Celebrate College Savings Month with College Savings Iowa

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With back-to-school in full swing, I know it can be a busy time of year for parents and children alike. It also is a busy time of year for College Savings Iowa!

Since the program’s inception in 1998, our message has always been the same: by starting early, saving regularly and making smart investment choices, families can make their savings work for them. To celebrate College Savings Month this September, we introduced a new financial literacy initiative, College Savings Iowa InFocus, to help families learn how they can make their savings work for them.

This interactive learning experience introduces parents, grandparents and others to the benefits of saving for the higher education of a loved one. It offers savers the chance to understand the ins-and-outs of 529 plans. So join us in celebrating College Savings Month by completing College Savings Iowa InFocus! As a bonus for taking the extra step and learning about saving for your loved ones’ futures, families who complete the 10 minute tutorial are automatically registered to win a $1,000 College Savings Iowa account. Visit Iowa529InFocus.com to complete the tutorial and see the official rules.

College Savings Iowa is offering an additional $10 contribution to the first 500 people who complete the tutorial and open a College Savings Iowa account as another way to encourage families to take the first step towards saving. The newly established accounts must have a minimum $25 contribution and be opened within the first seven days of tutorial completion to be eligible for the $10 contribution.

By investing in your children’s education, you are investing in their future. I encourage you to make time and evaluate your college savings strategies. I know families are already busy juggling the demands of work and home, which means college planning may be the last thing on their minds. But with the cost of a higher education rising faster than inflation, nearly every family will face the question of how to pay for it when the time comes. Thankfully, the answer is quite simple – start saving today.

To learn more about College Savings Iowa, visit CollegeSavingsIowa.com or call 888-672-9116. Also, be sure to join the college savings conversation by following us on Facebook and Twitter (@Iowa529Plan) to learn about future giveaways, college savings tips and events!

Help make college a reality for the children in your life by starting to save today – you’ll be glad you did!

By: Michael L. Fitzgerald, Treasurer of State

Contributed by: College Savings Iowa

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.

6 Ways to Help Your Student Save

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If you’re not independently wealthy, chances are you’ll be relying on a variety of sources to help your child pay for college: scholarships, loans, your own savings and earnings, and your student’s savings and earnings. How can you help your student maximize savings so you don’t end up draining your retirement resources to help them out?

1. Understand how much your student will need.

Many free online calculators provide estimated college expenses for a variety of college types for the year your student will enter college. Try different scenarios to understand the range of expected college expense.

2. Foster an environment of saving.

What do you do with your paycheck? If you expect your child to save 50% of earnings in a savings account, set an example by building your own savings. The same goes for discount shopping, clipping coupons and so on.

3. Encourage your student to reduce expenses.

If your child tends to spend a large portion of earnings and gift money on clothes, for example, work with him or her to find ways to dress in the same manner for less. Think creatively—garage sales, thrift shops and discount store sales can provide a wealth of bargains.

4. Explore interest-bearing accounts with your child. 

Leverage savings by depositing the money in an interest-bearing account. Spend some time researching options and discussing the risks and advantages to different account types. Make an appointment with a specialist at your own financial institution and attend with your student so you both learn your options.

5. Know the options to reduce college costs.

If you realize you and your child will not be able to save enough for college by the time he or she will be ready to enroll, consider how to reduce the overall cost of college. Will your student be able to live at home? Attend a less-expensive school, at least for part of his or her education? Work while attending college? Apply for more scholarships and grants? Graduate early?

6. Set goals and monitor progress.

Use what you’ve learned about college costs and financial products to set goals. Then, periodically check that your student is working toward those goals. You may consider a matching contribution or other reward for progress.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Parents: Register to Win a $1,500 College Savings Plan Deposit

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A college savings account is a great way to set your future college student up for success by helping them to possibly reduce debt later in life.

Iowa Student Loan’s Save Now, Save Later: College Savings Plan Parent Giveaway is a great way to give that savings account a boost.

Now through Nov. 30, you can register to win one of 30 deposits of $1,500 to a College Savings Iowa© account. All you need to do is complete the one-time registration process, including completion of the cosigner version of Student Loan Game Plan, an online educational tool.

Enter now to win a $1,500 deposit

“(The program) is a great way to support Iowa’s youth who are approaching the college years,” said Michele Stiles, of Des Moines, a 2014 winner. “It helps parents plan and save ahead for college so that both parents and students are more financially prepared as students enter college.”

Eligible registrants are:

  • an Iowa resident;
  • and a parent or legal guardian of a high school student in Iowa (grades 9, 10, 11 or 12).

Winners will be selected in December, and notified in January 2016.

Read the full news release

By: Iowa Student Loan

What Is the FSA ID?

Students headed to college and borrowers repaying federal student loans are familiar with the PIN, or personal identification number, that was needed to access the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the U.S. Department of Education’s websites.

FSAIDTo better protect consumers’ privacy and make access easier, the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office of the U.S. Department of Education has now transitioned to a secure login system called FSA ID. Here are the top questions and answers for the FSA ID.

Q: Do I need an FSA ID?

A: If you have or plan to take out federal student loans, or you are the parent of a dependent student who will have federal student loans, yes, you will need an FSA ID. You will use it to complete, update and sign the FAFSA; complete required entrance and exit counseling; sign for federal student loans; view information about your federal student loans and other repayment activities.

Q: Which sites do I access with the FSA ID?

A: You will need an FSA ID to access the following FSA and Department websites:

  • fafsa.gov to complete, update and sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  • http://studentaid.ed.gov to learn about and apply for financial aid and to manage federal student loans
  • nslds.ed.gov to view information about all your federal student loans
  • http://studentloans.gov to complete entrance and exit counseling, sign Master Promissory Notes (MPNs), estimate payment amounts and complete agreements and counseling for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant) program
  • teach-ats.ed.gov to apply for and manage the TEACH Grant

Q: How do I set up the FSA ID?

A: Go to http://studentaid.gov/FSAID to learn more about the FSA ID and create yours. You will need to supply a valid email, a unique username and password; enter personal information and agree to the terms and conditions. You have the option to verify your email address, which will let you retrieve your username or reset your password without answering challenge questions.

The entire process only takes a few minutes, and you’ll be able to use your FSA ID to access the above sites within one to three days.

Q: Can I still use my Federal Student Aid PIN?

A: No. But you can link your Federal Student Aid PIN to your FSA ID to gain immediate access to the sites above while your FSA ID information is verified.

Q: What if I don’t remember my Federal Student Aid PIN or don’t have one?

A: You don’t need a Federal Student Aid PIN to create an FSA ID.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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.

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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 need to have your taxes filed before starting the FAFSA.

While you will eventually need final annual tax information for your FAFSA, you can start and even submit it with estimated information. It’s really important not to wait until your or your family’s taxes are filed to submit your FAFSA, especially if your college or university’s priority deadline is well before April 15. Financial aid is distributed first to those students who file their FAFSA by the school’s deadline, so if you miss that by waiting until you file your taxes, you may miss out on important opportunities.

If your taxes won’t be filed until closer to the tax deadline, you can estimate your information using last year’s tax return. Then once your taxes for this year are completed, you can update that information online. Remember, there is no penalty for using estimated information.

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 Jan. 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

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