Thirty Iowa Seniors Receive College Scholarship from Nonprofit

High school seniors from across the state earned $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills through the 2016–2017 Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship sponsored by Iowa Student Loan®.

More than 3,500 Iowa high school seniors registered for the scholarship between November 2016 and February 2017. Of those, nearly 2,000 completed two online financial literacy tutorials and a related assessment to qualify for one of 30 scholarships. The 30 recipients were those who scored highest on the assessment and, because of a tie for top scores, received the highest scores on an independently judged essay.

“Students face high college costs and, for many, the related student debt,” said Christine Hensley, chair of the Iowa Student Loan board of directors. “We know the decisions students make about spending, college choice and college major may have a significant impact on the amount of debt students need to take on. This scholarship is one way we encourage high school students to experience our online tools to learn about the concepts of minimizing debt and making responsible borrowing decisions. Each year that we offer this program, students, parents and educators comment on the valuable lessons gained through the scholarship qualification process.”

The tools, along with tips that registered students received by email through the scholarship period, are designed to help students avoid the pitfalls of heavy student loan debt, Hensley said. 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.

“The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship has provided me with helpful tips and advice to save money, budget my expenses, and overall become a more financially responsible student while in college,” said Jordan Turner, a 2017 graduate of Linn-Mar High School and a 2016–2017 scholarship recipient.

Charlotte Lenkaitis, another recipient and a 2017 graduate of Ames High School, agreed. “This scholarship and the tips that I learned throughout the process will help me to minimize my need to borrow money for college. By making smarter decisions now, I am giving myself greater opportunities for success in the future,” she said.

Each recipient’s high school will also receive a $500 award to improve or implement financial literacy and scholarship programs.

Program Future

Although details are not yet finalized, Iowa Student Loan anticipates offering the scholarship next academic year. More about the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is available at

Scholarship Recipients

The following students each earned a $2,000 scholarship. Iowa Student Loan will send scholarship funds directly to recipients’ colleges.

Student Name Student High School Student Name

Student High School

Katiana Anderson Johnston Gabriel Mintzer Valley (West Des Moines)
Noah Berthusen Waukee Kaytlyn Mulford Iowa Falls-Alden
Amber Brincks South Winneshiek Sophie Nielsen Dowling Catholic
Emily Bruinsma Pleasant Valley Matthew Parcher Northwood-Kensett
Sophie Catus Johnston Isaiah Passmore Crestwood
Janielle Cobler Ottumwa Jacob Peake Southeast Polk
Cole Drenth Alta-Aurelia Hailey Pullman West Sioux
Ashley Erne Harris-Lake Park Ethan Schmitz Columbus Catholic
Dakota Fouts Waukee Brandon Svoboda Okoboji
Tyler Groathouse Waukee Cameron Trentz Pleasant Valley
Collin Hillinger Lawton-Bronson Jordan Turner Linn-Mar
Adriana Jorgenson Linn-Mar Sreeja Vepa Urbandale
Alexander Kock AR-WE-VA Ryan Wagner Fort Dodge
Morgan Koenen Linn-Mar Nichole Winter Maquoketa Valley
Charlotte Lenkaitis Ames Damon Wolter Keokuk

By: Iowa Student Loan

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Take Necessary Steps for College Graduation

As college commencement approaches, you may be eagerly thinking about tossing that cap in the air and receiving your diploma. Don’t forget to take all necessary steps before graduation day. Here are some typical requirements to take care of.

Complete all coursework and departmental graduation requirements for your degree. This one seems obvious, but check with your academic adviser or the online system to ensure that you have met all the academic requirements, including internships, co-ops, student teaching, projects and other qualifications, to be eligible to graduate.

Apply to graduate. Many colleges require you to complete an application to have your degree be awarded. As part of this process, you may also need to complete additional forms or surveys.

Check your official records. Verify that the college has your correct name, permanent or next address, an email address besides your school email, and an updated phone number on record.

Confirm your diploma arrangements. Typically, you need to provide an address where you’ll receive your actual diploma at a later date. You may be able to arrange pickup if you aren’t leaving the area right away.

Prepare for the ceremony. You may need to pay a graduation fee, reserve or buy tickets for guests, RSVP for the ceremony and purchase your cap and gown. In addition, you may be able to order announcements, class rings, medals or stoles for the ceremony, or commemorative DVDs or photos if you plan to participate in the graduation ceremony.

