Grand Prize Winners Announced in College Funding Forecaster Giveaway

Eighteen new Iowa high school graduates and three younger students recently received monetary awards to help cover educational expenses after they or their families completed a free online tool to estimate the total cost of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Iowa high school students, and their parents or guardians, were able to enter their information for the drawings after completing the College Funding Forecaster between March 5 and May 11, 2018. This free consumer education tool provided by Iowa Student Loan® uses information from students’ freshman year financial aid award packets, as well as outside scholarships and grants and family savings and earnings, to project estimated costs, funding gaps and potential student loan debt over four years.

“We really feel this tool is vital to help families plan for a complete undergraduate education,” said Christine Hensley, chair of the Iowa Student Loan board of directors. “We use the Giveaway contest to draw attention and expose families to the tool’s features, which help them estimate total costs over four years as part of an overall plan to minimize student loan debt. We are pleased to see so many families entering after going through the module this year.”

More than 900 qualifying entries were received from all over the state, representing nearly 280 Iowa high schools.

Sixteen 2018 Iowa high school graduates met the requirements to each claim an award of $250 for education expenses after having their names randomly chosen in weekly drawings. They are:

Student Name High School
Everett Willson Burlington High School
Jordan Larson Gehlen Catholic High School
Sadie Brockett Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School
Nathan Butler Highland High School
Madison Sommers Indianola High School
Rachel Strang Iowa City High School
Aaron Howe MOC-Floyd Valley High School
Owen Meyer North Cedar High School
Erin Goraczkowski North Union High School
Erech Hazen Norwalk High School
Abby Crowner Notre Dame High School
Andraya Sowers Pleasantville High School
Reece Suter Rock Valley High School
Nicholas Resch Spirit Lake High School
Madeline Moen Vinton-Shellsburg High School
Renee Kerr Wilton High School

Three younger students also fulfilled the requirements to claim one of the weekly drawing awards.

Student Name High School
Bethany Kallio (high school class of 2021) Ballard High School
Grace Reekers (high school class of 2021) Belle Plaine High School
Dahlyn Ott (high school class of 2019) South Winneshiek High School

In addition, two high school seniors’ names were randomly drawn by an independent third party to each receive a $1,500 scholarship award to the colleges they will attend this fall.

Student Name High School
Marissa Tunning Carroll High School
Drake Beller Sioux City North High School

The College Funding Forecaster is available online at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster. The tool allows families to customize both expenses and available funding to adjust results for changes in students’ situations over the four years. The results show yearly and total estimated costs of attendance, available funding and projected funding gaps. The tool also provides informational tips on how to reduce costs and potential debt.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Student Loan Pro Tip: First Year Salary (Video)

Borrowing more than you can comfortably afford to pay back is setting yourself up for a difficult financial future. A simple rule to follow is not to borrow more to pay for college than your expected first year salary.

To learn more about student loans and avoiding debt, check out our Smart Borrowing resources: http://www.iowastudentloan.org/smartborrowing.

By: Iowa Student Loan

PLUS Loan Basics: What You Need to Know

The federal Direct PLUS Loan for parents is a common option for families who need more money to pay the full cost of college. It’s often included in colleges’ financial aid award packets to make up the difference between other types of aid and the cost of attendance but, like student loans, you are not required to accept a PLUS Loan.

Before taking out a PLUS Loan, carefully consider its features, benefits and drawbacks.

Features

  • Availability: The PLUS Loan is available to biological and adoptive parents, and in some cases stepparents, who do not have adverse credit history.
  • Limits: A parent can borrow up to the cost of attendance amount determined by the student’s school minus other financial assistance received by the student.
  • Interest Rate: The PLUS Loan has a fixed interest rate, currently at 7.00% for the 2017–2018 school year. The rate for the 2018–2019 year will be set on July 1.
  • Fees: An additional loan fee is calculated as a percentage of the loan amount (currently 4.264% for disbursements on or before Sept. 30, 2018) and is deducted from each disbursement.
  • Repayment: Borrowers may choose from federal repayment plans to repay the loan over 10 to 25 years. Repayment generally begins as soon as the loan is disbursed, but you may defer the payments while the student is enrolled at least half time plus an additional six months.

