many smaller ones, your family may be able to significantly reduce the amount spent on college. You may want to reward your student by matching a portion of the earnings. The match money could be designated for books or other expenses not covered by the awards or you may leave its disposal up to your student. Regardless of the final outcome, remember that your student has put at least some and possibly a great deal of time and effort into the scholarship process. Recognize that with sincere words, a tangible reward or other gesture.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Tips for Landing a Scholarship (Infographic)

As you enter your last few months of high school, the pressure’s on to figure out how to pay for the next stage of your education. Improve your chances of landing scholarship funds with these tips.

TipsLandingScholarship-infographic

Download a PDF of this infographic.

Beef up your qualifications. Try a new extracurricular activity, volunteer and bump up your GPA to qualify for more scholarship funds and increase your chances of earning those scholarships.

Update your information. As you accomplish more, update your qualifications listed for your accounts on scholarship search sites, such as scholarships.com, bigfuture and Fastweb, to find more results.

Keep searching for new opportunities. Perform new searches through free scholarship sites on a regular basis. Remember, many non-academic entities offer scholarships and make information available at different times of the year.

Touch base with your support crew. Let teachers, coaches and family friends who have agreed to write letters of recommendation or proofread essays know when you will need help. Allow them enough time to help you while still meeting all their other commitments, and offer to help any way you can.

Stay on top of deadlines. Plan your priorities to ensure you submit applications and supporting materials before their due dates.

Reread all your upcoming scholarship submissions. Check for any typos, make sure you’ve followed all instructions and submit everything required.

File for financial aid. If you haven’t yet, complete and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a primary tool to qualify for scholarships awarded by colleges. If you need help completing your FAFSA, contact the Iowa College Access Network or attend a free Iowa College Goal Sunday event near you.

Contact your college. If your FAFSA doesn’t accurately reflect your financial situation or if you have questions about scholarships available at your college, contact the college’s admissions or financial aid office. Also let the admissions office know if the final price tag will make the difference in your college choice; the school may have some flexibility in scholarship awards.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Replacing Non-Renewable Scholarships

As the academic year comes to a close, many college students face a harsh financial reality: Scholarships and grants that made the current year affordable will soon come to an end. Some awards are only intended to be applied to the first year of college; others carry renewal requirements, such as a minimum GPA or a specific major, that go unmet.

If fewer scholarship and grant funds will be available to you or your student next year, start planning now to make up the shortfall. Here are three ways students may replace non-renewable scholarships.

1. Find new scholarships. Although many scholarships are available to freshmen, you may be able to find scholarships for upperclassmen with a little effort.

  • If you have settled on a major, start with your academic department or college. Search the department website, visit the departmental office and talk to your academic adviser.
  • Stop in the campus financial aid office and see what scholarships are offered to students who have your academic and extracurricular interests.
  • Check with professional and pre-professional organizations about programs to help students in your intended career field.
  • Search online databases for upperclassmen scholarships. Certain scholarships like those offered by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the Morris K. Udall Foundation are only for upperclassmen, while others allow applicants of any undergraduate level.
  • Look for local and small scholarships. A lot of students tend to compete for national and large scholarships. You may have better luck standing out among applicants for smaller and local awards.

2. Increase earnings. If you are unable to earn new scholarships, you may want to consider adding work hours.

  • During the school year, you may be able to find positions on or near campus that allow you to prepare for your intended career while earning money. Look for jobs as a teaching assistant, tutor or research assistant.
  • Resident Assistants in the dorms may qualify for reduced room and board costs, while other campus positions may allow you to study during slow times. Businesses near campus often hire college students during the academic year as well. Even part-time positions can pay well over time.
  • Over breaks, you can work more hours to increase income. Summer research on campus or for private, nonprofit and government organizations can help you create career connections.
  • If you need an internship to meet graduation requirements, look for paid positions that will offset your tuition, housing and transportation costs. Some colleges and organizations also offer stipends to help students who have an unpaid internship or co-op.

3. Lower costs. Especially in combination with increased earnings, lower costs can help you make up for the loss of non-renewed scholarships.

  • Consider living off campus. Carefully weigh the cost for paying rent (most leases run a full year instead of the 10-month academic term), furnishings, utilities, groceries and transportation against room and board rates to determine if moving will save you money.
  • Even small changes can help you save a large amount of money if you are consistent and diligent.
  • Plan ahead when purchasing furnishings, supplies and books to save. Make sure you take advantage of the least expensive option that will allow you to succeed.
  • Stick to a budget to cut costs year-round. Know where you can save the most money with a little effort.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Registration Still Open for College Scholarship Program

Registration is still open for a scholarship that offers Iowa high school seniors a chance to receive one of 30 scholarships worth $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills.

