Iowa Families Can Win Cash for Educational Expenses

Iowa high school students and their families can enter weekly drawings for two $250 awards, and Iowa high school seniors can enter a grand prize drawing for two $1,500 awards by completing a free online tool that helps them estimate the total cost of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Learn more and enter the giveaway today!

Iowa high school students, and their parents or guardians, can enter their information for the drawings after completing the College Funding Forecaster until May 11. The free online 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 want to help families make the connection between first-year costs and the total financial investment in a college education,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “This tool helps them see how their costs might increase, what happens when one-year scholarship awards are exhausted, and how the family and student contributions can play a role in reducing overall costs.”

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.

After viewing their results, users have the opportunity to enter the drawings. Two names will be drawn each week to receive $250 awards for educational expenses. In a grand prize drawing, two names will also be drawn to each receive $1,500 for the students’ college expenses in fall 2017. The grand prizes will be paid directly to the students’ colleges.

For details and complete rules for the giveaway, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Giveaway. Or, to begin the College Funding Forecaster and enter the giveaway, go to www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster.

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

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

Registration Still Open for College Scholarship Program

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

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

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

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

Register Today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Iowa Student Loan

 

 

How to Handle Multiple Acceptance Letters

Sometimes the most nerve-wracking part of the entire college admissions process is making the final decision. If you received admission or acceptance offers from more than one of your top choices, these tips can help you choose.

MultipleAcceptLetters_infographicDownload a PDF of this infographic.

  1. Be sure you know how soon you need to make a commitment by comparing dates provided in your admissions packet. (Most colleges and universities give you until May 1 to respond.) If you were admitted and met entrance requirements, you may have some time yet to consider your final choice before you miss the first deadline.
  1. Rank your options. Order your choices based on how well each school fits your needs.
  1. Get student perspectives. If you haven’t already, revisit campus and talk to students. Online resources — like social media, blog entries and comments, and reviews — are also great resources. You can learn a lot of helpful information from those who have been there.
  1. Delve into the nitty-gritty. Look up student retention rates to see if a high proportion of freshmen don’t stay in school; graduation rates for four, five and six years; and job placement rates after graduation. Freshmen do or don’t stay for myriad reasons, but an unusual proportion may indicate an issue you would also face.
  1. Look at your major specifically. How many students are in your major? Do they have trouble getting into the classes they need? Check out the list of required classes for your major and compare that to the number of sections available each semester in the school’s course catalog. Don’t forget to search for online reviews or comments specific to your intended major.
  1. Look at your bottom line. Your total cost to get through all your undergraduate years should be a major consideration. A good financial aid package may move your second or third choice up to the top spot. If a lack of financial aid is keeping you from choosing your favorite school, consider contacting the admissions office to let them know money is preventing you from accepting. If you’re a desirable candidate, they may be able to help with a little more financial aid, depending on their budget.
  1. Commit to one school. You should not agree to attend more than one school. Not only are you likely to lose at least one deposit, a school may rescind its offer if it finds out you are accepting additional offers. The only exception to this is if you are wait-listed at your No. 1 choice; in that case, you may decide to accept your second choice while you wait to hear. Just be sure you notify the second school immediately if you get in at your first choice.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Applying to College

You’ve been considering colleges for a while now; visit booths at college fairs, perusing websites and pamphlets, and even venturing out on campus visits – all the while looking for that perfect campus that says home away from home.

Well, the time has come to start applying if you haven’t already. October is College Application Month and now is the time to make some decisions about what colleges interest you enough to fill out that application and hit submit.

The application process is actually a lot easier than most people think, but depending on where you decide to apply there can still be some steps to the process.

Step 1:
Narrow your choices. You should apply to 3-5 schools to keep your options open. You want to apply to your top schools, but you also want to make sure your final list includes a safety school. What is a safety school? It’s a school that you know you’ll get into and that has your program of interest. You want to always have a back-up plan and your safety school is your admissions back-up plan.

Step 2:
Review each school on your list and determine their application process and requirements. Are the applications online free? Is there a benefit to applying on campus? What pieces of information are required such as ACT score, GPA, letters of recommendation, or essays? Make a list for each school and then begin compiling everything you need.

Step 3:
Fill out the application. Be thorough and don’t leave anything blank. If you have to submit additional information, be sure you proof read everything and check off each item as you submit it to the school.

If there’s an essay make sure you are following all the instructions. Some schools will provide a prompt or topic they want you to write about. Others may simply ask for a personal statement. Remember that you can reuse certain parts of essays but be sure to tailor each essay to the specific shcool

Once you’re organized, the application process is pretty straight-forward. Just remember to take your time and be yourself on your applications. Try and submit your applications by early to mid-November so you have plenty of time to focus on scholarship applications at each college. And remember, you can also be working on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.)

That’s about it. Now get out there and submit those applications.

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.

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

Factors to Consider When Choosing a College

Header image: Factors to Consider When Choosing a College

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.

Choosing the college you want to attend is a big decision and there are many factors that you should consider when making the decision.

Future Career
What do you want to do when you finish college; what’s your ultimate goal? You should answer this question and then find colleges that will help you reach the answer. Your career path is something that you will spend 30-40+ years developing and the best training and foundation for that career comes in the form of the right college or training program. You want to make sure the one you pick has everything you need to be successful in your future career.

Campus Programs/Majors
Having everything you need to be successful in your future career boils down to the right program or major to get you into your field. A mistake that many students make is selecting a college for campus amenities or connections with family or friends, and then finding out that the college doesn’t have the program or major they really want. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety due to picking a different major or transferring to a different school. Transfers can cost more as well because you may add on an extra year or two to complete your degree. Make sure that the colleges you consider have the program or major that is right for you, and that the program is in line with your career goals.

