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Education

Nominations Open for Inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award

Each October, we celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and highlight the importance of cybersecurity. This year, we’re celebrating in a new way with the announcement of the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award – with nominations opening today.


Beginning in the spring of 2020, the Award will be presented annually to two educators – one elementary and one secondary – who instill in their students the skills, knowledge, and passion for cybersecurity and related subjects. Award recipients will embody the expertise and dedication of educators who are critical to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

“These educators are critical to increasing the cybersecurity awareness of all students, inspiring the nation’s future cybersecurity workforce, and contributing to a more secure society.  I am grateful for their hard work and dedication to our nation that will have a lasting impact far beyond the classroom halls. We look forward to receiving award nominations and learning from educator’s stories.” – Secretary DeVos

On May 2, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13870 to strengthen America’s cybersecurity workforce. In this Executive Order, the U.S. Department of Education was called to create this new Award in consultation with the Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the White House’s National Security Council and the National Science Foundation.

Award nomination requirements include the following:

  • A written submission in paragraph form that describes
    • (1) The nominated educator’s superior educator accomplishments and
    • (2) The nominated educator’s superior academic achievement by the educator’s students
  • One letter of reference

To apply or nominate someone for the award, click here to find out how to apply.

Recipients of this honor will receive the following accolades, among others:

  • Acknowledgement by the President of the United States Donald J. Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
  • Public recognition as a leader in the field of cybersecurity education
  • Professional development opportunities with the cybersecurity community

Educators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, all U.S. territories, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools and Tribal areas are eligible to apply or be nominated. Anyone may nominate an educator for this honor; self-nominations are permitted as well.

The nomination period opens today and will close on January 31, 2020. Nominations will be reviewed by Department staff and awardees will be recognized during Teacher Appreciation Week on May 2020.

Click here for full rules, terms, conditions, and specifics on how to apply.

 

Categories
Education

5 Things to Do Before Making Your First Student Loan Payment

Almost time to start paying back your student loans?  Contrary to popular belief, your student loan payments don’t have to stop you from living your life. You just have to weigh your options and find a strategy that works within your budget. Here are some steps to get you started.

1. Compare monthly payment amounts

If you don’t think you can afford that amount or you want a lower monthly payment, consider switching to an income-driven repayment plan, where your monthly payment could be as low as $0 per month. Just know that when you make payments based on your income your monthly payment amount may be lower, but you will likely pay more in total over a longer period of time.The amount you pay each month toward your student loans will depend on the repayment plan you choose. If you take no action, you will be automatically enrolled in the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.

Use our repayment calculator to compare your different repayment options.

Calculate


2. Decide whether to consolidate

If you borrowed federal student loans before 2011, you may need to consolidate any FFEL loans into the Direct Loan program before you can qualify for the better income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You may also want to consolidate if you have multiple loans and/or servicers and want a single monthly payment. The application takes about 10 minutes.

Consolidate my Loans


3. Choose an affordable repayment plan

If you decide to consolidate, you will choose a repayment plan from within the consolidation application.

If you aren’t going to consolidate and you’d like to enroll in one of the income-driven repayment plans, learn how to choose the right income-driven repayment plan and apply here. The application takes about 10 minutes.

If you’re interested in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan and submit an Employment Certification Form.

Apply for an income-driven repayment plan

See two examples of how switching to an income-driven repayment plan could impact you below:

Rob switches to an income-driven plan to reduce his upcoming monthly loan payments. As his career advances, he’ll switch back to a standard plan when he can pay more.

Miranda wants to pay off her student loans ASAP. She switches to a repayment plan with larger monthly payments so she can reduce overall interest accrual.


4. Set up your payments

You will never pay the U.S. Department of Education directly. In most cases, federal student loan borrowers will make payments to one of our loan servicers. Loan servicers work on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education to collect your payments and provide customer service. If you don’t know who your loan servicer is, find out here.

Your loan servicer will contact to let you know when your first payment is due and how to make a payment, so it’s very important that you provide your servicer with updated contact information.

TIP: To simplify the repayment process, consider enrolling in auto debit and your payments will be automatically taken from your bank account each month. Ask your servicer how to enroll.


5. Know who to contact if you need help with your student loans

Beware of student loan scams.  You never have to pay for help with your student loans. As you’re researching repayment and forgiveness options, make sure you’re getting information from trusted sources, like .gov websites or your servicer’s website. The government and your servicer will never charge application or maintenance fees, so if you’re asked to pay, walk away.

If you have questions or need help, contact your servicer.

TIP: Save your servicer’s contact information in your phone so you can access it when you need to.

Categories
Education

Scholarship Basics and Tips

We all know college is super expensive; not only do you have to pay tuition, but there’s also room and board (for those of you staying on campus), a meal plan (yay for cafeteria food…), and textbooks (buying hundred-dollar books for one chapter). It’s a lot. Luckily for us, there’s help: scholarships! Of course there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually be awarded any money, and sometimes it can seem like a whole lot of work for a whole lot of nothing. But that’s why I’m here! I’ve gone through the process recently (and am doing it again), and I’m at your service with suggestions and tips.

A lot of these tips come from StudentAid.gov/scholarships, so check out that page for a more comprehensive, detailed guide to scholarships.


