Thirty Students Receive $2,000 College Scholarship

High school seniors earned the scholarship after demonstrating financial know-how.

High school seniors from across the state of Iowa earned $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills through the 2017–2018 Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship sponsored by Iowa Student Loan.

“The financial tips I learned through this process will help me throughout my college years and into my future career.” ―Sadie Brockett, a senior at Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

More than 4,000 Iowa high school seniors registered for the scholarship between October 2017 and February 2018. Of those, nearly 2,000 completed two online financial literacy tools and a related assessment to qualify for one of 30 college scholarships. More than 70 students tied for a top score on the assessment. The 30 recipients were those who received the highest scores on an independently judged essay on what “responsible borrowing” meant to them.

Christine Hensley, Iowa Student Loan board chair, said that the Student Loan Game Plansm and ROCI Reality Check tools, which participants are required to experience to qualify for the scholarship are designed to help students and families avoid the pitfalls of heavy student loan debt.

“Student loan debt must be carefully considered to be manageable later in life,” said Hensley. “The components to qualify for this scholarship help our state’s students understand the impact that student loan debt can have, and we’re pleased that so many high school seniors are exposed to these important lessons through the scholarship process.”

“The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge allowed me to expand upon what my high school has already taught me about college spending. I now understand specifically my college expenses and career outlook.” ―Regan Sylvester, a senior at Sioux Central High School.

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

Details are not yet finalized for the 2018–2019 Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship. Interested families should watch for information about the program at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

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
Ote Albrecht Le Mars Timber Kent Clarke
Sydney Alt Lone Tree Ashley Koos Marquette Catholic
Heather Baier Southeast Polk Carrington Kuehl Indianola
Ryan Bonthius Regina Grant Meiners Carroll
Sadie Brockett Gladbrook-Reinbeck Jeffrey Morische Osage
Zachary Calvert Dowling Catholic Josh Pulse Pleasantville
Emma Carlson Des Moines Christian Megan Rex Oelwein
Matthew Current Clinton Elly Schuemann Linn-Mar
Jacee De Vries West Lyon Rebecca Sharpe Norwalk
Katelyn Finnegan St. Edmond Robyn Stillmunkes Bellevue
Morgan Fritz Lake Mills Regan Sylvester Sioux Central
Maci Gambell Pekin Shawn Thacker West (Iowa City)
Megan Grimm Prairie Luke Thompson Okoboji
Kayla Hospodarsky Alburnett Ethan Trepka West (Iowa City)
Alyssa Jaeger Springville Allison Zelle Linn-Mar

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

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 students don’t need to accept the full amount of all loans.

Reducing expenses or increasing earnings to offset awarded loans will mean less debt after graduation. Not only would the amount of the student loans need to be repaid, but so will interest that accrues daily on those loans. And, it won’t matter if college doesn’t result in graduation, a job or the anticipated earnings. Once the loan has been accepted, the student (or parents in the case of a federal PLUS Loan for parents) is responsible for repaying it.

If the awarded loan amount seems like more than the student will really need, it’s important to decide exactly how much to borrow.

Need some, but not all, of the awarded federal student loan amount? Students can always accept only the loan amount they need. To take a partial loan amount:

  • Fill in the desired loan amount on the document to be returned to the financial aid office if a paper copy needs to be signed and returned.
  • Choose the electronic option for accepting or declining each applicable loan, or for taking out a partial loan amount, when accepting financial aid online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to accept a partial award.

Can all loans be declined? Many students have the goal to attend college loan-free. Even if some loans will eventually be needed, declining all loans for one semester will save capitalized interest later on. To decline the offered loans:

  • Cross out the loan amount or select the “decline” option on the document to be returned to the financial aid office.
  • Choose the electronic option for declining each applicable loan if financial aid is accepted online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to decline loans.

Considering PLUS Loans? Although PLUS Loans may appear to be part of the awarded financial aid, they are not automatically paid to the student or institution. Parents need to request these loans. Your family may wish to compare the terms and benefits of a PLUS Loan with those, like our College Family Loan, offered by private lenders. These loans may have different fees or interest rates. Be sure to discuss repayment expectations as a family if parents will be responsible for repaying the PLUS or other loan debt.

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

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

How Making Interest Payments Can Save You Big Money Later

If you’re funding part of your college education with student loans, you may occasionally receive statements, even though no payments are due. Ever wonder why?

Those statements are important, and understanding why can save you money in the long run.

They notify you that, even though you don’t have to make payments while you’re in school, interest is adding up on your loans — every single day. If this interest is not paid as it accrues or before your loans enter repayment (usually six months after you leave school), it will be added to your principal balance. If it is added to your principal balance (a process called capitalization), you will then owe more than you originally borrowed. And, the now larger principal balance starts to accrue interest on a daily basis, so you will be paying interest on the accrued interest.

How can you minimize this increase to your loan balance? If you manage to earn or save some money while you’re in school, you can make monthly payments that pay down the interest as it accrues.

Here’s an example of how making small payments every month could save you more than $1,500 over the full life of student loans.

Note: The information below is an example only. Your payment amounts will depend on the types of loans you receive and the interest rates and the repayment terms on those loans.

Making-Interest-Payments-SaveYouMoney-infographic

Download a PDF of this infographic.

Establishing Financial Habits

Making everyday spending decisions—like whether to order pizza or go to the Caribbean for Spring Break—in college, helps you establish the financial habits you’ll use in the future.

Although eating out every Friday night sounds like a good thing, it may be worth it to give up that treat in exchange for savings of thousands on your future student loan payments.

By: Iowa Student Loan

How Changes to the FAFSA Affect You

changestofafsa-affectyou

Each year, students who plan to attend college the following year file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to qualify for financial aid from colleges and universities and from the state and federal governments.

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Students planning to attend college in 2017–2018 will see two important changes to the FAFSA.

1. The FAFSA is available earlier.
Previously, the FAFSA became available in January preceding the academic year. The 2017–2018 FAFSA opened Oct. 1, 2016.

Incoming freshmen can now fill out the FAFSA while they’re applying to colleges. Because financial aid timelines are set by individual colleges, applicants and their families should be aware of each school’s financial aid deadlines, which should be available on the school website or from the financial aid and admissions offices.

Students who are already enrolled in college and refiling the FAFSA for a new school year should also be aware of any changing financial aid timelines.

In general, the earlier date allows students and families more time to explore financial aid options before the FAFSA needs to be filed to meet state and school priority filing deadlines. Students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA by the priority deadline to have the best chances at the available federal, state and institutional grants, scholarships and awards.

2. You will use “prior prior” year tax information.
Previously, families provided tax and financial information for the tax year preceding the academic year. The 2017–2018 FAFSA will use 2015 tax and financial information.

This change allows families to use actual tax information. Previously, because the FAFSA was open before most families filed and received the preceding year’s tax returns, that information was estimated and had to be corrected or confirmed at a later date.

If a family has experienced a significant change in financial circumstances since the 2015 tax year, such as a loss of income, those circumstances may be considered by the school. Contact your school’s financial aid office for more information on how to proceed.

See more information (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Education.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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