Category Archives: Student Loans

Financial Aid Resources

“How will I pay for college?” That’s a question everyone considering higher education is asking. Investigating your financial aid options can seem overwhelming, especially if no one in your family has ever gone to college.

Here are a few great resources to help you discover some options available to assist you.

  • The FAFSA. The first step in applying for most types of federal and state financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as soon as it’s available! Students who will be attending college during the 2022-23 school year should complete the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov as soon as it becomes available on Oct. 1.
  • Your high school counselor. Counselors love talking about college—college preparation, choosing a college and finding financial aid options. Make an appointment with your counselor soon!
  • The financial aid office at your college(s) of interest. Each college, technology center and career school are different. Be sure to speak with someone in the Financial Aid office at each institution you’re considering to learn which types of aid you may be able to receive at their school.
  • Internet resources. 
  • Free money. Scholarships are an important resource to help you pay for college expenses. There are many scholarship search websites that allow students to set up a profile that will match them with various programs they may qualify for. Many scholarships are also available to students as young as elementary school so start your search now! These websites offer helpful information:

Grants, Work Study and Student Loans

As you prepare to pay college expenses, it’s important to know the amount of federal financial aid that may be available to you. Each year, grant amounts and student loan interest rates are subject to change. Here’s what you can expect for Academic Year 2021-2022.

Federal Pell Grant: Available to undergraduate students who qualify based on the level of their financial need as determined by Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Beginning July 1, 2021, the maximum allowable Pell amount you may be able to receive for one year of college will increase to $6,495.

Federal Work-Study Program: If your campus administers work-study funds, you may be able to sign up for a part-time job, either on-campus or an approved site off-campus, enabling you to earn money to pay some of your college expenses. The maximum amount you can earn in the work-study program will be determined by your level of financial need. If you’re interested in work-study, be sure to ask the financial aid office if would qualify for the program.

Federal Student Loans: To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, the interest rate on most federal student loans borrowed before July 1, 2020 is currently 0%. In addition, federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments. This 0% interest and suspension of payments will last through September 30, 2021, but you can still make payments if you choose.

The following table outlines the projected federal student loan interest rates for Academic Year 2021-2022, beginning October 1, 2021, after the COVID-19 relief program has ended:

Loan TypeBorrower TypeFixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student LoansUndergraduate students (through Bachelor’s degree)3.73%
Direct Unsubsidized Student LoansGraduate or professional students5.28%
Direct PLUS LoansParents of undergraduate students OR graduate/professional students6.28%

Be sure to visit StudentAid.gov for up-to-date information regarding interest rates and special allowances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How does the CARES Act affect the grace period on federal student loans?

One of the advantages of a federal student loan is the six-month grace period. Borrowers usually aren’t required to make a payment on their loans until six months after they graduate, withdraw or drop their number of classroom hours to below half-time status. The grace period gives borrowers time to find employment and adjust their budgets for loan repayment.

Currently, the federal student loan program is operating under the provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. On March 20, 2020, federal student loan payments were suspended, interest rates were reduced to 0% and collections on defaulted loans were stopped. These provisions have applied to federally owned* student loans since that date, and will be in effect through at least September 30, 2021. On March 30, 2021, these emergency relief measures were also applied to defaulted loans originated through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program.

How does all of this affect the grace period on a student loan? According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Grace periods still apply as they normally would. However, if a loan is scheduled to enter repayment before the COVID-19 emergency relief period ends, borrowers will instead automatically enter payment suspension and receive the temporary 0% interest rate.” This means a borrower whose grace period ends before September 30, 2021 will not be required to make payments on their federally owned student loan(s) until the emergency measures have been lifted. The September end date is subject to change, but if it does, it will be extended to a later date.

Here’s something else you need to know: A borrower may have more than one grace period to monitor after they’ve gone below half-time status at their institution for any reason. This happens when borrowers have loans from multiple institutions, or if at any time they previously dropped to below half-time status at any college they attended. It’s important that borrowers talk to the campus financial aid office to ask about the repayment start dates on each of their loans.

More information about successful loan repayment can be found at ReadySetRepay.org.

*See the FAQ section of the coronavirus announcement at StudentAid.gov (Which loans does the 0% rate apply to?) for guidance on how borrowers can determine whether their loans are federally or privately owned.

Student Loans: Borrow Smart!

