Archive | Financial Aid

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College is expensive and many students would like to get some alternative form of support that does not include signing up for a student loan. A student loan is one of the most stressful forms of credit to take because many students are not able to clear the debt many years after leaving college. But there is hope for those who would like to escape this trap. One of the ways to escape it is getting education related tax benefits, which allow you to offset your college fees depending on the amount issued.

Scott Groza is an education expert who has been mentoring students and offering them the advice they need to understand how to best pursue their goals in life. He has particularly been reviewing some of the best tax benefits one can embrace to make education more affordable. Here’s what he’s found.

American Opportunity Tax Credit

This is a tax benefit that is offered to students who are able to pay qualified tuition and are not dependents. It also applies to parents who cover expenses for students that depend on them. The credit replaces the Hope Credit and offers modified rules that make it available to many students, so this is one of the best opportunities that a student can embrace to help cover fees. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, unlike the Hope Credit, is applicable for the first four years of post-secondary education. You can claim up to $2,500 and full credit is given to individuals who have a Modified Adjusted Gross Income amounting to $80,000 or less.

Lifetime Learning Credit

Instead of limiting your qualification to secure credit for education expenses to pay for the first four years, you could apply for the Lifetime Learning Credit that will help you offset expenses in professional school or graduate learning. The thing that matters most is whether the institution qualifies, and once granted you can receive up to $2,000 for your expenses. It is calculated on 20 percent of your tuition and fees added up to the first $10,000.

However, as you approach certain income levels, there is a phase out. As it is available for parents to claim for dependent students, this is a largely open opportunity that you can sign up for to cover various costs of your education.

Student Loan Interest Deduction

This is one of the best options for higher education you can apply for. It gives you up to $2,500 in interest that is provided to qualified student loans in the tax year. As long as a loan was used to pay for your college education, it will count as this is one of the primary considerations taken into account when evaluating your eligibility. You cannot present money borrowed from your friends or parents as justification for a loan you spent on paying for college education.

Tuition and fees deduction

If you tend to owe a lot in taxes, a tax credit may not be as beneficial as a deduction. With the tuition and fees deduction you are issued up to $4,000 in deductions for qualified education expenses that are submitted during the tax year. It includes yourself, your dependant, and your spouse. Just like many other tax benefits, it does not allow double dipping, so you have to decide what to go for. Note that before you apply for any of these tax benefits it is important to conduct thorough research as there are a few details and stipulations that can make a difference.

This article was contributed by guest author Scott Groza.

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Many think that, after high school, they have to choose between going to college or joining the military, and that there is no overlap between the two. Yet, here are just a few ways joining the military can benefit both your college experience and your life afterwards.

Helps Pay for Your Schooling

A very well-known benefit for military service is getting help with paying for college. There are a few different ways this is done, and understanding your options can inform you on which colleges you can attend and how much the military will cover.

There are four major ways the military helps with college. Each of these approaches has its own benefits and conditions, so it’s important to plan ahead with the approach you want before joining the military.

  1. Montgomery G.I. Bill: With this bill, and depending how long a person is enlisted, an individual can get over $50,000 to help pay for college. A major condition to qualify for this bill, though, is you must give $100 a month for the first year of service.
  2. Post 9-11 G.I. Bill: This is a newer education bill available to people who have served actively in the military after September 11, 2009. With this bill, instead of getting just a flat amount of money, you get an amount of money matching the most expensive in-state tuition and some extra money for things like housing and books.
  3. College Fund Programs: These programs are commonly known as a “kicker,” where you are awarded extra funds for college. These programs are typically given to specialist occupations in the military and are not available to every member of the military.
  4. Loan Repayment Programs: This program is where the military will pay back a portion of a person’s student loan after they finish college. This acts as an incentive for college graduates to join the military after graduating.

Depending on where you go to school, it is possible that the military won’t cover all of your expenses, but every bit helps. There are other ways to pay for college that can help fill the gaps left by the military, like grants, scholarships and getting a job.

