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

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

New Tool Helps Students Make Informed Grad School Decision

Iowa Student Loan Encourages Grad Degree Candidates to Consider Future Debt

Iowa Student Loan has a new online tool to help students make informed decisions about their borrowing levels and their ability to successfully repay new student loan debt when considering the pursuit of an advanced degree.

The Grad Degree Gauge is a free tool available online.

Users are encouraged to consider their current and potential annual salaries with and without the new graduate degree; previous and future borrowing to pay for their education; and opportunities in a career associated with the intended graduate degree.

“I felt [the Grad Degree Gauge] was extremely helpful,” said Jordan Doetkott, a first-year graduate student studying organizational leadership at Grand View University in Des Moines. “It was very user friendly and a great asset to someone pursuing a master’s degree….it was straightforward and easy to navigate.”

The results are displayed as a number on a 0–100 gauge. The overall result is a composite of four indicators:

  • Current student loan debt in addition to maximum advisable new student loan debt
  • Anticipated salary change from the amount expected to be earned by holders of the previous degree, or the user’s actual salary if the user is currently in the workforce, to the amount expected to be earned by holders of the intended graduate degree
  • Number of new jobs in the indicated career by 2024 as projected by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Percentage of people working in the indicated career who have a graduate degree as indicated by the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics

“A lot of factors can come into play when people decide whether it makes sense to pursue an advanced degree,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “We want the ability to repay student loan debt to be one of the main things that students think about, whether they are continuing their education straight from a previous degree or going back to school after being in the workforce.”

 

Additional Resources
Also being debuted by Iowa Student Loan is the Parent Handbook, which consists of valuable tips that help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. The Handbook is designed to address common questions and provide a roadmap for academic and financial success.

By: Iowa Student Loan

15 Ideas for Making Money During Winter Break

Depending on your school’s calendar, you may have from two to four weeks away from school with little or no academic commitments, which leaves you plenty of time to earn extra cash which could be used to reduce your need for student loans or allow you to pay interest on current student loans to reduce your balance.

MoneyOverWinterBreak-infographic

Download a PDF of this infographic

Here are 15 ways you can make money over your break.

  1. Find a paid internship. Make money and gain valuable experience at the same time. Check with your campus career services office for available opportunities near campus, or contact companies in your field close to home.
  1. Apply for scholarships. Spend several hours researching and applying for the scholarships you were too busy to look at during the academic session.
  1. Work retail. Many retailers take on seasonal staff to help with the preholiday rush, post-holiday sales and gift returns.
  1. Turn your existing part-time job or internship into a full-time position. Your employer may jump at the chance to give you more hours to offset other employees’ vacation time or to help handle year-end projects.
  1. Babysit for busy parents. Besides the extra commitment of holiday parties and travel, many parents also seek temporary, full-time sitters for school-age children at home during winter break.
  1. Take care of Fido (and Bessie). Pet owners who will be away for an extended period of time may prefer to have a responsible person come in to feed, exercise and clean up after their furry friends. If you live in or near a rural area, don’t forget that farmers often need someone to take care of their stock every day. Advertise early to line up several commitments over break.
  1. Be a house-sitter. Homeowners will often pay a responsible person to stay in their home, water plants, set out garbage and take care of other tasks while they are away for a long trip.
  1. Sell your stuff. While you’re at home over break, take the opportunity to go through clothes, electronics, books and other belongings you no longer need. You can take them to consignment shops or sell them yourself online.
  1. Be the designated driver. With holiday parties in full swing, more and more people turn to Uber and other driving services.
  1. Promotional campaigns. Offer your tech and social media savvy to businesses who want to promote products or holiday sales. A few hours of your time can be worth a lot of money to business owners who don’t have the time or knowledge to set up their own campaigns.
  1. Put your creations up for sale. If you’re artistic or crafty, a little time designing holiday cards, decorations or gifts can pay off when you sell them online or at flea markets.
  1. Fill in on or near campus. It may sound strange to spend your break on campus, but if you have a place to stay, you may be able to find a temporary position taking shifts for other students who’ve gone home. The bookstore, area shops and campus offices may need help preparing for the spring semester while some of their regular staff is out.
  1. Teach a class. Work with local gyms, libraries and shops to set up special classes in something you know well and can teach others — a great workout for sedentary office workers, a how-to for smartphones or apps, creative cooking for the budget-conscious.
  1. Do the legwork. Do any local businesses need help distributing fliers or making holiday deliveries? While you’re doing your own holiday shopping, keep an eye out for an opportunity to offer your services.
  1. Take care of not-so-odd jobs. Advertise your availability to run errands, wrap gifts, hang holiday lights and shovel snow.