Once you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll see a confirmation page that explains your next steps and gives you an estimate of federals grants and loans you may be eligible to receive. When you get your financial aid award letter from the college(s) of your choice, they will most likely include those loan amounts in their offer. Be cautious when borrowing student loans; you may not need all the loan money that’s offered to you. Student loan debt can grow quickly, and you must repay the full amount with interest. Search for grants and scholarships first to cover your college expenses, as they’re typically considered free money. Think of student loans as your last option to help pay for college.

If you must borrow student loans, do your research. ReadySetRepay.org offers information on all aspects of student loan management, as well as Borrow Smart From the Start, a guide to help you navigate student loan process from beginning to end. You’ll find tips on how to avoid or reduce student loan debt and the steps you’ll need to take if you’re having trouble with your loan payments. Students loans are an investment in your future. Remember to invest wisely by making smart borrowing decisions from the start.

Financial Aid Letter

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important first step in the financial aid process. After you’ve submitted the FAFSA, your college(s) of interest will process the information you provided and will determine your eligibility for federal and state aid. The college(s) will also calculate the loans and institutional scholarships you’re eligible to receive. The summary will be sent to you in an award letter, either electronically or via the U.S. Postal Service. Keep in mind, it takes time to process this information, so most campuses will send out aid offers in late March or early April for those starting college in the fall.

When your offer arrives, it’s important to read it carefully. You’ll be asked to accept or decline all or some of the offered financial aid. On your aid offer, you’ll see several different numbers, which are outlined below.

Cost of Attendance (COA): This is the estimated cost to attend your college for one year.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This number is used by the college to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive. While the EFC is a calculation of all the information provided on the FAFSA by you and your parent, it’s most likely not the amount you’ll be expected to contribute. Want to learn more about the EFC? Check out our EFC Overview .

Award Package: The letter will list the types and amounts of aid the college can offer to you. You may see some of the following:

Grants: These are considered gift aid that can come from federal, state and tribal governments. Grants are usually based on financial need.

Scholarships: These can be based on need, merit or interests. They’re awarded by colleges, state agencies, companies, foundations, tribal and private organizations.

Federal Work-Study: This is an opportunity to work on- or off-campus to earn financial aid. Think of it as a part-time job specifically to pay for college.

Federal Student Loans: Loans are borrowed money to help you pay for college. Loans must be repaid, with interest.

Remember, you don’t have to accept all of the aid offered to you, especially when it comes to borrowing student loans. A monthly payment of tuition and fees during college may be a better option for you or your family than a loan payment with added interest after you’ve completed your education. To learn more about the different types of financial aid, check out our publication: Are You Looking for Money?

Talk with your family about your financial situation and decide how much financial aid and which types of aid you need to accept. Still have questions about the financial aid letter? Take a look at our new resource, Understanding Your Award Letter.


Financial Aid Awareness Month

February is Financial Aid Awareness Month! This is the time for you to learn all about the financial aid process for college.

What is financial aid?
Free Money

Federal and State Grants

Scholarships

Earned Money

Borrowed Money

How do I apply?

  • Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
    • Apply every year you need financial aid for college
    • Apply on or after October 1
    • Complete your application online at FAFSA.gov
    • Create an FSA ID to access and sign your FAFSA

How will I know how much financial aid I’ve been offered?

  • After your FAFSA has been submitted and you’ve been admitted, your school will send you an aid offer
  • Review and research all programs offered, and accept only the aid you need
  • You don’t have to accept everything you’ve been offered

To learn more about the financial aid process, review these tools on this site:

  • FAFSA Learning Modules
  • Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps
  • Dependency Questionnaire
  • FAFSA Fundamentals 2021-2022 PowerPoint
  • FAFSA Parent Flyer

You will also find these helpful FAFSA videos:

UCanGo2.org also offers many beneficial FAFSA resources:

  • The EFC (Expected Family Contribution) PowerPoint
  • The FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) PowerPoint
  • The Financial Aid Award Letter PowerPoint

Learn more about Financial Aid Awareness Month here!

The FAFSA Is Now Available

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available!

It’s the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college or other education after high school. Students often ask if the FAFSA is a scholarship, it’s not. The FAFSA is 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.

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. 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. Every student who may need money for college for the 2021-22 school year should complete this FAFSA.

The current FAFSA is available online at FAFSA.gov.

Need some guidance to get started on your FAFSA? Check out our resources:

FAFSA in Five Steps: This publication explains the steps to completing the application and provides reminders for additional materials you might need.

FAFSA Modules: These five PowerPoint presentations walk through the details of each step of the FAFSA process.