Take care of business. You may not be able to graduate if you owe any outstanding balances for tuition, parking, housing, library fines or other fees. Return library, lab and other materials as needed, and cancel any ongoing payment arrangements for services like student health insurance and parking permits.

Prepare to repay student debt. Many students who have student loans are required to participate in a financial aid exit interview before leaving school. This is your opportunity to be sure you understand when you have to start repaying your loans, how much payments will be and where you should direct them.

Get ready to move out and move on. If you’re living in the dorms, check with the housing or student life department regarding procedures for students who are graduating.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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Nonprofit, State-Based Student Loan Organizations Publish Recommendations for Improving Higher Education Financing

Iowa Student Loan’s mission is to provide the resources necessary for students to succeed in postsecondary education. You’ll see the ways Iowa Student Loan, a state-based nonprofit, and other similar student loan organizations support students and families through recommendations for improving higher education financing.

Nonprofit, State-Based Student Loan Organizations Publish
Recommendations for Improving Higher Education Financing

Education Finance Council Releases White Paper Outlining
Recommendations for Improving Student Loan Program

Education Finance Council (EFC), the national trade association representing nonprofit and state-based student loan organizations, released on Monday a new white paper, “Helping Families Plan and Pay for College: Recommendations for Improving Higher Education Financing,” that highlights the important role of nonprofit and state-based student loan organizations and makes recommendations for improving higher education financing to better enable students and families to successfully plan for and finance their postsecondary goals.

“We are thrilled to release this white paper that both spotlights the current work of nonprofit and state-based organizations and serves as an outline for improving the higher education financing system. Our members work diligently to put families first by providing top-notch advisory and outreach services, consumer-friendly education loans, and comprehensive assistance and guidance for borrowers experiencing personal hardship or financial difficulties,” said EFC President Debra J. Chromy. “It is within that framework that EFC is pleased to present a set of common-sense policy recommendations that will minimize confusion by simplifying and streamlining programs and processes, save money for borrowers and the federal government, require consumer protections that put borrowers first, and assist more families in achieving their higher education dreams.”

In 2016, EFC Members directly worked with over 2.5 million families to help them successfully plan, save, and pay for college. And, during the 2015-16 fiscal year, nonprofit and state-based organizations helped over 76,000 students and their families close the gap in college funding with more than 87,000 loans, totaling $1.1 billion.

With this background and expertise in working with students, families, and borrowers, EFC members present a number of policy recommendations to better support families’ abilities to plan and pay for college, including:

  • Support nonprofit and state-based organizations’ college access, counseling, and financial literacy initiatives and explore ways to leverage the existing infrastructure of these organizations;
  • Preserve tax-exempt bond financing (Private Activity Bonds) for education loans;
  • Reduce repayment options to three plans (standard, graduated, and income-based) and combine existing forgiveness programs into a single program;
  • Require all income-driven repayment (IDR) programs to, at a minimum, cover the interest accruing on the loan balance to avoid negative amortization;
  • Require the disclosure of annual percentage rates (APR) for federal student loans;
  • Create a mechanism for borrowers to give the Education Department advance permission to automatically access their tax information for the limited purpose of determining eligibility for all IDR plans;
  • Exempt federal and private education loans discharged due to death or total and permanent disability of a borrower from income tax on the amount discharged;
  • Provide higher education institutions with authority to reduce loan limits for certain borrowers and require all non-federal education loans to be certified by a higher education institution official;
  • Amend the Preferred Lender List statute to allow schools the ability to recommend to students and families loans offered through nonprofit and state-based organizations; and
  • Allow all Federal Direct Loan servicers the ability to service consolidation loans, so that borrowers do not need to transition to a new servicer at this crucial point in the repayment process.

Download the white paper here.


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Spring Cleaning for College Accounts

While you gather up all your financial information for tax preparation, or while it’s still organized and handy from an early filing, consider doing a spring cleanup to keep abreast of available earnings and savings for college.

1. Understand total amounts needed.
If you have a high school student, a good starting place is the net price calculator for colleges your student is interested in. To find the calculator, search online for the college name and “net price calculator.” Not all colleges treat the calculator the same, so be sure you understand what it takes into account.

