Category Archives: Student loans

What’s The Big Deal About The FAFSA?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college, vocational school or other education after high school. It’s simply a statement about a family’s financial situation, and it’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive. You have an 85% chance of getting money for college just by completing this important form.

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. For high school seniors, this means yours will be ready for you to submit in October, almost a year before you begin college! You can submit your FAFSA even if you haven’t applied to any colleges yet. In fact, if you’re not sure which college you want to attend, you can request that your FAFSA information be shared with up to 10 different campuses that you may want to learn more about.

The current FAFSA is available online at fafsa.gov. If you’d like a sneak peek at the FAFSA, there are two options you may want to consider.
• The FAFSA4caster can give you a free early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. Visit fafsa.gov and scroll down to Early Aid Estimate.
The FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet lists most of the questions from the FAFSA, giving you an idea of what information you’ll need to have with you when you begin to fill it out.

Please keep in mind that neither of these tools is a replacement for the real FAFSA. You’ll still need to complete the actual form online after October 1 in order to apply for financial aid.

During the 2018-2019 school year, $2.6B dollars in federal financial aid for college was left unclaimed by students who would have been qualified to receive the aid, simply because they didn’t submit a FAFSA. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.

Grants, Loans & Work Study

By now you probably know that it’s important to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, but do you know what you’re actually submitting? This application allows colleges to see which types of financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Financial aid can help you cover educational expenses and comes in the form of grants, work-study and student loans.

Grants, sometimes referred to as gift aid, are need-based aid that usually don’t have to be repaid. The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. This form of financial aid is available for undergraduate students (those who haven’t received their first bachelor’s degree). The maximum amount of Pell Grant a student can receive is $6,195 for the 2019-2020 school year. Financial aid offices will determine students’ financial need and inform them of their Pell eligibility. Another federal grant that’s available is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG. Only students who have extreme financial need are eligible to receive this grant. Other grants require students to meet certain criteria. The TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant is an example of aid that has conditions attached to it, as it requires students to take certain courses and work specific jobs. There is also the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant that’s available for students who lost a parent or guardian as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. Eligible students should contact their school if they have any questions. Some states offer grants to their residents as well. Oklahoma has the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant, or OTAG, for eligible state residents who will be attending an Oklahoma public or private institution.

Work-study is also a type of financial aid that can help with the costs of college. Eligible students who receive this aid will have the chance to work a part-time job and earn money for educational expenses. Undergraduates and graduates with financial need are able to receive a work-study opportunity. Talk with your financial aid office to learn about potential places, on or off campus, that are hiring.

Student loans are another type of financial assistance. Different than other aid, student loans must be repaid with interest. There are various federal loans available for students. One type is the Direct Subsidized Loan for undergraduates who demonstrate financial need. The maximum amount for freshmen in the 2019-2020 school year is $5,500, with a fixed interest rate of 5.05 percent. A fixed interest rate means that the interest won’t change over time. The federal government will pay the interest on a subsidized loan while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time. In contrast, Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not based on financial need and are given to undergraduates and graduates. Students are responsible for the interest on this loan during all periods. The interest rate on an unsubsidized loan is 5.05 percent for undergraduates and 6.6 percent for graduate students. Other borrowed aid that isn’t based on financial need is the Parent PLUS Loan. This is available for parents of dependent students who need extra assistance with college expenses. In addition, parents must also be credit worthy to qualify for this type of aid. PLUS Loans have a 7.6 percent fixed interest rate. Speak with your financial aid office to learn more details.

There are a variety of resources available to help you pay for college. Not all schools offer each program, so be sure to contact your financial aid office with any questions. For more information about grants, student loans and work-study go to studentaid.ed.gov.

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.

Have You Applied Yet?

Any student that needs money for college expenses in 2017-18 should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) now! The FAFSA underwent a lot of changes this year, including moving the application start date from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1. Since the FAFSA is available now, students should submit the form as soon as possible to maximize opportunities for financial aid for college. Get ahead of the game and set a reminder to submit the FAFSA Oct. 1 of next year, too!

