Category Archives: Financial need

Grants, Work-Study and Student Loans

As you begin exploring different forms of financial aid, three terms will stand out: grants, work-study and student loans. These are the three primary forms of aid that the federal government distributes through the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). By completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you’re applying to receive these various types of financial aid for school.

Grants and scholarships, which are given to eligible students to help them pay higher education expenses, are the best form of aid you can receive, as they typically don’t need to be repaid. The Pell Grant is the most notable federal grant; it’s awarded to undergraduate students based on financial need. Students can receive up to $6,095 from the Pell Grant for the 2018-19 school year. The OTAG is awarded to eligible Oklahoma residents enrolled in schools within the state and the FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant) is awarded to students with exceptional financial need. Some grants do have obligations attached to them, such as the TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant. This grant is designed to assist students who plan to teach and meet certain requirements for the grant. Not all campuses participate in this program, so students will need to check with their campus about available types of financial aid offered.

Work-Study is the form of federal aid that allows undergraduates to work part-time jobs on or off campus to earn money for school expenses. This program is administered by the school, and like grants, is based on your financial need.

The third type of aid is a federal direct student loan. A student loan is a form of aid the federal government provides to help students bridge the gap between family savings, scholarships and grants, and work study and remaining college costs. Unlike most grants or work-study, this money must be paid back with interest. While federal student loans need to be repaid, the interest accrued is often lower than it would be with a private lender, and federal student loans have more flexible repayment options than private or alternative loans.

The Direct Subsidized Loan program will lend students up to $5,500 annually depending on grade level, financial need and dependency status. The interest rate for subsidized loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2018 is set at 5.05 percent, and the government will pay your interest costs while you’re attending school at least half time. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan is available to undergraduates (5.05 percent interest rate) and graduate students (6.60 percent interest rate). The government does not pay interest costs during school for unsubsidized loan borrowers, but students may make interest payments while in school to save money. If there is still a balance remaining after using all other available forms of aid, parents of dependent undergraduate students may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan. PLUS loan applicants must meet credit requirements, and the interest rate is currently set at 7.60 percent.

If you must accept a student loan to help pay for college, focus on federal loan options, and limit your borrowing to the amount you truly need to pay school expenses. For more information about paying for college, check out UCanGo2.org/pay.

Don’t Miss the Oklahoma’s Promise Deadline!

Students in 8th, 9th or 10th grade: Don’t miss this very important deadline!

If you’re interested in applying for the Oklahoma’s Promise (OKP) scholarship, don’t wait until it’s time to submit your FAFSA! The deadline for submitting your OKP application this year is July 2, 2018.*

To enroll in the Oklahoma’s Promise program, you must be:

  • An Oklahoma resident
  • Enrolled in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade in an Oklahoma high school (homeschool students must be age 13, 14 or 15); and
  • A student whose parents earn $55,000 or less per year.

Special income provisions may apply to:

  • Children adopted from certain court-ordered custody and children in the custody of court-appointed legal guardians
  • Families receiving Social Security disability and death benefits.

To apply now or to learn more about the program, visit okpromise.org.

*Note: Any 2017-2018 application not submitted by the application deadline of July 2, 2018 will be removed from the system. Students who will be in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade in 2018-2019 will have to start a new application when it is available. High school sophomores who have not submitted their applications by July 2, 2018 will not be eligible for the program.

Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan

The Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan allows families to deposit funds into an account that will earn interest over time. When higher education costs arise, families will be able to use the funds from this account to help pay for their child’s education. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account online. There are a variety of low-cost investment options to choose from, and funds can be electronically deposited into the account or mailed in.

529 Plan funds can be used at most accredited colleges and universities in the United States. Expenses that the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan will cover include tuition, fees, books, supplies, certain room and board costs, and some technology equipment required for courses.

Saving for the future isn’t always easy, but being financially ready when your child goes to college will be well worth the investment. Here are a few things to think about when considering opening an Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan:

  1. Contributions made to the 529 Plan grow as tax-free earnings in the account and can be deducted from your Oklahoma taxable income.
  2. Regular contributions, even if they start as small amounts, add up over time. Consider making small automatic contributions or direct deposits into the account every pay period.
  3. Don’t wait, and don’t panic if your child is closer to college than diapers. Whether your child is in pre-school or high school, start saving for higher education expenses today. Focus on saving as much as you can afford within your means.
  4. A 529 Plan account can be a community effort. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and family friends can contribute to your child’s 529 Plan account. Encourage family members to contribute to the fund for children’s birthdays and holiday gifts.

For complete information about the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan, visit OK4saving.org.

Summer Preparation for College

So you’re finishing up your senior year of high school and about to transition to life as a college student. It may be tempting to use your summer break as a time to relax and recover from your final year of high school, but it’s important to begin prepping for your upcoming college experience.

If you haven’t already filled out the FAFSA, it’s not too late. You will need to complete the 2018-19 form if you are starting classes in the fall of 2018. It can take a couple weeks for your college to send you your financial aid award letter, so complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.

The summer is also the perfect time to apply for scholarships. Use some of your extra time to complete scholarship applications. The more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances are of winning! Don’t forget about scholarships provided by your college or university, too. For more information on those, call the campus financial aid office. You can also find a list of scholarships at UCanGo2.org and OKCollegeStart.org

If you will be living on campus, you can use the summer to start coordinating dorm needs with your roommate. You should also take a look at the school’s website to start reviewing potential associations, clubs or activities to join. Make sure you don’t overextend yourself, though; transitioning successfully from high school to college takes focus.

For more tips on preparing for college, check out our primer for high school seniors, Your Transition to College.