If your student is already in college, you have a good idea of costs. Be sure to consider increases in tuition costs as well as changes like moving off campus or enrolling in classes with extra fees for future years.

Use the College Funding Forecaster to estimate total costs over four years.

2. Estimate your expected family contribution (EFC).
Colleges use the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to calculate your EFC, or the amount your family is expected to be able to contribute to your student’s college costs, and available aid. Although each institution comes up with its own EFC based on your financial information, you can use the FAFSA4caster to estimate a number.

Important things to keep in mind:

  • Your EFC is what colleges expect you to be able to pay and may not reflect certain circumstances that will prevent you from paying that amount.
  • Many colleges do not meet full need, or provide financial aid to cover any gaps between costs and your EFC.
  • Financial aid packages often include federal or institutional student loans, as well as federal loans for parents. These amounts will need to be repaid with interest.

3. Calculate available savings and earnings.
Assess how much you and your student have already put away for college. Don’t forget about accounts or savings vehicles owned by or receiving contributions from relatives. Some typical college savings accounts include:

  • 529 plans
  • Education Savings Accounts, such as Coverdell
  • Savings accounts
  • Savings bonds
  • Trust funds or other inheritances or gifts

Now consider earnings (your own and your student’s) that will be earmarked for college. Be aware that your student’s college may also assume your student will earn a certain amount each year in school when assembling a financial aid award packet.

4. Understand how college funding works.
Be sure you understand what types of expenses each of the college savings vehicles cover. You may be able to claim only tuition expenses, or you may receive reimbursements for a variety of qualified expenses, including off-campus housing, food and technology.

You should also clear up any questions on how to claim benefits. Do you need to keep receipts and ask for reimbursement, or will amounts be paid directly to your student’s college? If your student doesn’t need the funds due to a large scholarship or another windfall, how can you transfer, redistribute or take out the money, and are there penalties for doing so?

5. Consider changes.
Depending on when you started saving for college, your college investment strategy should change with your student’s age and education goals. Now is a good time to consider your current options and possible changes.

Check savings bonds for maturity dates and current vs. expected value. It may also be time to convert funds from one vehicle to another. A financial or plan adviser can provide more information about investment options, tax implications and other considerations.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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Minimize Your Student Loan Debt: Declining Awarded Student Loans


Colleges sometimes include the maximum available federal student and parent loans on financial aid award letters to bring the amount of awarded financial aid closer to the total cost of attendance. It’s not always clear that you don’t need to accept the full amount of all loans if you don’t want to.

If you can reduce your expenses or earn more money to offset awarded loans, you will have less debt after you graduate. When you use student loans, you’ll not only need to repay the amount of the loan, you’ll also be responsible for interest. And, it won’t matter if you don’t finish school, don’t find a job or earn less than you expected. Once you accept the loan, you (or your parents in the case of a federal PLUS Loan for parents) are responsible for repaying it.

If you are awarded more loan funds than you think you will need, it’s important to decide exactly how much you will need in loans.

Need some, but not all, of the awarded federal student loan amount? You can always accept only the loan amount you need. You may:

  • Fill in the amount you want to take out on the document you return the financial aid office if you need to sign and return a paper copy.
  • Choose the electronic option for accepting or declining each applicable loan, or for taking out a partial loan amount, if you accept your financial aid online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if you are unable to determine how to accept a partial award.

Can you forego all loans? Many students have the goal to attend college loan-free. Even if you know you will eventually need to take out some loans, declining all loans for one semester will save you capitalized interest later on. If you want to decline the offered loans:

  • Cross out the loan amount or select the “decline” option on the document you return the financial aid office if you need to sign and return a paper copy.
  • Choose the electronic option for declining each applicable loan if you accept your financial aid online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if you are unable to determine how to decline loans.

What if you change your mind? If you later decide you need more or fewer loan funds, you should follow your college’s instructions and timeline for changing your accepted award. Many online systems allow you to make this change, or you can contact your financial aid office for assistance. You may need to act before loan funds are disbursed or contact the lender after disbursement.

Considering PLUS Loans? Although PLUS Loans may appear to be part of your awarded financial aid, your parents need to request these loans. Because they will also be responsible for repayment, discuss your parents’ expectations with them.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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Five Key Facts About Your Award Package


While college acceptance letters are often exciting, the arrival of financial aid award packages can be confusing. Keep these five things in mind as you review your financial aid awards to limit stress.