 By: Iowa Student Loan

Plan to Transfer? Tips for a Smooth Transition

The process of transferring from one college to another can be painstaking and time-consuming. These tips can help you transition more easily.

Transfer for the right reasons. You may be in a two-year program looking to complete a four-year degree, you may be looking for a specific program your current school falls short on, you might want to move closer to or further from home, or perhaps you chose a less-desirable college to begin with when you weren’t accepted to your top-choice schools. These can all be good reasons to change. Other problems, like an inability to form a social group, mental or emotional issues, or financial or academic struggles, may or may not be solved by attending a different school. Have a plan for how the transfer will resolve these issues.

Start the process early. The steps detailed below can take time and effort. To increase your chances of success in your new college, give yourself plenty of time to handle the transfer process.

Keep up with your current coursework. This may be difficult depending on your reasons for transferring, but a high GPA and good recommendations from your current professors will increase your chances of being accepted to a new program.

Fill in the blanks. Once you have a list of target schools, research the following to be sure you have the complete picture before applying.

  • Transfer acceptance rate: Generally, the acceptance rate for transfer students is slightly lower than it is for incoming freshman. You can find transfer statistics for a specific school by doing an online search for the college name and “Common Data Set” to see data reported by the college. Don’t forget that competitive or impacted majors may have separate eligibility requirements or acceptance rates at some colleges.
  • Admission requirements: Make sure you meet the minimum number of credit hours, minimum GPA and other eligibility requirements for transfer students. Start on the college’s website. Also, if a target school is one that accepted you as an incoming freshman, contact the school to determine if your previous acceptance still stands or if you need to re-apply.
  • Application process: Some programs will require transfer students to provide letters of recommendation, transcripts from college and maybe high school, or an essay explaining why they want to transfer. If you’re asked to write an essay, remember to provide specific details on how the new program is a better fit for you rather than writing negatively about your current school.
  • Aid available to transfer students: Many schools offer their largest scholarships to incoming freshmen. Research the grants and scholarships available to transfer students from the target school and the department to have a better idea of affordability.
  • Fit for academic and career goals: Make sure the new program is a fit for your goals by looking at graduation and placement rates, course descriptions and syllabi, and career and academic services offered.
  • Credit transfers: Even when transferring from a community college to a four-year program with an admissions or articulation agreement, you may find that not all your credits apply in the same manner at the target school. Be sure you understand how credits will be applied toward graduation and program requirements so you know if you will graduate on time without repeating coursework or outlasting scholarships with a renewal limit.
  • Transfer atmosphere: Find out how transfer-friendly your target schools are by seeing if they offer academic advisers, orientation programs, visits, housing or other programs specifically for transfer students. These offerings can make a difference in your ability to find a new social community and assistance on a new campus.

Know how your financial aid is affected. Besides merit aid available to transfer students, understand how your current financial aid will be affected by a move. Use the Common Data Set and call the financial aid office to find answers to your questions about aid at a new school.

  • Change in federal funds: Some federally funded but campus-based aid, like Federal Work-Study, is never portable. You will lose these awards and may or may not see them matched by your new school, depending on that school’s cost of attendance, financial aid policies and available funds. Federal loan limits may also be affected by transferring from a two-year program to a four-year college. If you transfer mid-term, some federal financial aid funds may be returned to the government.
  • Loss of state and institutional aid: Your current school will no longer provide financial aid awards for attendance at your new college. If you change states, you will not receive funds from the state of your previous college; if you stay in the same state, you may receive fewer state funds based on timing and funding availability.
  • FAFSA updates: Unless you transfer between academic years, you will need to update your current FAFSA with your new school choices. This will result in a new Student Aid Report and financial aid packages from the new schools. If you don’t receive this information within four weeks of resubmitting your FAFSA, contact each school’s financial aid office.
  • Student loan repayment timeline: Contact your student loan lender about your plans to leave one school and re-enroll in another. If you are re-enrolling immediately at least half time, you will likely be eligible for deferment on your student loan payments; otherwise, you may need to start repaying previously disbursed loans within six months.
  • Other financial considerations. If you currently attend school as in-state student but plan to transfer to an out-of-state college, your tuition costs may increase dramatically. In addition, if the transfer of credits or changing programs results in taking longer to graduate, you will incur additional costs before graduation.

Make connections. Once you know which schools you will apply to as a transfer student, start making connections. Contact academic advisers, professors and internship offices to understand how they will assist you in your new program. Visit campuses if possible. Connect with other students, especially other transfer students, through social media.