Many types of financial aid are awarded on a first come-first served basis. This includes various types of federal aid as well as some aid through the state of Oklahoma. For example, this year, the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), does not have a deadline for FAFSA completion. Instead, students are told it’s important to apply early. Typically, OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded with available funds and how early a student applies can be the deciding factor in whether that student is offered an OTAG award.

The FAFSA is THE application for federal grants, college work-study and many student loan programs including:

Grants:
Pell Grant
Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

Work Study Program:
Federal Work-Study

Federal Student Loans:
Direct Subsidized Loan
Direct Unsubsidized Loan
Direct PLUS Loan
Federal Perkins Loan

So submit the FAFSA now. You may qualify for money for college!

Grants and Work-Study and Loans! Oh My!!

As you prepare for college, you will start to learn all sorts of new words and acronyms like Pell, FSEOG, and OTAG. Applying for college and financial aid is confusing enough, so how do I make sense of these crazy words?

Federal and state financial aid programs are great, but what’s the difference in each type and what do they mean? You should receive information from your college financial aid office explaining these programs, but here’s a brief rundown for you.

Federal Pell Grants are awarded to eligible undergraduate students who haven’t earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. The Pell Grant doesn’t have to be repaid and the maximum amount awarded for the 2016-17 academic year is $5,815.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are awarded to students who also receive a Federal Pell Grant and usually have the highest financial need. These grants do not have to be repaid.

A Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is a little different from the Pell or FSEOG grants because you must take certain classes and then work at a certain type of job to receive this money. If you don’t, the TEACH Grant can turn into a loan and then it must be repaid. These programs can offer students up to $4,000 a year if they qualify.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant provides money to college or career students that do not qualify for a Pell Grant and lost a parent or guardian, who was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died in military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11.

Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for eligible students on a college campus or in an approved nonprofit organization or public agency. Students work a specified number of hours each week and typically earn minimum wage.

William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program offers Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. Direct Subsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The Direct Unsubsidized Loans are also made to eligible undergraduate students, but the student doesn’t have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for the loan.

The Direct PLUS Loan is offered to parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for their educational expenses.

The Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) is offered to eligible Oklahoma residents who attend eligible college and career technology centers in Oklahoma.

All federal and state programs are awarded based on eligibility provided on the FAFSA application. Be sure to apply as soon after October 1 as possible.

Check with your school’s financial aid office if you have questions or to determine if they participate in these programs. For more information, visit UCanGo2.org or StudentAid.ed.gov.

 

What’s all the hype about the FAFSA? Why is it so important?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application submitted to the federal government. It’s basically a snapshot of your financial situation. The information you submit on your FAFSA is used to determine how much federal and state financial aid you may be able to receive to help you pay for college.

Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for financial aid, submit your FAFSA anyway. It’s not uncommon for students to assume they won’t qualify, only to be pleasantly surprised to find that they are eligible to receive one or more types of aid. Keep in mind that many scholarship applications now require a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is the report you receive after you submit your FAFSA.

By submitting the FAFSA, you’re not automatically signing up for student loans or committing to any colleges. You’re simply giving the college(s) you’re interested in attending an opportunity to discuss your financial aid options with you. So be sure to fill out the 2017-18 FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 this year. Visit FAFSA.gov for more information.

College Planning Tools for You!

StartWithFAFSA.org is part of the outreach initiative at the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP). OCAP provides college access, aid awareness, financial literacy and student loan management services that benefit students, parents, schools and community partners. OCAP’s initiatives include UCanGo2, Oklahoma Money Matters and Ready Set Repay, each of which offers resources and tools designed specifically for you, including:

College Planning Checklists – provide high school students detailed information about the steps they must take not only to gain admission to a college or university, but also to be successful in high school and college. From what classes to take to financial aid application guidelines, these checklists offer useful information for every high school student.