Discipline and Skills to Do Well

College is hard, and many students struggle to focus on school. One major benefit from serving in the military is being able to focus and dedicate to a task for a long time.

That means being able to balance school work with other time factors, like a personal life and a job, without letting your grades suffer. If you struggled doing this in high school, college can be much harder to balance. The military can teach skills like prioritizing tasks and time management.

This level of discipline can also help a lot if you decide to pursue going to college online. One of the many myths of online learning is that it is easier and has less deadlines, but it actually requires much more dedication and discipline. This is because there is often not a time set aside in the day for you to attend classes, forcing students to set their own schedule and plan ahead.

Housing Options

It’s likely that after you are done serving in the military, you might be further along in your life than the typical college student. That includes considering a serious relationship, having a child, and looking to purchase a home.

The military can help if owning a home is one of your goals, either during or after college. For veterans, there are VA loans available that offer unique benefits in buying a home. This includes features like: no down payment, lower closing costs, no mortgage insurance, and lower credit requirements. That final one can become very useful as joining the military can have a major impact on your credit.

If you aren’t looking to buy a home, there are some apartments that give preferential treatment to veterans. That can be extremely helpful in smaller college towns with competitive apartment markets.

Succeeding at School

The military gives and teaches people useful skills and habits that can directly translate to doing well at school. The financial help is also very powerful, which can allow students to graduate from college with little or no student debt. If this sounds like something you want, serving in the military could be a viable option.

This article was contributed by guest author Devin Morrissey.

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For millions of college students, taking on student loan debt is not an option. Without it, the cost of college tuition would be beyond the reach of most families. This year, students will leave college with more than $30,000 in student loans and many will have trouble making their loan payments at some point in the future. With federal student loans, they have some options that can help get them through difficult times – forbearance, deferment and flexible repayment plans. However, this is not so with private student loans. Students with private loans have to sink or swim with the loan terms they have, which includes no forbearance and no repayment options.

In the context of the massive amount of student loan debt engulfing the U.S., private student loans play a smaller supporting role. Of the $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loans, about $150 billion are private student loans. But, for the 1.4 million students who take out private student loans each year, their financial future can turn out very different than if they had taken out a federal student loan instead.

Why Students Use Private Loans

For many students, private student loans do play an important role in financing their college education. Once a student exhausts all available federal options and still needs funds to cover college expenses, say, room and board, a private loan can fill in the gap. Under those circumstances, a private loan should only be big enough to cover the extra expenses. However, about 70 percent of students who take out only private loans do so because they are not informed of their other options. Of those students who used both federal and private loans, nearly half borrowed less than they could have in safer federal loans.

The key takeaway is that students and parents need to take all the time necessary to inform themselves of their options, especially in terms of their eligibility for federal financial aid. If they think they have a need for a private student loan, they should definitely learn all they need to know about them. Here are five things you need to know about private student loans before signing on the bottom line.

Private Loans Don’t Include Borrower Protection

The most important thing to know about private student loans is they do not have the mandatory borrower protections that come with federal loans. That includes deferment and forbearance options as well as extended and income-based repayment options. Some lenders may offer loan deferment, but it is typically done on a case-by-case basis. And, because private lenders do not offer loan forgiveness under any circumstance, if you get behind on a private student loan, you will be on the hook for as long as you live. Very few lenders will ever agree to a loan discharge, even in the event of a disability.

Many Private Loans Don’t Include a Grace Period

With most private student loans, payments must start once the loan is issued. With federal student loans, payments aren’t required until six to nine months after leaving school. That grace period is critical for college grads who need that time to secure a job. There are some lenders who do offer a grace period, but loan interest begins to accrue from day one of the loan.

Variable Rates Can Cripple You

Federal loans come with fixed rates, making it much easier to predict monthly payments. Many private loans come with variable interest rates. While they can seem very attractive in the beginning, they could easily double or even triple over the length of the loan term. Some lenders offer fixed loans and some may allow borrowers to convert their variable rate loan to a fixed loan. You should avoid, at all costs, variable rate private student loans.