Get a good start. Once you have finalized your transfer choice, continue to connect with other transfer students at orientation sessions specifically for transfer students. Get involved in activities and talk to classmates in your upper-level courses to meet more people with interests similar to yours. Find an on-campus job to meet people and earn extra money. Get to the career center right away to be sure you’re ready to take on internships and find a job after graduation.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Addressing Financial Aid Myths

Have you heard that applying for financial aid isn’t worth it because your parents earn too much or because it takes too long to complete? Don’t be tempted by these common myths to skip completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You could be passing up free money. And that’s the last thing you want to do when it comes to paying for college.

FAFSA-Myths-Image

Financial Aid Myth — You won’t receive financial aid because of how much money your parents earn.

Income is not the only determining factor when it comes to whether or not you’re eligible for federal student aid. And there is no income level that automatically disqualifies you for aid. Taking the time to complete the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for federal student aid and you won’t know if you qualify until you do that step, so completing the FAFSA every year you are in school is important.

Also, did you know that the FAFSA is used for more than just federal financial aid? State and school aid is also awarded based on your FAFSA results. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could also be missing out on these other sources of financial aid.

Financial Aid Myth — The FAFSA is difficult to complete.

The FAFSA has changed a lot since it was first introduced, and the application is revised often to make the process smoother. The online process uses logic to limit questions to ones that are relevant and completing it online instead of filling out a paper application lessens the chance for mistakes. According to the federal government, completing the FAFSA now takes less than 21 minutes on average. That’s not too bad if the outcome is grants, scholarships and other funds to help lower your college expenses, is it?

Financial Aid Myth — You only need to complete the FAFSA once.

If you complete the FAFSA before starting college, you may think you don’t need to file it ever again. But you should file the FAFSA every year as soon after Oct. 1 as possible if you intend to enroll in classes during the next academic year. This is especially important if your family’s circumstances change because you may be eligible for new or more aid next year. Even if there are no major changes to your family, though, other factors such as how financial need is calculated may mean you are eligible for different options next year. And, once you complete the FAFSA the first time, it will take even less time to complete the following years.

Financial Aid Myth — Your parents are not supporting you financially in college so you don’t have to include their information on the FAFSA.

Unfortunately you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, even if you are paying for all your college expenses yourself. You will need to answer questions in the FAFSA to determine if you are considered a dependent student or an independent student. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to report your parents’ information on the FAFSA. If you are unsure how what type of student you are, contact your college or university’s financial aid office for assistance.

By: Iowa Student Loan

FAFSA: What You Need to Know

If college is in the picture for the 2018–2019 academic year, now is the time to file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Here are answers to some of the most important questions about the FAFSA.

Why should I file the FAFSA?

Regardless of financial situation, filing the FAFSA is the first step to qualifying for many forms of aid, not just those based on income. Federal Student Aid’s Myths About Financial Aid (PDF) provides more information on why all students should submit the FAFSA.

Whose information goes on the FAFSA?

The student who will attend college will provide biographical and financial information on the FAFSA. Dependent students, whether or not they are financially supported by their parents, will need to provide parent or guardian biographical and financial information.

Is the FAFSA only for federal aid?

The federal government uses the income, family size and other information provided on the FAFSA to award federal aid in the form of grants, work-study and loans. You need to file the FAFSA to qualify for federal work-study and federal student loans. In addition, many states and colleges and some private organizations use the information to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and other aid.

When should I start?

The 2018–2019 FAFSA opened on Oct. 1 and is available until June 30, 2018. Some types of aid have limited funds, so the earlier the FAFSA is completed and submitted, the better the chances of receiving more financial aid from those programs.

Remember to complete a new FAFSA the fall before each new college year.

What information will I need?

The student should create an FSA ID to make it easier to complete and access the FAFSA. You can also gather identifying information (Social Security numbers for student and parent, driver’s license number, and Alien Registration number if applicable); federal tax information or returns from 2016; records on any untaxed income; and balances for cash, savings and checking accounts, investments, and business and farm assets for both the student and parents.

Note: You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pull in applicable tax information while you complete the FAFSA, but this information will not be displayed on the online FAFSA or your Student Aid Report.

If you have any questions on the information you will need to provide, start by reviewing the Completing the FAFSA guide (PDF).

Where do I start?

You can complete your FAFSA online at https://fafsa.gov.

You may also download a PDF form to print and complete or call (877) 433-7827 to request a form be mailed to you. Some colleges may allow you to file your FAFSA at their financial aid office.

Do I need to do it all at one sitting?

You may save the information entered into the FAFSA online if you need to stop before completing it. Then, when you’re ready to finish, log back in to complete the form, sign and submit it.

What will happen next?

Within three weeks after submission, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, which summarizes the data you submitted. You should review this report carefully and follow the instructions for correcting any mistakes.