1. Financial aid is not all free money. Depending on the college or university, financial aid may be presented under one large heading or broken down by type. Remember that work-study and loans, including federal and supplemental loans, are also part of financial aid packages. Work-study requires you to find and obtain work on campus, and loans must be paid back with interest after you graduate or leave college.

2. Cost of attendance varies by college. Like the types of aid offered, college costs may be grouped together under one category or split into different groupings, such as tuition; room and board, which is sometimes called housing and meals; and miscellaneous expenses. This can be tricky when comparing costs between schools. Be sure you understand what is included in each category to get a true comparison.

3. Expenses may increase and free aid may decrease after your freshman year. College tuition, on-campus housing and meal plans will likely cost more each year you’re in school. Grants and scholarships you’re offered to attend a college as a freshman, on the other hand, may decrease in future years. Find out if scholarships and grants are for one year or if they are renewable. If they can be renewed each year, be sure you understand any requirements you must meet to keep those awards. Also, be aware that federal loan amounts may increase every year you’re in college, but those funds will need to be paid back with interest in the future. Estimate total college costs using your financial aid package.

4. Work-study requires work now. If your award package includes a line for work-study, don’t assume the college will have a job waiting for you when you arrive on campus in the fall. As soon as you decide on a college, touch base with the financial aid office to determine what steps you need to take to get a job on campus. Then, apply for the job(s) you are interested in or seek out other opportunities to count on that money coming in once you start classes.

5. Outside scholarships may impact your award package. You need to report any scholarships or grants you receive from sources outside of the government or college to the financial aid office. While those outside scholarships may reduce the aid you’re eligible to receive, they can also help you borrow less if you need loans, so don’t be afraid of finding as much outside free money as possible.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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Working During Spring Break

How much money can you save by working over spring break instead of going on a trip? The specific answer depends on several circumstances, but the average savings could be in the thousands of dollars. Here’s a breakdown.

Assume you make $9 an hour and work eight hours a day for six days of a nine-day break. Your earnings after taxes would be $375.

Add to that your savings for not traveling to a typical spring break destination, which could be over $1,000. See how you can apply these earnings to college expenses.

Hourly Wage $9
Hours Worked Over Break (9 Days) 48
Net Earnings After Taxes $375
Average Flight + Hotel Cost (5-Night Stay) See source $1,077
Total (Net Earnings + Travel Savings) $1,452

By: Iowa Student Loan

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Dine on a Dime: Eight Budget Tips for Dining During Spring Break

Food and drinks can be among the most expensive parts of any trip, and visiting a popular destination for spring break is no different. These eight tips will help you dine on a dime over break.

1. Buy your own groceries.

If you’re traveling by car, you can do this at your favorite discount stores before you leave. Otherwise, you may need to check for local chains with sales or discounts once you arrive. Either way, having a stock of snacks, drinks and groceries will allow you to avoid purchasing marked-up items for convenience. If your lodging has a fridge and microwave, you can make some of your main meals.

2. Take advantage of hotel perks.

If your hotel offers a free breakfast or a happy hour with snacks, be there. Get at least one free meal a day, and if possible, pack a piece of fruit or granola bar in your pocket for a snack.

3. Bring a refillable water bottle.

Using your own container filled from a tap or drinking fountain will reduce the amount spent on bottles of water. Hotels usually have a free ice machine to keep your drink cold.

4. Know when to dine.

Lunch is often less expensive than dinner, and Wednesday may be cheaper than Saturday, at restaurants. If you want to try a specific place or plan to eat out for only one meal a day, choose the day and time of your meal carefully to save. Catching a sidewalk vendor or food truck at the end of the day might score some good deals on leftovers as well.

5. Know where to dine.

Ask locals for recommendations on less-expensive, out-of-the-way and authentic restaurants. Conversely, keep your eyes open for happy hours, buffets and other meal deals at the hot tourist spots.

6. Keep your extras.

If your restaurant portion is larger than you need for one meal, and you have a fridge back in your room, take the leftovers with you for another meal.

7. Get it to go.

Order a meal to go to avoid the extra costs for drinks and tips. In addition, you may also avoid the temptation to splurge on appetizers, desserts or other extras.