You Need Good Credit to Qualify

With federal student loans, the only eligibility requirement is based on financial need. There are no credit checks. With private student loans, the student or a cosigner will need to qualify based on their credit and financial status. The lowest private loan rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. So, if you do end up qualifying for a loan with less than great credit, you will be stuck with a much higher loan rate.

You Will Probably Need a Cosigner

The reality is 90% of private student loans require a cosigner. Cosigners take on equal responsibility for loan repayment. Should the student borrower fail to make payments, the lender can go after the cosigner, which in most cases is a parent. A few lenders offer a cosigner release which takes the cosigner off the hook if the student borrower makes on time payments for a certain period of time. However, the lender may require borrowers to be able to qualify for the loan on their own before agreeing to a release. Less than 1% of cosigner release requests are approved.

Private student loans can play an integral role in helping students fund their college education. However, the overwhelming consensus is that students should fully exhaust all possible options in maximizing their federal and state aid. Under certain circumstances, many colleges will step in and either find ways to reduce expenses or supplement federal aid with a college or private grant. Leaving college with student loan debt can make life difficult. There is no reason to increase your burden, if you don’t have to, with an unmanageable private student loan.



This article was contributed by guest author Jennifer Loews.

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Looking for a college, applying, and getting in is complicated enough. But throw the FAFSA on top of that, and you’ve got a recipe for a serious headache.

The FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form which college students in the United States can fill out in order to see if they qualify for financial aid from the government. Even if you think that you won’t, it’s worth doing — there are lots of different kinds of aid: Pell Grants, federal Work-Study, and loans. You never know.

In fact, in the 2014-2015 school year, students left $2.7 billion on the table, unclaimed. And that’s not $2.7 billion in loans — that’s $2.7 billion in free grant money! And this is because over 1 million high school grads didn’t even bother filling out the FAFSA. So, if you’re applying for college, or in college, please don’t leave money on the table. Fill out the FAFSA.

Of course, we get that it seems daunting. But in order to ensure that the hardest part will just be convincing yourself to sit down and do it, the publication College Choice has created a free guide to the FAFSA that walks you through the process, step-by-step, complete with screenshots, FAQs, and definitions. So check it out — you might have some federal money waiting to be claimed!

This article was contributed by guest author College Choice.

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

College represents the conscious decision to take education further than is required by the government. It gives students the ability to learn more than just the basics, which in turn allows them to forge ahead on their chosen career paths.

The problem is that the cost of college has been rising steadily. CNBC reported that the average cost of college has risen by 300 percent since 1971.

The most troubling fact is that cost continues to climb.

Let’s explore some of the options that students have for paying their way through college. These include common strategies and a few creative answers.

1. Federal and State Assistance

FASFA offers federal financial assistance with regards to the cost of college tuition. States tend to offer similar financial aid for specific groups of students.

While this seldom pays for the full cost of college, it can dramatically lessen the financial burden that higher education can place on a student.

The downside is that this assistance tends to be limited to undergraduate students. Graduates will need to use a different method of financing to pay for their education.

2. Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships represent another well-known way to help a student finance their way through college. These are typically awarded on an as-needed basis or as a reward for academic or charitable achievements.

The major problem with this source of funding is that generally only a few students receive it, which in turn means a certain amount of competition is vying for funding.

The other drawback of this method of financing is that it tends to be limited. Seldom are these forms of funding enough to pay for tuition fees, and even more rarely do they pay for other necessities like books and lodging.

3. Student Loans

Student loans have become a necessary evil in the world of education. They are notorious for putting students into an overwhelming amount of debt before they even have their first professional job secured.

One trick to minimizing the impact student loans have on your life during and after college is to minimize costs as much as possible. Certain low-interest loans exist that make it possible to pay 2 percent or less on interest during school, and between 3 to 7 percent after graduating.

4. Cost-Effective Alternatives

Another viable strategy for funding yourself through college is to seek a more cost-effective approach to education. Some courses, such as online engineering programs from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, allow for a more cost-effective approach to education.

