Monday, April 29, 2013

College Payment Plans

Payment plans are good for students who wish to pay for their tuition balance but don't want to take out loans. But how do they work? Like many elements of financial aid, the answer varies based on the school.

The way a payment plan works is whatever amount of schooling you wish to pay for out of pocket, you may. Typically, any aid that you can receive that you will not owe back (such as grants and scholarships) is applied to your tuition first. If there is a remaining balance, then that is the amount you pay.

Many schools have a fee for using this service. These same schools will often use an office for you to pay or even allow electronic payments. At Metro Business College, we do not have any electronic service for this, but we will also not charge any fee for any payment made to the school while you are enrolled. Many schools will put you on a term-based payment schedule (such as make a payment every semester). We allow the flexibility to suit your needs by allowing you to have a weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, or even the whole lump sum payment.

If your amount at Metro Business College hasn't been paid off by the time you graduate, then you will either have to take out a federal loan (if possible) or take out a Central Finance Loan. The Central Finance Loan is considered an institutional loan that you make arrangements for when you are in your last quarter. There is a 3.5% interest rate with this (which is less than the federal loan rates).

Some schools require these payments to be made in whole before you graduate. Remember to always check with your Financial Aid office to ask questions about a payment plan for you if you are interested. It may not always be possible for you to make payments, but after the grants and scholarships, self-payments are the best way of helping your financial future by avoiding unnecessary debt.


Monday, April 22, 2013

2013-14 Verification Worksheets

Remember that the 2013-14 Pell Grant Verification will be broken into five categories (V1-V5), with each one requiring a different number of items to verify? Over the last few months, the question has been how will the worksheets work? Do you have one worksheet for independent students and one for dependent students, with each section that has to be completed marked? Or do you have five for independent students and five for dependent students?

We finally have the Department of Education's response as to their recommendations. They are not releasing a template this year for the verification worksheets, which they have done in years past (up the current year). The templates for verification worksheets were optional as long as the school required the same information on their worksheets. But without a template for at least some guidance, what does a school do?

The Dept's recommendation is to have five different verification forms for independent students and five different forms for dependent students. The reason for this is actually a simple, logical reason. If a school has one form with all five categories listed on it, and the FA Administrator marks two sections that the student has to fill out, and the student fills out all five, then those extra items have to be verified. With verification, the rules read that if information is volunteered by the student, then the FA Administrator has to verify it, even if it wasn't initially asked for.

To avoid this, it's better to just have five forms that only ask for specific information that won't end up giving too much information. Another reason for this is sometimes when the student gives too much information, it can possibly open the door for conflicting information, which has to be resolved before any FA funds can go through.

So, hopefully soon, we will have our ten worksheets ready (five for independent, five for dependent). Should make for an interesting verification year!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Why Should I Complete a Fafsa?

This is a question that comes up sometimes. Remember that the Fafsa is heavily based on income, so if you have a higher income, there's it's quite likely that you won't qualify. So why should you fill it out? There are several reasons:

  1. You don't know you won't qualify until you complete it. There are many elements of the Fafsa that impact your Pell Grant eligibility. Some examples would be if you're married, have dependents, or earn income other than from work (such as certain types of government assistance). 
  2. You have to complete a Fafsa, even if you know you won't qualify for any Pell Grant, in order to fill out federal loan paperwork. So if you want a subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford loan, then a Fafsa must be completed.
  3. There are times when your FA administrator can work with your income to help you Pell Grant eligibility. The Department of Education stipulates that the Fafsa is dependent on your most recently completed year's income, but if it's not an accurate representation of your present situation, there are times when that can be taken into account. Some of the rules for Fafsa can bend, and some can't. Be sure to talk to your FA administrator about any situation that might impact your Fafsa. (Remember: you must fill out your Fafsa 100% accurate the first time, and only the FA administrator will know how or if your Fafsa can be worked with.)
In the end, you should always fill out the Fafsa for the above reasons. Even if you qualify for the minimum amount, that's still going to be a small amount that you won't have to worry about paying back. Since it's a grant, your Pell Grant will help you take some of the burden from figuring out how to pay for your tuition. Why not try for it? The worst thing that will happen is you won't get any. It costs nothing to complete the Fafsa, so go for it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

What if I Don't Remember my PIN?

Time is ticking to complete your new 2013-14 FAFSA. I'm sure that by now you've received your email notification that it's time to re-apply for your FAFSA. Obviously, your best bet is to use the IRS data retrieval tool in order to make sure your tax information is correct. But what if you lost or forgot your PIN?

That's where the PIN website comes in. All you have to do is go to pin.ed.gov and on the left side, request a duplicate PIN.

On that same list of options, there are other things you can do also. If you need to, you could change your PIN. You can update your personal information if you need to. You can also reestablish your PIN, or even disable it.

If you don't have a PIN, then the PIN website is the place to go to obtain one.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Should I Put More Than One School Code on the FAFSA?

This is a question that has come up sometimes in the Financial Aid office. Like everything else in the world of financial aid, the answer is simply "that depends". It depends on a few different things, but to help you think about the answer, here's what happens when you enter a school code on the FAFSA.

By entering a school code on the FAFSA, you are literally authorizing that school to be able to access your FAFSA information. It's a simple and easy way of sending your FAFSA information to a college that you are considering without having to complete the form again or bring/send copies of your FAFSA information to the school. When you enter the school code, then your information will become accessible to that school shortly (sometimes a day, sometimes a couple days).

This is especially helpful for students who are undecided about which school they should attend. If you are considering multiple schools, then there's no harm in entering the school codes for all the schools you are considering. By entering all those codes, you will make it easier for you to ask questions about your possible financial aid package for that school.

You are allowed up to ten school codes when you first complete a FAFSA, which means you can send your information to up to ten different schools. If you are shopping schools, then it's a good idea for you. Keep in mind that the schools you send your information to can also see the other schools you've sent your information to. If you've forgotten to add a school code that you wanted to, once your SAR had been produced, you can go back to the FAFSA website to add more school codes.

There's no harm in sending your FAFSA information to multiple schools, so if you're shopping for the best options, then send away!