Category Archives: Financial need

Should I Complete the FAFSA as a Nontraditional Student?

If you’ve decided to go to college as a nontraditional student or as an adult learner then congratulations! It’s never too late to learn and grow. Now that you’ve made this decision, it’s time to think about financial aid – monetary support that helps cover the costs of college such as grants, student loans and scholarships. You might assume that you won’t qualify for financial assistance because you’re a nontraditional student, but there are various financial resources to help you on your college journey. One resource that you should utilize first is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Regardless of your educational background or age, you should always submit a FAFSA every year that you’re in need of financial aid. The FAFSA allows you to apply for federal and some state financial assistance for college. Your school’s financial aid office will use the information you provide on the application to determine your aid eligibility. They will be able to see if you qualify for grants, work-study and/or student loans. In case you haven’t decided which school you’ll attend, the FAFSA can be sent to up to ten schools at one time. Once you’ve submitted your FAFSA, be sure to contact the financial aid offices if you have any questions.

Whether this is your first time submitting a FAFSA or it’s been a while since you’ve seen the application, here are a few tips to help you successfully complete the form:

Gather your materials – Before you start the application you’ll need to round up a few necessary items: your social security card, tax returns and other financial information. The FAFSA will ask you to provide your income figures as well as your personal identification information. Your W-2s and other bank statements will be helpful with this section of the FAFSA.

Create an FSA ID – An FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) is your username and password for logging into FAFSA.gov. This login will also serve as your electronic signature for completing the FAFSA. It only takes about ten minutes to create an FSA ID. During the process you will be asked to provide your identification information and select a few challenge questions to answer in case you need to reset your ID at a later date. Use this FSA ID Worksheet to help you keep track of your FSA ID information. To create your FSA ID, go to fsaid.ed.gov.

Use the correct website FAFSA.gov is the official website to access the FAFSA form. You can also find the application by using the myStudentAid mobile app. The first “f” in FAFSA stands for “free”, meaning you should never be charged a fee to submit your FAFSA. Using one of the above options guarantees that you’ll not have to pay to complete your application.

Remember Oct. 1 – The FAFSA opens each year on Oct. 1. You should complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after this date. Some financial aid that you’re eligible to receive may be on a first-come first-serve basis, concluding that funds will be given to those who apply first and will eventually run out after a certain point. Therefore, to ensure that you don’t miss out on any financial aid, complete your application in a timely manner.

Summer Checklist for Incoming High School Seniors

You made it! School’s out for the summer. If you’re looking for something to do this summer, why not get a jump start on your senior year of high school? Here’s a preview of what to do as you finish up high school and prepare for college:

  • Stay on track. Review courses with your counselor to make sure you’re meeting high school graduation and entrance requirements for the schools that interest you.
  • Pick your top five. Oklahoma has 25 public colleges and universities as well as several independent and proprietary institutions. Take a few minutes to check out your options!
  • Search for scholarships. It’s never too early (or too late!) to apply for scholarships. Check out UCanGo2 and OKcollegestart to search thousands of scholarships!
  • Test again. Even if you’ve already taken the ACT or SAT, register for the fall ACT and/or SAT tests; you might boost your score! For extra help, try the free practice ACT and SAT tests on OKcollegestart.org. Find test locations and dates at ACT.org and SAT.org.
  • Create a Federal Student Aid ID. The 2020-21 FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2019. You and one of your parents will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA online. Be sure to keep track of these usernames and passwords. Creating FSA IDs now will save time this fall when you’re ready to file the FAFSA.
  • Prepare for college fairs. This College Fair Worksheet will help narrow down what types of schools you may be interested in attending. You’ll also find a list of questions to ask college representatives. College Fairs typically begin in September. Registration for fall fairs isn’t open yet, but you can create an account on GoToCollegeFairs.com now, allowing you to easily register when the time comes.

Check out UCanGo2’s full Senior Checklist for reminders and tasks that need to be completed during your senior year of high school.

Oklahoma’s Promise Deadline

The Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program offers qualified Oklahoma students an opportunity to earn a scholarship for college tuition. To qualify for enrollment:

  • You must be an Oklahoma resident.
  • You must enroll for the scholarship in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade
    (at the age of 13, 14 or 15 for homeschool students.)
  • Your parent(s)’ federal adjusted gross income (AGI) must not exceed $55,000 per year.
    Special income provisions apply to legal guardians and certain adoptive parents.

High school students who have just completed 10th grade must apply for Oklahoma’s Promise before July 1, 2019 in order for their application to be considered. If students in the 8th or 9th grade miss the July 1 deadline, they’ll have the opportunity to use the 2019-2020 application this fall.

In the 2017-18 school year, 83% of Oklahoma’s Promise recipients were also eligible for federal Pell Grants, which is more ‘free money’ for college that doesn’t have to be repaid. Oklahoma’s Promise students must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in their senior year to verify their family income a second time and to determine their eligibility for the Pell Grant and the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG). To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise, federal financial aid and OTAG, visit:
OKPromise.org
StudentAid.ed.gov
OKcollegestart.org

What’s the Difference Between a Scholarship and a Tuition Waiver?