Tuition for these programs tends to cost less than similar programs due to the lack of physical presence required by instructors, and the automated coursework. While more cost-effective, they are just as robust as a traditional college education.

Finding the Money for a College Education

College is one of the most expensive investments. It can cost more than a home, but it can also provide for your entire future.

By following the funding strategies listed above, you will help make college into something that you can afford, regardless of the field you choose.

This article was contributed by guest author Anica Oaks.

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

Planning for your future is one of those phases of your life that needs careful consideration. There is a lot of money to be paid for your college program, and you might end up either not being able to pay for it or left with the option to drop out.

There are easier ways to pay for your degree through student debt relief funds. Students can easily fix a principle amount for each month and the rest of the formalities for interest rate and term plan of the loan can be decided by the program.

However, there are a few key factors which must be considered by the student before he/she chooses the kind of loan they’d like and begins to make payments:

Choose Your Loan Program Wisely

There are many debt loan programs for students to choose from. However, a student must carefully go through the terms and conditions for any loan program and choose wisely which program may suit his/her needs, whether federal, private or government grants – it can potentially make all the difference.

Any loan program varies according to specific needs and requirements for the student and whether he or she qualifies for the program or not. It requires research and planning before any student can say ‘yes’ to a loan program. Discuss among peers and friends who might have opted out of a loan program and learn from their experience.

Planning Ahead

Once you have selected your program and have successfully gone through the process, plan out each and every dollar spending of your loan wisely. Remember, every dollar that you spend will cost you twice the amount when you have to repay that amount. Only plan out your spending for your educational program.

Also, look for additional student support programs to be able to pay for your loan. Part-time jobs or paid internships always come in handy. Always calculate your remaining debt and make arrangements beforehand to be able to pay for it – you don’t want to be in a situation where you’ll have to abandon your college program. Only borrow what you need initially and decide on the expected time period for repayment on the basis of your monthly payments.

Make the Smart Choice

People reason that Federal Student Loan programs are much easier to select, depending upon their fixed interest rates, flexible repayment plans, income based repayments and loan forgiveness aspects as compared to private student loans. Every student is different, so make the smart choice by doing your research – and don’t be afraid to get some counseling through your college’s financial aid office.

This article was contributed by guest author Henry Kingston.

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Image by stevepb,

Student debt is a hot topic in the world of North American higher education. As colleges and universities continually boost tuition costs, many students tend to get buried in a mountain of debt in order to survive their college years. Financial assistance is becoming increasingly common in the college world, and is one of the key culprits behind the student debt issue; however, many students are not fully aware of how to align their personal finances before and after they start college. This tends to create a downward spiral effect on many students’ well-beings, and is creating an overall negative feeling towards the idea of attending college.

However, student loans are not as excessive as they are portrayed to be. Of course, we have all seen student loans on T.V. that range upwards of $100,000, but the average student loan amount is around $38,400.

So what is causing so many current and former students to be stuck in an unmanageable mountain of debt?

Well, there are many other avenues in the college life that, if not carefully managed, can cause a large impact on a student’s finances. Below I will highlight three of these debt-causing vultures that are constantly circling overhead within the college world:

Credit Cards
Credit cards have always seemed to have somewhat of a dark history. There are countless horror stories of individuals being drowned in credit card debts, and this epidemic has always floated around the college world. The relationship between college students and many students’ credit card debts can be attributed to not fully understanding how exactly to use a credit card. After all, it is not free money.

The truth is credit cards can actually be quite the helping hand to a college student. Understanding that credit card spending should be tracked and paid off on time each month can help skyrocket an individual’s credit score, setting them up for better opportunities in the future. In the world of college, this can mean better student loan interest rates – we all want those.

Not Working
Going to college is stressful, and many students fear the thought of acquiring a part-time job, because it would cut into their ability to do homework or go out on the weekends. While this is understandable, many students see their financial aid as a secondary bank account. Much like credit cards, this can get out of hand very quickly.

It is important to take a step back and look at the big picture – your future. Getting a part time job, in order to avoid unnecessary spending on everyday items, can help a student avoid any added burden on top of their student loan repayments.