Tuition Wavers

When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re giving the college(s) of your choice a snapshot of your family’s current financial situation, enabling them to develop a plan for your financial aid ‘package’. That package may contain aid from:

  • The Federal government
  • The State of Oklahoma
  • The institution you wish to attend
  • Tribal, non-profit and private organizations

One thing that’s not listed here is a tuition waiver. So, what is a tuition waiver and how does it affect the cost of attending college?

A tuition waiver differs from a scholarship; while a scholarship is a cash award that helps you pay for various college expenses, a tuition waiver reduces the amount the college charges you. The waiver will eliminate the cost of tuition for a designated number of credit hours, but it can’t be used for any other educational expense. While there can be many reasons a school might grant a waiver, here are some of the most common:

  • Your family income demonstrates a high financial need
  • You are of Native American descent
  • You’ve overcome a significant hardship
  • You were adopted, or you were a foster child

Each college and university has its own policy regarding who meets the qualifications for a tuition waiver. Call your institution’s financial aid office to see what waivers the campus may offer and how to qualify for them. Asking a simple question could save you money.

Searching for Scholarships? Don’t forget local community foundations!

When you submit your FAFSA, you’ll be checking out your eligibility for different types of federal and state financial aid to help you pay for college. You’ll also want to investigate scholarships that come from private sources, so make sure to include a regional community foundation in your search for gift aid.

Community foundations are public charities whose goal is to improve the lives of citizens who reside in a particular geographic region. To achieve this goal, they strive to build permanent funds used for various purposes. Scholarships are often included in the donors’ choice of investments. Scholarships available through a community foundation are considered to be ‘local,’ which means there aren’t as many contenders for the prize as those offered nationally, improving your chances of receiving an award. Here are the websites for a few community foundations across the state:

Remember to take advantage of all the ‘free money’ you can find. Apply for as many scholarships as possible, and consider finding them before you apply for student loans.

February is Financial Aid Awareness Month!

Did you know that in fiscal year 2016, over 13 million students received a total of $125.7 billion in Federal Student Aid (FSA)? The FSA programs provide grants, work-study funds and loans to students who attend colleges, universities, technical centers or career schools. AND, you may not know that The State of Oklahoma also administers several scholarships and grants that can help you pay for college. So, now that you’re aware of this, how can you find out if you qualify for any of the aid?

The only way to know if you qualify is to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’re not committing to any school or any funding when you complete the FAFSA; you’re simply investigating your options to determine what types of aid you may be qualified to receive. Here are three common myths about financial aid that we’re about to bust wide open:

Myth: If I’m not poor, very smart or super-talented, I won’t qualify for financial aid.
Reality: While it is true that there are need-based programs available to students who come from lower income families, remember that financial aid comes in many different forms. Be sure to investigate scholarships that come from private funding as well. They’re everywhere, and they’re given for a wide variety of reasons.

Myth: I’ve got several scholarships lined up, so I don’t need to submit a FAFSA.
Reality: There are many costs of college that can add up quickly, including tuition, fees, books, room and board, transportation, etc. To be safe, submit a FAFSA to investigate other funding possibilities in the event that your scholarships don’t cover all of those costs. You can always turn down any aid that’s offered to you.

Myth: I’m going to pay my own way through college, so there’s no need for my parents to report their income and tax information on my FAFSA.
Reality: Paying your own way does not automatically make you an independent student. Most first-year college students are considered to be dependent, which means need-based aid could be based on your income and your parents’ income and assets.

To see if you would be considered a dependent or independent student on the FAFSA, check out the Dependency Questionnaire at UCanGo2.org.

How to Finish the FAFSA, Steps 3-4: Fill It Out and Sign/Submit

FAFSA Step 3Now that you’ve gathered materials  and created an FSA ID , it’s time to complete and submit the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov.

Applying online is fast, simple and best of all… it’s safe. The online form allows you to rapidly transfer previously filed tax information and has many “helps and hints” along to way to answer any questions that may come to mind. And, you may choose to send your FAFSA results to up to 10 schools that interest you.

FAFSA Step 4Be sure to enter your information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. When finished, you will sign with your FSA ID. Don’t forget to hit “Submit” when you’ve completed the form!

Four Reasons to Complete the FAFSA

If you’re going to college next year, it’s time to start thinking about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)! Here are four reasons why:

  1. The FAFSA is used to apply for all types of federal financial aid and some types of state aid. It is also required for many scholarship programs, including Oklahoma’s Promise. Use gov to apply!
  2. Applying has never been easier. Complete the FAFSA online. Doing so is fast and efficient for you and the school(s) receiving your results.Help and Hints
  3. Help is always available. Use the Help and Hints boxes online or contact the Federal Student Aid Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243), or any nearby college or university financial aid office.
  4. You don’t have to wait long to get the ball rolling. The 2017-18 FAFSA becomes available Oct. 1, 2016. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid.

 

What’s Changing with the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is new and improved and will be ready for you faster than ever! Students and parents now have the opportunity to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as soon as Oct. 1—three months earlier than before! The earlier you apply, the better, as some financial aid options may be exhausted later in the year.

Another update to the FAFSA makes the process even more convenient. Families will now use tax information that they should have already filed. This means families won’t have to update the FAFSA after they file taxes next year. Use the chart below to find out which forms are right for you.

FAFSA Completion Chart

To complete and submit the FAFSA online, students and parents will both need to create an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) at FSAID.ed.gov. This username/password serves as your signature on the FAFSA and student loan applications and allows you to access other federal aid websites. It can be beneficial for families to create their FSA IDs now in order to speed up the FAFSA application process in October. Once the FAFSA is available, it can be completed online at fafsa.ed.gov.