Benefits

  • Cash flow: Obtaining a PLUS Loan before a college bill is due allows some parents to pay for the entire term without financing fees or late penalties and then make payments on the loan as cash becomes available during the term.
  • Pre- and overpayment: Some parents choose to make extra payments without penalty to pay down PLUS Loans more quickly and to lessen the impact of interest.
  • Federal repayment options: You may choose from among federal repayment plans (not all are available for PLUS Loans). PLUS Loan servicers also offer deferment and forbearance options if you have difficulty making payments, but be aware that interest continues to accrue daily even when payments are not required and unpaid, accumulated interest will be capitalized, or added to the loan balance at the end of the deferment or forbearance period.
  • Death and disability: The loan can be discharged if the parent borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled. In addition, the loan can be discharged if the student dies.
  • Cancellation: If already taken out, you can cancel all or part of the amount before the loan is disbursed. After disbursement you have a little time to cancel all or part by contacting the school financial aid office.

Drawbacks

  • Discharge: Federal PLUS Loans are rarely discharged for financial difficulties resulting from unemployment, age-related or other illnesses and injuries, or bankruptcy.
  • Nontransferable: You cannot transfer the PLUS Loan to your student to repay after your student finishes school. You and your student may be able to work together to refinance the loan in the student’s name through a private lender; doing so will result in the loss of federal repayment options.
  • Timing: Many parents face repayment of heavy loan debt burdens at a time of life when earning power generally decreases and limited income is needed for living or medical expenses. Default on a PLUS Loan can lead to the garnishment of Social Security benefits, tax refunds and wages.

Other Considerations
The following items could be considered a drawback or a benefit, depending on personal and other circumstances.

  • Qualification: Approval for a PLUS Loan does not take into consideration income, other outstanding debt, assets, income or years to retirement, so consider carefully how much you will realistically be able to repay.
  • Interest: The fixed interest rate will not increase during the life of the loan, but you won’t be able to take advantage of lower market rates in the future.

Before taking on a PLUS Loan, you should also compare it to other options, such as our College Family Loan.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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

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 

 

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

Registration Opens for College Scholarship Program

Scholarship Gives 30 Iowa High School Seniors Chance at $2,000,
Educates Them on College Borrowing and Personal Finance

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

2017 Scholarship recipients with then Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

High school seniors may register for the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship between now and Feb. 16. Iowa Student Loan® will award $2,000 scholarships to 30 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.

After registering for the scholarship, students receive emailed instructions for completing the three required online components. 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 will check students’ understanding of the concepts in the tutorials. The 30 high school seniors who score highest on the assessment test will each receive a $2,000 scholarship that will be sent directly to their colleges in fall 2018. 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 scholarship recipient’s high school will also receive a corresponding $500 award to be used toward scholarship and financial literacy programs.

“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!

By: Iowa Student Loan

It’s Time to Have “The Talk”

TheTalk

How will your children know what to do in a situation that life throws at them if you don’t talk to them about it first?

Many parents assume that because they are adept at handling finances that their children will be too—by osmosis, perhaps? But your children, especially those heading to college for the first time this fall, need to be shown how to be financially responsible.

You may often hear about “financial literacy” as a key to producing financially responsible individuals, but a better term may be “financial well-being.” The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau recently published several documents related to this concept that outline an approach that advocates for consumers to achieve a state where they can:

  1. “fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations,
  2. feel secure in their financial future, and
  3. make choices that allow enjoyment of life.”

They describe having these three traits as “financial well-being.”

To achieve a state of financial well-being, one must be armed with more than knowledge. To make sound financial decisions one needs to be able to locate and process reliable information related to those decisions. Where can your children get this information? There are so many sources available online and in print, but kids need parental involvement in the process. It’s time for “the talk” about financial responsibility.