Going Out
Having a night out on the town seems to be a weekly tradition throughout the college world, and truthfully, after spending Monday through Friday in a classroom, it is well-deserved. However, it is important to be mindful of spending when doing so. Going out to dinner, buying drinks, and paying for a ride home for you and your friends can easily – and quickly – add up.
Thankfully, there are a number of frugal alternatives for students to still have fun on the weekends without going broke. For example, here in Boise we have a $3 movie theatre, and there is almost always an opportunity to go to a punk show for $5 at a DIY venue. The opportunities are out there, you just have to actively be looking for them.

In summary – yes, college can be a stressful time – both mentally and financially. However, being financially responsible and acknowledging how to conquer your student debts can be a lifesaver – both during and after your time in college.

Thank you for reading. Let’s keep the conversation going! What are some financial tips you have for your fellow college-goers? Tell me about them on Twitter (@trvshlvrd_rr).

This article was contributed by guest author Taylor Tomita.

Resisting the urge to open up a credit card at your favorite department store, paying for Spring Break with plastic, and the appeal of buying now and paying later is sometimes so tempting for college students. The truth of the matter is that while in college, there is an opportunity to begin building your credit so you will be able to buy a house or car once you graduate. You should never have to wonder if you’ll be approved for a mortgage or a loan because you have no credit history or you really screwed up your finances while in college. Take a look at our helpful tips and advice on how to build the most important score of your life with a student credit card. If you have any questions on what the best card could be for you to open to pay for things you were going to buy anyways, please contact us.

This article was contributed by guest author Matthew Coan.

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

When preparing to apply for colleges and choose your major, it’s important to consider what kinds of debts you are getting into and how you are going to get out of them. Of course, for many, money will be a huge obstacle to obtaining higher education. With tuitions rising higher than inflation, there is cause to worry that many students get in over their head in debts that are near impossible to pay back.

It’s important to understand all the options available to you as far as paying back your loans, even before entering college your first year. There are certain fields and professions that make it easier for new graduates to wipe away debts in the long term at a fraction of the total repayment rate. If you prepare for those jobs ahead of time, and know what you are getting into, you can make the most of your college education to ensure you have the skills needed to succeed in those areas after graduation.

For example, most federal loans can be forgiven after 10 years of graduation and also offer low monthly minimum payments if you consistently work in the public sector or are working at either a Title 1 school, or elementary or secondary school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). If you are planning to be an educator of any kind this is something to consider ahead of time.

Also, if you know you are going to be working in one of these situations after graduation then you can plan your studies accordingly, giving additional focus and attention to skills that will help you where you are going. In this way you might minor in ethnic studies so as to be more informed and sensitive to the issues facing the population you are planning to serve after graduation. Or choose to take language classes that might help you better communicate with students and parents.

In the case of doctors and dentists there are similar programs that help wipe out your student debts if you serve in underprivileged areas for certain amounts of time. The programs vary from state to state which is why it’s important to study up ahead of time and make a plan for yourself post-graduation.

You may not be able to work in a school or hospital in your hometown to start, but if you’re prepared to travel and are ready to live and work in new communities that you’ve worked hard to understand, then it will make the transition easier and the payback of loans that much more efficient.

Be aware of these loan forgiveness programs before you sign up for your student loan. Often times private bank loans are not forgiven so be sure you know what your options will be post-graduation.

Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
In 2007, congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to reward citizens who have chosen relatively lower paying jobs in the public sector, or work at non-profit organizations. This program forgives the remainder of a loan after 10 years of regular monthly re-payments. As an example, here is how the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program might work:
“Borrower is earning $40,000/year with a family size of four. The loan balance is $48,000, with an interest rate of 6.875%. Borrower could qualify for an income based payment of $52/mo. After making 120 qualifying payments, borrower would have paid $6,240 in student loan payments, and the balance of $48,000 – $6,240 = $41,760 would be forgiven. This does not include interest that would also be forgiven, and assumes that the person’s income and family size will not change for ten years.” ~Student Debt Relief

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
Arguably the most beneficial of all the forgiveness options is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program – as certain qualifying teachers are eligible for both full forgiveness of the remaining balance after a 10 year term and principal reduction of up to $17,500. As mentioned above, an eligible teacher is one who is not currently defaulting on their loan and who is also working at either a Title 1, elementary or secondary school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).The ten year Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is part of the public service loan forgiveness program, but in most cases teachers qualify for and receive benefits of both programs.