FAFSA and Financial Aid Video: Sometimes it helps to hear someone explain the FAFSA process. Our new FAFSA video walks students through common FAFSA questions.

If you’re still wondering why the FAFSA is so important, keep in mind that during the 2018-2019 school year, $2.6B dollars in federal financial aid for college was left unclaimed by students. They would have been qualified to receive the aid, but they didn’t simply because they didn’t submit a FAFSA. Discover what you’re eligible for by submitting your FAFSA today!

FAFSA Reminders

It won’t be long before the 2021-2022 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is available. This application allows you to see your eligibility for multiple forms of financial aid.  To prepare for completing the FAFSA, make a note of opening day, use the correct website, gather the right materials and know what to expect during and after you submit your FAFSA.

Opening day. The new FAFSA will open on Oct. 1 and it’s important to submit your application as soon as possible once it becomes available. Certain types of aid, such as the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) and Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG), are awarded on a first come, first served basis. To ensure you don’t miss out on any type of aid, submit your FAFSA early.

Free application. There aren’t any costs associated with submitting a FAFSA. Since the first “F” in FAFSA stands for Free, be sure you don’t pay to submit the application. You can make sure you access this free form by using the official website, FAFSA.gov. Remember, never pay to complete the FAFSA!

Necessary materials. You’ll want to gather the right materials before you start the FAFSA. You’ll need your Social Security card, driver’s license, your parent(s) 2019 tax returns and W-2 forms, and other financial documents detailing your family’s income. Additionally, you’ll need a personal email address instead of a school-issued one. A personal email address allows you to access important updates even after you graduate. Another necessity is an FSA ID. This is your username and password to log in and sign the application. You and one of your parent(s) will need an FSA ID. While the FAFSA isn’t available until Oct. 1, the FSA ID can be created anytime. It’s best to create your ID before starting the FAFSA. You can do that today by visiting fsaid.ed.gov.

What to expect. It can take up to an hour or longer, depending on your circumstances, to complete the FAFSA. Allot plenty of time to submit the form. Your FSA ID and application Save Key (a temporary password you create) allow you to save your application and return at a later date to finish. If you must complete the FAFSA in multiple sessions, be sure to click “Save” before closing the application. When reporting income information, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if possible. This tool allows you and your parent(s) to transfer tax return information from IRS.gov to FAFSA.gov. You’ll have to enter other financial information into the FAFSA, but using this tool can help save time and avoid entry errors. Once you’ve submitted the FAFSA, it will take 3-5 business days to process. Your college’s financial aid office will notify you if additional documents are needed. After your application has been processed, you can access your Student Aid Report, or SAR. The SAR is a summary of all your FAFSA answers. It’s important to review your SAR once it’s available to check for errors. Some scholarship programs may require the SAR as a part of the application process.

Submitting your FAFSA is a big part of college planning. Preparing for it in advance can make for a better experience. For more information about what to expect on the FAFSA, visit studentaid.gov.


New Videos

Our friends at UCanGo2 have produced two new videos about financial aid!

FAFSA and Financial Aid provides an overview of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and how it is the first step in successful financial aid!

Scholarships 101 provides an overview of looking for and applying for scholarships.

You can also view these two videos on our Videos page!

FAFSA Preview

If you’re an incoming high school senior, you’ll probably be hearing an important question this fall that you haven’t heard before: “Have you completed your FAFSA yet?” Let us tell you what the FAFSA is, and why it’s so important.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key to unlock money that will help you pay for your education after high school. It’s simply a ‘snapshot’ of your family’s financial situation, and it’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive.

Now that you know what the FAFSA is, let’s talk about what it’s NOT. It’s not an application to college, a loan application or any type of commitment to accept the aid you’re offered. It’s not a credit check, and it’s not limited only to students with stellar grades; the application won’t even ask for your grade point average (GPA).

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. For high school seniors, this means yours will be ready for you to submit this October – almost a year before you begin college. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t picked a college yet. One great thing about the FAFSA is that you can have your information sent to up to 10 different campuses.

Even though your FAFSA won’t be ready until October, you can take a look at the current form to see what it’s like. There are two options you may want to consider.

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 ASAP after October 1 in order to apply for federal and some state-based financial aid.

According to the National College Attainment Network, billions of dollars in federal financial aid for college is left unclaimed each year by students who would have qualified to receive the aid; they just didn’t submit a FAFSA. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.

For more information about the FAFSA and the types of aid that are available, visit FAFSA.gov and studentaid.gov.