Discuss the three parts of financial well-being mentioned above with your children. Talk to your kids about what it costs to actually live the lifestyle they are accustomed to living. Discuss appropriate use of credit cards; explore credit scores; help them understand a mortgage; and discuss how to find the best deal when shopping for a loan—especially if they will need to take out a student loan for college. It’s OK if you need to look up financial terms like APR, equity or collateral—look them up together and learn together.

loanphotoLay out the problems with making only minimum monthly payments on credit cards—the required disclosure box on any credit statement can help show what happens when you pay only the minimum payment each month. Your children will most likely be shocked at the amount of time to pay off even a relatively small bill and the amount of interest that will be paid.

Find a loan calculator online and show them how much they will need to pay each month after they get out of college (if they have student loans). Ask them what they think they will need to earn in their first year at their first job to “feel secure in their financial future” and to enjoy the lifestyle they envision, knowing that student loan payments may be a given on top of a mortgage, a car payment and other expenses.

It’s never too early to learn about financial well-being. So gather the kids and start the process of providing them with the knowledge they need to be successful. They will thank you later.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Before You Apply for a Student Loan

BeforeYouApplyStudLn

So, your awarded financial aid isn’t enough to cover your full cost of attendance and you know you will need additional student loans to pay for college. Before you apply, consider how you’ll manage repayment. Here’s what you need to know.

Federal student loans are limited. Undergraduate students can take out only so much in federal student loans each year. If you need additional student loans above that limit, you may need to consider private student loans or parent loans.

You’ll need adult assistance. You will need to have a creditworthy cosigner for any private student loans, unless you’re the rare student who can meet underwriting criteria on your own. If your parents are willing to consider a federal Parent PLUS Loan, they will need to borrow that money and be responsible for paying it back themselves.

You will need to repay the debt. Student loans are not usually dischargeable for bankruptcy or other financial hardship. When you think about your repayment amount, remember:

  • Your repayment amount will be more than the original loan amount. Student loans accrue interest on a daily basis. At certain times, unpaid accrued interest may be capitalized, or added to your principal balance, and begin accruing interest as well.
  • You will have a limited income. Carefully consider how much a graduate with your major can realistically expect to make in an entry-level position. Add anticipated student loan payments for all your undergraduate years, including any federal loans in your financial aid package, to anticipated expenses for a realistic budget based on a starting salary. If you will not be able to meet all your expenses on your starting salary, you may need to rethink your ability to take on student loan debt.

You can make interest and other payments during college. Most lenders allow you to prepay or pay extra on your student loans at any time without penalty. In addition, paying interest as it accrues while you’re in school can reduce the amount of interest you’ll need to repay after graduation.

Private student loans vary. Every lender has its own underwriting criteria, qualification requirements, loan terms and repayment schedules. Before you sign for a loan, research your options. Consider:

  • Variable vs. fixed interest rates. A variable rate may go up or down according to market conditions, while a fixed rate remains the same throughout the loan term. A low variable rate is often appealing, but remember that it may change drastically over your term.
  • Actual interest rate. Many lenders offer different rates based on the applicants’ and cosigners’ credit. If you are unable to determine your rate upfront, consider the highest rates.
  • Repayment assistance and benefits. Some lenders or loan servicers offer assistance if you are unable to make your monthly payments. You may also be eligible for benefits, such as a reduced interest rate for making automatic electronic payments. Consider these features carefully.
  • Managing repayment. Will you need additional loans for future years? Do you want to obtain all your loans from a single or limited number of lenders to make repayment easier? Will you want to consolidate multiple loans later, and does your lender offer that option?

You may need to rethink your college choices. If you find that you cannot afford to take on enough debt to pay your full cost of attendance, you may need to come up with a new plan.

  • Earn more. Increase your ability to pay college costs as they occur by earning more income while you’re in school and on breaks.
  • Reduce expenses. Your full cost of attendance may include expenses you can cut. Can living off campus without a meal plan save you money? Are the book and fees and transportation costs realistic for your situation?
  • Ask for help. Do you have relatives who are willing to offer you money for college? Are you eligible for additional scholarships, either through the school or outside entities?
  • Attend a less-expensive school. If you still cannot afford your cost of attendance without taking on unmanageable debt, you may need to consider withdrawing and attending a less-expensive school, at least for a year or two.

Visit Student Loan Game Plan for more information and tips.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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