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 one or more of these sources:
• The federal government – grants, work-study program, student loans
• The state of Oklahoma – grants and scholarships
• The institution you wish to attend – scholarships and tuition waivers
• Tribal, non-profit and private organizations – grants and scholarships

Your higher education institution may offer you a scholarship, tuition waiver, or both. You may wonder what the differences are between the two and whether you would qualify to receive them.
• A scholarship is usually ‘free money’ that doesn’t have to be paid back, and is used to pay various college expenses. It can be awarded to you by the school you plan to attend, by the state of Oklahoma, or by various private and tribal organizations. A scholarship is often awarded for above-average grades or other achievements, talents and/or community involvement.
• A tuition waiver is granted by your chosen school and 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’re of Native American descent.
• You’ve overcome a significant hardship.
• You were adopted, or you were a foster child.

It’s possible that you’d be able to use a scholarship and a tuition waiver simultaneously. Each college has its own policy regarding who meets the qualifications for one or the other. Call your institution’s financial aid office to see how to qualify for any scholarships and waivers they may offer.

Oklahoma’s Promise Day

Oklahoma’s Promise Day at the State Capitol is today, April 9! On Oklahoma’s Promise Day many students, faculty and supporters of Oklahoma’s Promise gather at the Capitol to show their appreciation for the Governor and legislature’s ongoing support of this program. The Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship pays tuition at Oklahoma public colleges or universities and pays a portion of tuition at Oklahoma’s private colleges and for certain programs at Oklahoma public technology centers. Approximately 17,000 college students are currently benefiting from the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship, allowing more students to have a better chance of reaching their educational goals in our state.

If you’re an Oklahoma’s Promise student, you must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) every year you’re in college. The information from the FAFSA will be used to determine whether or not your parent’s federal adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $100,000.  For any year that the income exceeds $100,000, you will not be eligible to receive the program benefits. Students must also remain in good academic standing based on the guidelines set by your institution. As the financial aid office reviews your FAFSA, they will determine your eligibility for financial aid such as  Oklahoma’s Promise,   grants, federal work-study and student loans. Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 each year and contact the financial aid office if you have questions about your Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship.  Also, take some time to celebrate today by thanking your state legislators and encouraging them to keep the promise!

To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise and its requirements, visit okpromise.org.

We are OK Promise round logo

Resources for Students Experiencing Homelessness & Other Special Circumstances

Going to college is a great step in the right direction for financial self-sufficiency, but it can be a tough path if you’re a homeless student or have a special circumstance. According to Federal Student Aid, a homeless student is someone who lacks “fixed, regular and adequate housing.” This may be anyone who is sleeping on a teacher’s couch or staying with a different friend each night. Your situation doesn’t have to stop you from pursuing your dreams, however. Applying for financial aid to help pay college expenses should be one of the first things you do. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the form that students and their families must complete annually to apply for federal and some state financial assistance for college. When completing the FAFSA, you will be asked a series of questions to determine if you will or will not have to provide parental information. Students who qualify as homeless will not have to report their parent’s data, but will need to contact their college’s financial aid office with documentation of their living arrangements. Talk with your high school counselor about your situation. Counselors can work with a campus homeless student liaison to provide the appropriate documentation.

Other students who are not homeless, but are also unable to provide parental information, will need to indicate they have a special circumstance on their FAFSA. This step will allow those students to skip the parent demographic portion of the application and proceed to the student section. A special circumstance may include escaping an abusive home environment, inability to contact parents, incarcerated parents, or parents who refuse to provide their information. When students indicate they have a special circumstance, they may only be eligible to receive unsubsidized student loans. An unsubsidized student loan is one that accrues interest while the student is in school. Once repayment begins, the student will repay the principal and the interest that has accumulated. In contrast, the interest on a subsidized student loan is paid by the government while the student is in school at least half-time. Students are encouraged to contact their campus financial aid office to explain their situation. The financial aid office will notify you if additional information is required.

As you move to the next level of education, there are resources available to help you succeed in college. Below are a few programs that may be helpful to you.

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY): This program connects students with resources that will help them be successful throughout every year of school. Learn more about the program at NAEHCY.org.

National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE): NCHE offers an educational helpline for students experiencing homelessness. See how their helpline can guide you at NCHE.ed.gov.

Local Family and Youth Services offices: Family and Youth Services agencies provide living arrangement resources for homeless students. Find your local Family and Youth Service office at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/fysb.

Campus resources: Many college campuses have resources to help students’ access year-round housing, food banks and academic support groups. Check with the Office of Resident Life on your campus to discover available resources.

Call 2-1-1: This hotline helps students locate assistance with shelters and food and other support groups.

Finish the FAFSA this February!

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has been available since October 1, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to apply! You can still apply to receive federal and state student aid in the form of grants, work-study and loans by submitting your FAFSA. Many students don’t apply at all and forgo FREE money for college! Below are some common reasons students miss out on financial aid.

Myth: If I’m not poor, very smart or super-talented, I won’t qualify for financial aid.