Your Money Matters Guides – designed to help students and adults manage finances, each guide is tailored to provide specific information based on your current financial situation.

Borrow Smart from the Start – provides information to help students understand the smart and responsible way to borrow student loans. Whether you’re preparing for college and considering student loans for the first time, in your grace period or currently repaying your loan, this publication provides everything a student loan borrower needs to know before borrowing.

Each of our initiatives offers a variety of information and resources designed to fit your needs. Check out our publications/resources pages at UCanGo2.org, OklahomaMoneyMatters.org and ReadySetRepay.org to find more useful tools and information.

Are You Looking for Money?

Well, who isn’t? Let’s rephrase to be more specific. Are you looking for money for college? If so, you should check out UCanGo2.org where you’ll find dozens of resources to help you plan, prepare and pay for college. Here are some of the highlights:

UCango2 Find Scholarships Buttong

Find hundreds of scholarships organized by deadline or category, and don’t forget to check back weekly for UCanGo2’s Scholarship of the Week!

 
Are You Looking for MoneyAre You Looking for Money is UCanGo2’s signature financial aid guide with specific information about Oklahoma’s programs. It offers information about grants, scholarships, work study programs, and student loans.

 

Finish the FAFSA in Five StepsFinish the FAFSA in 5 Steps is a step-by-step guide designed to help students and their parents submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in just five simple steps.

 

College Planning ChecklistsWhether you’re in sixth grade or 12th grade, UCanGo2 is here to help you determine your next steps for preparing for college. From what classes to take to when to apply for financial aid, the high school and middle school checklists offer useful information for every student.

 

Bonus! A complete list of our FAFSA tools for students and parents, including FAFSA Facts and the Dependency Questionnaire, can be found in the resources section here at StartWithFAFSA.org/resources.

 

Don’t Make this FAFSA Mistake!

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents continue to make.

Each year, many families don’t complete the FAFSA because they think they make too much money to qualify for aid. Counting yourself out before even starting is a huge mistake! Even if you think you won’t qualify for aid, you should still submit the FAFSA.

Here’s why:

    • You could be missing out. Billions of financial aid dollars are offered every year. Those funds will be awarded to someone… and that “someone” could be you. But you’ll never know if you don’t apply!
    • There’s no obligation. You’re not required to accept the aid offered to you. You’ll have the option to decline any aid offered, or you may choose to limit how much you borrow.
    • Your school might use the data. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, beyond federal funding, you could take yourself out of the running for school aid by choosing not to submit the FAFSA.
    • Federal student loans offer options. Even if you know you’ll only qualify for student loans and you’re unsure about borrowing money for school, federal loans could be your best option. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than private or alternative loans, and they offer flexible repayment plans. They’re also a better option than high interest credit cards.

When is the FAFSA Due?

We get this question a lot, and the answer can be somewhat confusing.

Technically, you can submit the FAFSA throughout most of the year; however, all high school seniors and current college students should submit the FAFSA as soon as the new form becomes available in each year they intend to enroll in college courses.

Why? Two reasons:

    1. The earlier you submit the FAFSA, the sooner you will know what aid is available to you.  If you’re considering more than one school, you may receive different aid offers.  Filing early gives you time to compare and make an educated decision.
    2. There are other deadlines to consider, including:

State Deadlines
Like federal financial aid, many state aid programs use information from your FAFSA for their award purposes. However, state programs have their own deadlines, often early in the year.

Students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid, including the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program (OTAG).

School Deadlines
In addition to specific financial aid program deadlines, some schools set their own deadlines for school-specific financial aid. Check with the college(s) you’re interested in attending to find out about any special deadlines.

See what we mean by “somewhat confusing?”

Your best bet: Aim to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible each year. 

If you miss a deadline, there are other types of financial aid to consider. Some forms of financial aid, including loans, are typically available throughout the year. Plus, many other aid programs offered throughout the year, including many grants and scholarships, don’t require information from the FAFSA.