“I’m incredibly grateful for Iowa Student Loan and the Financial Know-How Challenge Scholarship. The financial rewards as well as the skills I learned when applying will be a huge help to me … as I strive to pursue my dreams in a way that is financially responsible.”

— Ryan Wagner, a 2017 graduate of Fort Dodge High School and a recipient of the 2016–2017 scholarship

The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are residents of Iowa; are seniors at an Iowa high school during the 2017–2018 school year; and attend college in fall 2018. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

Register Today!

High school seniors may register for the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship by Feb. 16.

Iowa Student Loan® will award the $2,000 scholarships to students who complete two online financial literacy tutorials and score highest on a related assessment. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.

The two tutorials — Student Loan Game PlanSM and the ROCI Reality Check — were developed by Iowa Student Loan to help students understand the consequences of college borrowing and discover how to maximize their return on college investment, or ROCI.

A related multiple choice assessment checks students’ understanding of the concepts in the tutorials. If top-scoring students tie, those students will be asked to write and be judged on a short essay so winners can be determined.

“Each year, we hear from participants and parents that this scholarship campaign helped them understand how they can minimize college debt,” Christine Hensley, Iowa Student Loan board chair, said. “Our hope is that they also tell others, who can then also use our online tools to reduce borrowing as well.”

In addition, each recipient’s high school will receive a corresponding $500 award.

The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are residents of Iowa; are seniors at an Iowa high school during the 2017–2018 school year; and attend college in fall 2018. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

By: Iowa Student Loan

 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Winners Announced for 2017 Save Now, Save Later Program

Parents across the state of Iowa are getting a $1,000 boost to their student’s College Savings Iowa® account this winter, thanks to Iowa Student Loan’s Save Now, Save Later: College Savings Plan Parent Giveaway.

Fifty parents have been chosen as winners in the program’s fourth year. Each parent will receive the $1,000 deposited directly to the College Savings Iowa account of their registered child. The registration period ran during September and October and was open to Iowa residents who have a student in grades six through 12 at an Iowa school.

“This program really helps highlight the importance of saving for college and being proactive with planning for your child’s future,” said Shari Higgins, a 2017 winner from Nevada. “The information presented was useful and something I can come back to later as I have questions.”

Parents who registered had a chance to experience the Parent Handbook, a new online educational module from Iowa Student Loan. The handbook provides financial literacy tips for parents with students in middle school or high school.

After the registration period, entries were chosen at random from nearly 4,000 qualified participants. Iowa Student Loan works directly with College Savings Iowa on the giveaway. College Savings Iowa is the state’s direct-sold 529 program, administered by State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald.

Winners of the Save Now, Save Later program:

Name City Name City
Kelsey Lorenzen Davenport Kristin Johnson Urbandale
Erika White Vinton Shari Higgins Nevada
Dawn Atwood Colfax Heather Kingsbury Vinton
Shanan Redinger Hanlontown Jennifer Sassman Waverly
Rhonda Sirfus Johnston Jennifer Tischer Mount Vernon
Michele Foreman Cedar Rapids Mary Hauptmann Algona
Kelly Willis Waverly John Flint Cedar Falls
Melissa Korell New Sharon David Finley Estherville
Rhea Wright Perry Karen Hamilton Council Bluffs
Rosely Imler Knoxville Susan Swartzendruber Knoxville
Amanda Lawless Saint Lucas Jason Carlson North Liberty
Jamie Carlson Guthrie Center Mary Dietrich Pleasant Hill
Sara Laures Cedar Falls Amy Carlisle Griswold
Amy Wilson Coralville Tami Wise Urbandale
Andrea Juergens Adel Lee Brungardt Council Bluffs
Dawn Gunderson Muscatine Nicole Metcalf Climbing Hill
Jody Fairbanks Anamosa Mundi McCarty Solon
Stephanie Gengler Merrill Julie Borelli Carroll
Andrea Masteller Clive Angela Beer Cedar Rapids
Amanda Salyars Muscatine Christina Hlas Adel
Eric Kovaleski Bouton Gayle Shatek Mason City
Kathy Oulman Forest City Regina Critchlow Carlisle
Tim Bloom Newton Tracie Rogiers Buffalo
Thomas Evans Dubuque Jody Sturmer Blue Grass
Amy Hammer Cedar Falls Scott McCarty Ottumwa

By: Iowa Student Loan 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

College Visits 101

The college applications are in and the FAFSA is filed, so what should you and your student do while you wait to hear about acceptances and financial aid awards? Many families choose this time to visit or re-visit their top choices for next year. Here’s what you can do to make the college tour a valuable experience this winter.