Reality: While it is true that the FAFSA is a need-based program, there are many factors other than income that go into the calculation. You never know if you qualify unless you apply. Plus, the FAFSA is used for more than just federal aid. Many universities and foundations require that you complete a FAFSA to be eligible for their scholarships.

 

Myth: I have several scholarships lined up, so I don’t need to submit a FAFSA.

Reality: College expenses include more than just tuition and fees – don’t forget about, books, room and board and transportation, among other potential costs. Submit your FAFSA to explore other funding possibilities in the event that your scholarships don’t cover all of your costs. You can always turn down aid that’s offered to you.

 

Myth: I’m going to pay my own way through college, so there’s no need to complete a FAFSA.

Reality: Paying your own way through college is a great plan, and completing the FAFSA could allow you to keep more of that money in your pocket. Applying for federal aid has become easier and can significantly reduce your financial burden. A few minutes of your time is definitely worth the potential for thousands of dollars in aid.

Complete your application for federal student aid today at FAFSA.gov!

I’ve Submitted the FAFSA. Now What?

Completing the FAFSA is just the first step in applying for financial aid. After your application has been processed, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is a summary of all the information you entered on the FAFSA form. Included in the report will be your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), a number that helps determine your financial aid eligibility. When you receive the SAR, review it and make any necessary changes. You can make changes by logging into FAFSA.gov, accessing your original FAFSA application, and correcting your information. Don’t forget to resign and submit! Once you’ve updated your FAFSA, your SAR will be sent to the schools that were listed on your application. If you’re selected for verification, schools will ask you to provide more documentation to confirm that you reported the correct information. Be sure to submit documents as soon as possible to the financial aid office.

Colleges and universities will eventually send you award letters, notifying you of the amount of financial aid they’re able to offer you. Most award letters will be sent electronically, while a few others might come in the mail. Ask your campuses or choice how their notifications will be sent. The award letters will also tell you the cost of attendance. Carefully review those letters and only accept the aid you need. Always accept free money first: grants and scholarships. If you need to take out a student loan, only accept the amount you need to cover the cost of attendance. Be sure to compare different schools’ award letters as well. Consider the financial aid packages and the campus environment to decide which would be the best fit for you.

Follow up with every campus you received an award letter from and let them know how much of the financial aid package you would like to accept. Check for deadlines! Each award letter will ask you to respond by a certain date or you could lose the aid offered. Remain in constant contact with the financial aid office to make sure you take all necessary steps to secure your financial aid award.

529 Plan on the FAFSA

A 529 Plan can be a huge benefit in paying college expenses. However, this college savings account can be tricky to report on the FAFSA. If the account is in the student’s name or in the custodial parent’s name, then the 529 Plan should be reported as a parent asset on the FAFSA. If the student is independent, meaning s/he doesn’t have to report parental information, then the plan should be reported as a student asset. The plan doesn’t have to be reported as an asset if someone other than the student or custodial parent owns the account, such as a grandparent or family friend.

Another aspect of the 529 Plan that can be challenging is distributions from the account. Distributions are funds taken from the 529 Plan for any reason. Students and parents only have to report a distribution from the account if the plan wasn’t reported on the FAFSA as an asset. Here are some guidelines to ensure that you accurately report any 529 Plan distributions:

  1. A non-qualified distribution – funds taken from the account for non-educational expenses – will be included in the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of the student’s federal income tax return. The AGI will be a part of the student’s total income, so the student will just need to report his or her income on the FAFSA.
  2. A qualified distribution – funds taken from the account for educational expenses – should be reported as the student’s untaxed income on the FAFSA.
  3. A distribution made from an account that the student or the custodial parent does not own must be reported as the student’s untaxed income on the FAFSA, as well.

The best option for reporting a 529 Savings Plan is to leave the account in the student’s name or in the custodial parent’s name. By doing this, the Plan will be reported as an asset and the family won’t have to report distributions made from the account. For more information on how to report the 529 Plan on the FAFSA, visit Edvisors.com/plan-for-college.

Aid Eligibility for Undocumented Students

Although a student must have a valid Social Security Number to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and qualify for federal student aid, undocumented students are eligible for other forms of financial aid for college.

*Remember, if your parent does not have a Social Security Number, but you do, you are eligible to complete a FAFSA and receive federal student aid. Your parent, however, will not be able to set up an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) to electronically sign the FAFSA. Instead, he or she can print, sign and mail in a paper signature page.

One form of aid undocumented students can receive is the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG). This is available to students who can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Have you graduated from a public or private high school in Oklahoma?
  • Have you resided in Oklahoma with a parent or guardian while attending a public or private high school in Oklahoma for at least two years prior to graduation?
  • Have you satisfied the admission standards for the institution?
  • Have you provided to the institution a copy of a true and correct application or petition filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to legalize the student’s immigration status?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should apply for OTAG as soon as possible after October 1 prior to each year you plan to attend college. You can find the application for undocumented students at: https://content.xap.com/media/8335/2019-20-OTAG-undoc.pdf.

Undocumented students may also receive scholarships through their college or university, foundation offices or private companies. Check out a list of scholarships for DACA and Dreamer Students here and search and apply for additional scholarships by visiting UCanGo2.org, OKcollegestart.org and OCCF.org.