8. Get a discount.

Smartphone apps, online discount codes, daily deal sites, coupons and discounted gift certificates are all your friends. Search for the savings before you pick out your dining location. You may also be able to get discounts for students, AAA or other memberships, or members of fan or birthday clubs.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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10 Budget Tips for Spring Break (Infographic)

Download Infographic as a PDF.

Spring break can mean fun, sun and no worries, unless you blow your budget. Use these tips to help you stay on track during break and save your money for your education.

1. Plan ahead.

Start scouting for sales and less-expensive options early. Check out flights, hotels, destinations and activities so you don’t pay more for last-minute decisions. Read reviews of the activities or venues you want to include to see if they’re worth the cost. Also, pack everything you’re likely to need to avoid tourist prices on sunscreen, sunglasses, raingear, chargers and attire.

2. Take a cheaper flight.

Airfare is expensive, especially during high traffic times like spring break. But you can save some money by flying discount airlines, at off-peak times and days, non-direct and through alternate airports. In addition, check to see whether you can save by sitting separately from your companions and avoiding baggage fees.

3. Drive or ride instead of flying.

Buses and trains may get you where you want to go at a big savings. Or, get together with friends to share a road trip to your destination. These may take longer than flying but can be as much fun as the destination.

4. Take the road less traveled.

The beaches of the eastern seaboard are often less crowded than those of Florida, Mexico or Texas during spring break and can offer savings. Maybe this is the ideal time for you to explore the mountains or the desert and avoid the party scene.

5. Stay for less.

Apps and sites like Airbnb, VRBO and can point you to less expensive lodging wherever you decide to go. Consider camping if you’re driving—government-owned sites are often least expensive, and you can even rent camping gear. To spend even less, stay with someone you know. Check out options for your final destination and lodging along the way.

6. Save on activities.

Look for discounts before you go through memberships like Costco and AAA, as well as apps like RoadTrippers, Groupon and Living Social. Also, an Internet search may turn up promotional codes you can use when you book. Once you arrive, some places may offer a discount if you show your student ID, and look for coupon books in the lobbies of hotels.

7. Save on food.

Depending on how you’re traveling, it may make sense to stock up on food for meals and snacks as well as beverages before you leave. If you’re flying, look for discount chains once you arrive. Preparing your own food will save on high restaurant and venue costs. See more tips for budget dining on spring break. <link to other post>

8. Avoid impulse buying.

It’s tempting to pick up a memento of your trip or to indulge yourself. Think about whether that coconut mug or t-shirt will get any use when you get back, or if the signature drink is worth the cost. Set a budget for each day and stick to it. You could even only bring the amount of cash you want to spend with you, leaving your credit card and extra cash in the hotel safe.

9. Use your legs.

Instead of renting a car, taking cabs or using Uber, consider renting a bike or simply walking where you need to go at your destination.

10. Stay out of trouble.

Avoid large fines and penalties by knowing and abiding by the laws at your destination, including those for driving, consuming alcoholic beverages and noise.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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Plan for Total College Costs; Enter to Win

Use the free College Funding Forecaster online tool between March 13 and June 9 and enter for a chance at cash prizes for educational expenses.

The College Funding Forecaster helps you get a clearer picture of the total costs, aid and shortfalls over four years using freshman year financial aid award information, as well as family contributions and outside scholarships and grants.

How to Use the College Funding Forecaster
Follow these simple steps to get started:

  1. Gather up your financial aid award information from the college(s) and any information about scholarships received from schools or outside organizations.
  2. Go to
  3. Enter in the college’s financial information as well as information about your family’s earnings and savings and any outside awards.
  4. Review year-by-year estimates and make adjustments for your own situation. For example, living off campus after sophomore year may cost less than living on campus. Or you may be expecting to earn more after the first year of college.
  5. Review the results, as well as the informational tips on how to address funding shortfalls.
  6. Enter your information at the end of the tool to be included in the drawings.

Cash Awards for Educational Expenses
Iowa high school students and their parents and guardians can enter the weekly drawings for a chance at one of two $250 awards to offset education expenses.

Iowa high school seniors and their parents and guardians will also be entered into a grand prize drawing for two $1,500 awards to be paid to the winning students’ colleges in fall 2017 to offset college expenses.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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