Campus Visit
Try and visit every campus you are considering. While websites and guidebooks give you an idea of what campus will be like, only an in-person visit will give you the full picture. Schedule a visit with the admissions office and personalize your visit by:

  • Attending a lecture in your chosen major
  • Meeting with faculty or students in your chosen department
  • Do an overnight visit and experience campus life
  • Sit down with a financial aid advisor and discuss cost and scholarship opportunities
  • Try the food in the cafeteria and check out the career center, student life, and the dorm
  • Ask lots of questions (download a Campus Visit Guide at icansucceed.org/materials)

Financial Aid
Make sure you are picking a college that is within your means and allows you to graduate with an affordable degree. Your basic college budget formula is this:

Starting Salary = Overall Borrowing Limit

This means that if you will make an average starting salary of $25,000, your total student loans for the full time you are in school should not exceed $25,000. This keeps your student loan payments at a reasonable level for repayment once you graduate. Make sure you are picking a school that is affordable for the life and career you plan to have after graduation.

Choosing a college can seem overwhelming but breaking down the decision into these categories and asking questions will help you make the best decision based on your future goals and set you up for future success.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

 

Comparing Student Loan Options

You’ve recently determined that your child will need a student loan to help cover the remaining cost of college. You’ve probably also discovered that there are many options to choose from. What might be less obvious is that there are some big differences between those options and many providers make it hard for you to know what those differences are.

Knowing how to spot these differences can help you get the best loan for your situation and potentially avoid thousands of dollars in added costs and fees.

Key Differences:

 

  • Marketing Tactics. Many student loan providers won’t tell you the actual interest rate you will receive until you have invested a significant amount of time and provided the necessary information to apply for their loan. Instead, they advertise using the lowest rate they offer, without explaining that only a small percent of applicants qualify for it.
  • Incomplete information. All private student loan lenders are required by law to provide consumers with the annual percentage rate (APR) of their loan products. The federal government however, does not publish the APR for the widely used PLUS Loan for parents. Instead, they provide the interest rate. By not disclosing the APR, consumers often don’t see the effective rate for the PLUS Loan which is much higher than the advertised interest rate due to an upfront fee charged on PLUS Loans not included in the advertised rate.
What You Can Do:

 

  • Do your homework. Be sure to compare several different options to determine the best fit for your situation. Things to look for include: interest rates, repayment options, terms and any additional charges or fees.
  • Be mindful of advertisements including “rates as low as”. Most applicants don’t qualify for the lowest advertised rate. Instead compare the highest advertised rates. If the lender won’t tell you your rate in advance of applying than the most important benchmark to consider is the highest rate they charge.
  • Know your FICO score before applying. Most lenders of private student loans use this as a key factor in assigning your interest rate and APR. Some lenders will provide their interest rates upfront. If you know your FICO score, this allows you to learn what interest rate or APR you will receive if you qualify for their loan before even starting an application.

By: Steve McCullough
President/CEO
Iowa Student Loan

At Iowa Student Loan, we believe in providing you with as much information as possible upfront, before you even start an application. That’s why we offer a national comparison for students and families interested in our Partnership Advance Education Loan®.

Making the Leap: Financially Preparing for College Life

The first year of college may bring a lot of new experiences, and for many, this includes the need to budget a limited income for the first time. Earnings from a summer job can provide financial help for the school year as well as the opportunity to learn how to be financially independent.

Follow these five steps to make the most of the opportunity this summer.

1. Take time to really understand the financial aid package. Make sure you have a good idea of expected aid and how much college will cost for the student as well as the parents or other financial supporters.

  • Each college provides set costs for tuition, fees, room and board, and expected expenditures like books and transportation.
  • In addition, families often face additional expenses that either add up over time or weren’t expected.
  • How much awarded financial aid is gift aid? Grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back and fall into this category. Be aware, though, that many awards are one-time gifts and are not renewable for future years.
  • Is work-study reliable? Work-study awards are dependent on the student finding a qualified position and receiving the wage and hours required to total the award. Check the college’s website for a job board or financial aid section to gather information. Social media can also provide insight on whether students are able to find adequate work-study jobs.
  • Remember that loans must be paid back, with interest. It may help to calculate an expected monthly payment for anticipated college loans and compare that to average monthly payments for a car, house or other major expenses.

2. Track spending. Keeping track of purchases for a week or a month helps indicate where and on what most spending occurs.

  • Apps like Mint and tools like banking or card statements can be helpful.
  • A pattern of where spending can be cut or reduced may start to become clear.

3. Set up a basic budget. Budgets compare income and other funds to monthly expenses to keep consumers from spending more money than they have.

  • Take into account taxes and other deductions that will be removed from gross earnings. A site like PaycheckCity can help estimate these.
  • Divide up expenses into general categories based on typical spending.
  • Consider how spending will change once the academic term begins.

4. Plan out a monthly budget. Use realistic numbers to calculate an in-school budget.

  • Don’t forget that earnings will need to cover expenses for the remainder of the summer plus the entire academic year, unless the student also works while taking classes.
  • If a school-year job with the desired hours or pay doesn’t happen, or if it’s necessary to reduce hours to concentrate on schoolwork, each dollar may have to go further.
  • If parents are contributing to expenses, how will that happen? Options include a one-time gift intended to last through the school year, a monthly deposit into a checking account, a shared credit card account for certain purchases, or another method.

5. Evaluate the results. Adjustments may be required, based on the initial budget and events that occur later.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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