Determine your itinerary for each trip.
The number of colleges you visit in a single trip depends on a number of factors, including the time available to you and your student, transportation and lodging costs, your and your student’s tolerance for multiple visits, and campus schedules.

Try to make a logical plan for visiting multiple colleges in a single region or trip to avoid backtracking, extra expenses or lack of time to see everything you want to. Also consider your student’s current commitments, such as class projects or extracurriculars, that may be distracting while he or she is traveling.

Check each school’s admissions website for blackout dates, campus breaks and scheduled events to help you choose an optimal date for each.

Contact each college.
Your student should be able to find the admissions officer responsible for your home region online and investigate the options for visiting. Some things to consider:

  • Is a scheduled visit day for scholarship recipients, accepted students or high school seniors the best venue for you and your student?
  • If your student hasn’t been accepted yet, does the college consider interest in its acceptance decision and how can your student best demonstrate that while on campus? If an interview is required or optional for acceptance or for a scholarship opportunity, is there an opportunity to do that?
  • Would you prefer a group campus tour and information session or a more individual experience if available?
  • Is your student able to attend an academic class, spend the night with student, or speak with club or activity leaders?
  • Will your student want to meet with an athletic coach, a professor who offers research opportunities, an academic sponsor or other faculty?
  • Do you and your student want to investigate resources for any special needs, such as dietary concerns, physical limitations or learning styles?

Allow your student to investigate and schedule any meetings or tours.

Sign up as required.
You may need to reserve a spot for a campus tour, informational session or special activity. Many colleges offer an online signup; you or your student may need to call or email others. Make sure you understand the process for joining a tour, meeting with faculty or students, lunch at a dining hall and other activities.

Determine what to do if you miss a scheduled time due to travel delays, weather or illness.

Do your homework.
Research statistics and information on the colleges’ websites, read reviews and student comments on social media, and compare offerings with tools like College Navigator. By making an effort ahead of time, you’ll know more about what to expect and what to look for. In addition, it frees you and your student to gather information that’s not readily available elsewhere.

See what to ask and what not to ask on college visits.

Be ready to create a record.
Depending on the number of colleges on your list, you and your student may easily start confusing or forgetting information. Be prepared to help with a notebook or notecards, by snapping photos, and bringing lists of questions you and your student have discussed for each campus.

After a round of visits, allow your student some time to digest information and form opinions before you ask for his or her thoughts about a campus or share yours.

Enjoy your trip.
Consider your student’s frame of mind when visiting colleges and be prepared to duck out early, graciously, if your student is overwhelmed or doesn’t feel a campus is the right fit. Find appealing activities to do in the surrounding communities if you have the time to provide a break from the tours and to experience life around campus.

Consider a respectful game of campus tour bingo to prevent tours from blending together.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Five Advantages to Working During Breaks

If you need to build up savings for college and living expenses, think about a job during holiday and spring breaks.

Here are five advantages to working during school breaks.

Maintain your regular study schedule.
Because you don’t have classes to take up a large part of your day, you can often dedicate a large chunk of time to your job. If your break also falls between school terms, you can devote even more hours to earning money since you won’t have studying or homework to do.

Build up earnings.
You may be able to work 40 or more hours a week to maximize your earnings in a short period of time. Even better, while you’re working many hours, you have less time and opportunity to spend your earnings, so you’re able to save more to reach your financial goals.

Take advantage of openings.
Many employers need extra, short-time help to deal with the increased workload during the holidays. Besides standing behind a cash register, you may be able to find positions to help with stocking, holiday displays, returns and exchanges, or filling in for others who are on vacation. Seasonal employment is also more widely available.

Gain work experience.
You may find it easier to land a paid internship or co-op position for a short break than you would for an entire semester or school term. Even jobs that aren’t directly tied to your intended career can provide valuable transferrable skills.

Create a relationship.
As a reliable seasonal employee, you may be able to return to the same position, or more advanced positions with the same employer, break after break. You may even be able to land a permanent position or develop a network of mentors who will help you after college graduation.

See additional ideas for making money during breaks.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone
1 2 3 23