State-specific Debt Forgiveness Programs
In addition to federal student debt forgiveness programs there are also numerous state-specific programs that will alleviate all or part of your debts for certain types of service. Everything from volunteer firefighting, to dentistry, to volunteer work can help pay down your student debts.

Where loan-forgiveness is not an option, it may be suitable to consolidate loans into one lower monthly payment to at least avoid defaulting. This will put student borrowers in the position to seek out better employment and other opportunities for loan forgiveness in the long term.

Always read the fine print on any loan you are considering and consult with professionals regarding your long-term options before making any decisions about forgiveness or consolidation. Weigh the pros and cons of any option and also prepare to utilize the creative ways to pay off the loans after graduation so you’re not saddled with debt for the next three decades.

This article was contributed by guest author Barney Whistance.


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A college education opens doors. Successfully earning a degree can set an individual on the fast track to a lucrative career. Too often in the past, prospective students taken the college plunge without giving enough thought on how they will pay for their education.  In 2013, 70% of the graduating class entered the work force with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt.

With the startling number in mind, current and future students should gear up to face the uphill battle to escape the student loan pit. Federal grants, scholarship contests, a part-time job, or planning to locate job with the federal government are the traditional methods of paying for college.

There is another option: working for a company who pays for college. Many businesses have begun to recognize the importance of an educated work force, as well as the difficulties that their low income employees have accumulating the funds to attend college. In order to help their employees overcome that problem, many companies have added a tuition reimbursement plan to their benefits package.

Individuals who have college dreams and student loan nightmares, might want to think about applying to work at one of these companies.

Fiat Chrysler’s free college tuition program helps their employees earn their associate, bachelor, or master’s degree. The program is open to all part- and full-time employees who have worked at the company for thirty days. Chrysler will pay 100% of tuition, fees, and books upfront when their workers attend Strayer University. Individual dealerships must pay a fee to the overall corporation for their employees to participate.

Smucker’s tuition reimbursement benefit will pay 100% of tuition costs for company approved courses.

Starbuck’s College Achievement Plan will pay 100% tuition coverage when their employees attend one of Arizona State University’s 49 online bachelor degree programs. The plan includes all employees located in the United States.

Verizon Wireless’s tuition assistance program offers full-time employees up to $8,000 and part-time employees up to $4,000 when they pursue an associate’s, bachelor’s or MBA degree.

Monsanto’s tuition reimbursement Program will reimburse full-time employees up to $7,500 and part-time employees up to $3,750 every year for eligible courses. The employee must maintain a good grade to remain qualified for the program. The program will also reimburse employees for CLEP exams fees, certification courses, entrance exams, and licensing exams.

Bank of America’s tuition reimbursement plan will reimburse their employees who have been employed for 6 months up to $5,250 per year. The plan will cover tuition, per unit credit fees, registration fees, any other class fees, and textbooks for job related courses and non-job related courses if they support a job related degree.

Oracle’s college tuition reimbursement benefit will reimburse full-time employees $5,250 per calendar year. The degree must either be related to current or future job responsibilities and the individual must maintain a grade of B- or better.

Apple’s plan will reimburse employees that work more than twenty hours a week up to $5,000 per year.

Best Buy’s college benefit plan will reimburse employees who have worked for them for 6 months $3,500 for undergraduate degrees and $5,250 for graduate degrees.

Disney’s tuition assistance program reimburses employees $700 per credit unit, 100% of purchase price of all books, and up to $100 per course for the cost of materials. College courses covered by this program must relate to the employee’s job duties.

This article was contributed by guest author Samantha Stauf.