Your Student Aid Report will also tell you if you’ve been selected for verification. This is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong; verification may be based on a random selection or because one or more of the schools listed requires all FAFSAs to be verified. If you are selected, follow the instructions to verify your information with the requested documents.

Federal Student Aid also shares the information you submitted with the colleges you listed when you completed the FAFSA, your state and the states of colleges you entered. Each college you have been accepted to will follow its own timeline to send you a financial aid award packet detailing the financial aid available to you if you choose to attend that school.

More information is available from Federal Student Aid.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Find a Budgeting System that Works

When someone says budgeting some people find themselves cringing a little at the thought.

For many, the idea of a budget means less freedom and less fun. But the truth is that having a budget provides a lot more freedom in the long run.

To make things easier, you can use the word “plan” instead of “budget.” Everyone has made a plan at one time or another, whether it’s a small list of things to do, a get-together with friends, or a trip.

Making a budget is simply another form of making a plan. It’s figuring out how much you have coming in (income) and what expenses you have to cover (bills/spending). Your budget is a plan to have enough income to cover all your expenses while ensuring there’s enough left over to do what you really want to do.

Understanding how much money you have enables you to plan ahead for bigger things and provides you more freedom because you’ve already determined what you can afford and how you want to spend your money.

Budgeting can seem overwhelming but there are a lot of great tools and resources to help you get started.

Mint.com is free and does all the work for you. This online tool links to all of your accounts over a secure site and tracks income, spending and overall debt. There’s lot of features, including setting spending limits, email alerts, goal setting, and a mobile app.

Other ways of tracking your spending include resources such as Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar, Feedthepig.org, your bank or credit union’s online system, or a simple spreadsheet. Some people even use the envelope system where cash is added to envelopes each month and bills and expenses are paid directly from there.

No matter what system you find is right for you, it’s important to track your spending and know where your money goes. The more financially responsible you are, the more freedom you will find when it comes time to do the things you really want to do.

Note: some systems, including Aspire Servicing Center’s,  do not support automated integration with sites like Mint.com and may require you to manually input your info.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

Planning for Student Loan Repayment

Header image: Planning for Student Loan Repayment

It can be tough to know where to start with student loan repayment. After you graduate from college, you typically have six months before repayment starts on your student loans. This is your grace period, the time for you to figure out your job and living situation before you are expected to start making payments.

Gather Your Loan Information
The important thing during this time is to get your budget in line and figure out how much your monthly payments are going to be. The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the US Department of Education’s central database for student aid and has the list of all your federal loans, how much you owe, your interest rate, who your loan servicer is, and their contact information. Visit https://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds/nslds_SA/ to get started (you’ll need your FSA ID to gain access).

Private loans will not appear on the NSLDS website, so you’ll have to contact each lender individually for the loan information if you have any private loans.

Consider Consolidation
Once you have all your loan information gathered, the next decision is whether or not to consolidate. Consolidating your loans will take all your individual loans and payments and combine them into one balance and one payment.

Keep in mind that federal loans and private loans can only be consolidated together through some private loan options, and you will be forfeiting federal loan benefits to do so.

  • Private loans: Consolidation of private loans can be a good idea if you can get a lower interest rate than your current loans have individually. When you look into consolidation, inquire about the current loan rate. You can contact your loan servicer or visit their online account portal to determine your consolidation options and your repayment options.
  • Federal Loans: For federal loans, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/consolidation to see the benefits of consolidation. While you can’t lower your federal loan rate, you may find other reasons this is beneficial for you.

Entering Repayment
Once you start repayment, there of several types of options for federal loans:

  • Standard Repayment
  • Graduated Repayment
  • Extended Repayment
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment
  • Pay As Your Earn Repayment
  • Income-Based Repayment
  • Income-Contingent Repayment
  • Income-Sensitive Repayment

For all the details on these Federal Repayment Options, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans. For private loan repayment options, contact your loan provider.

Pick the plan that allows you to pay the debt down in the fastest amount of time with the least amount of interest. Some of the repayment options offer extended repayment terms up to 25 years and very low monthly payments. However, this just means you are incurring more interest and carrying the debt with you through most of your adult life. Other major financial decisions (such as purchasing a home) in your future can be impacted by your choice of student loan repayment plan.

You also want to focus on planning for retirement. After graduating from college retirement seems a lifetime away, however now is the best time to capitalize on that lifetime of savings. The more you can contribute to a 401(k) or Roth IRA now, the more time it has to grow.

The sooner you are out from under your student loan debt, the sooner you can start capitalizing on your financial freedom and bring your focus on your future goals.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

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