 Types of Scholarships

There are scholarships for almost everything—all you have to do is look. Applying for scholarships doesn’t have to be tedious—find scholarships for things you’re passionate about. Some scholarships are really cool. There are scholarships for animal rescue, volunteering with the elderly, etc.; you can find them through specific organizations, too.


 Finding Scholarships

You can’t apply for scholarships if you don’t know where to find them. Here’s a handy list of places you can get money from:

  • Scholarship websites like fastweb.com (my personal fave) and collegegreenlight.com
  • A college’s financial aid office (offers scholarships just for that specific college)
  • Community/religious organizations, local businesses, community foundations (you usually have a better chance of winning these because there’s a smaller pool of applicants)
  • Your employer or your parents’ employers
  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool
  • Your high school counselor’s office
  • Your state higher education agency
  • Organizations related to your field of interest (give it a quick Google search)

 Who Can Apply

Anyone who is going to be attending college next year—current high school seniors and current college students. Different scholarships have different eligibility requirements, so check and make sure you meet all the requirements for a scholarship before you apply.


 When to Apply

Now. Just assume that you should be looking for and applying for scholarships right now. Even if the due date isn’t for months, it’s good to get a head start. It seems to me that “scholarship season” is in late winter/early spring for the next academic year, though, and that is when most scholarships will be offered.


 Getting Started

There are several things that often pop up as requirements for scholarship applications, so it’s good to get those things ready early. Some scholarships, along with an essay, will require:

  • FAFSA information; so file the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available
  • At least one letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or someone else familiar with your academic achievements
  • A professional picture of you—it doesn’t have to be an actual professional headshot, but it has to be nice and appropriate (senior pictures are good for that)
  • Your latest transcript and GPA

 The Dreaded Essay

A lot of scholarship essay assignments are really similar and want you to answer questions like “What is your biggest accomplishment in life?” so you can do a decent amount of copying and pasting from one application to another. Many scholarship applications will ask for rather dry and academic responses, but sometimes you can use your hobbies as material for your essays. That definitely makes the essay-writing easier. If you’re looking to actually enjoy the scholarship application process, fun essay prompts do exist. My favorite one was an essay about the best food experience I’ve ever had. I wrote about eating a mango on a roof in Guatemala; it was awesome.


 Application Tips

Time for the fun part. Here are my recommendations:

  • Sort your applications by due date and do them in the order they’re due; but keep in mind that some require more work (letters of recommendation, a longer essay, etc.) and may take more time.
  • Make sure your essay follows the instructions and is within the word limit.
  • Have several people (preferably people who have recent experience with essay writing/reviewing) look over your essay to make sure it’s good.
  • Present yourself as worthy of a scholarship, but not cocky or like you’re pathetic (it’s hard, I know).
  • Try to submit your application at least a day ahead of the deadline. Right before the deadline the website can get clogged and potentially even shut down with a high influx of activity.
  • Make sure you include all the required materials and submit everything properly.

In Summary

Good luck!


Megan Friebe is a freshman at Michigan State University, where she spends her days studying public affairs and social policy, her evenings studying the same thing, and, if she’s lucky, her nights sleeping. She also manages to find time to intern with the Customer Experience team in the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

Categories
Education

5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

Did you submit a 2020–21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form? Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:


1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page

After you complete the FAFSA form online and select “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your financial aid offer. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

2020-21 FAFSA Confirmation Page

2020-21 FAFSA Confirmation Page

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.

TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.
College Scorecard sample

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

FAFSA - What to Expect After Submitting infographic

Infographic: What to Expect After Submitting Your FAFSA Form

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate your financial need. The formula they use is:

Cost of attendance
 Expected family contribution
   Your financial “need”

Each school will do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100 percent of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10 percent—it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college are just a few of the additional factors considered.

3. Apply for as Many Scholarships as You Can

As we mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)

But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.

If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

How do I Find Scholarships


4. Be on the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)

The 2020–21 FAFSA form was made available on Oct. 1, 2019. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.

Remember that your school disburses your aidnot the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.

TIP: After your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines.


5. Make FAFSA® Corrections if You Need To

Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about three days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in with your FSA ID at fafsa.gov, and then select “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

2020-21 FAFSA Make Corrections

NOTE: Parents of dependent students can’t initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID at fafsa.gov, selecting “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

Categories
Education

The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

2019 Parent's Guide FAFSA

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. After all, students who are considered dependent have to provide parental information on the FAFSA form anyway and must have a parent sign it. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that’s not always what happens. With that in mind, we wanted to provide instructions for parents who are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of their child so you can avoid running into issues completing the form.

If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow these 8 steps:


1. Create an account (FSA ID)

An FSA ID is a username and password you use on Federal Student Aid websites such as fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov. If your child is considered a dependent student, two unique FSA IDs are needed to complete the FAFSA form online:

  1. Parent’s FSA ID
  2. Student’s FSA ID

We recommend that you and your child register for FSA IDs ahead of time, so you don’t experience delays later in the process.

IMPORTANT: Your child must create his or her own FSA ID. You cannot create an FSA ID for your child. Also, when you register, you’ll be asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This is optional but highly recommended. These two items must be unique to each account. In other words, your email address and mobile phone number cannot be associated with more than one FSA ID.

You and your child should create your FSA IDs now at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. Do not share your FSA ID with anyone, not even your child. Your child should also not share his or her FSA ID with you. Keep your FSA ID information in a safe place. You’ll need it to renew your FAFSA form each year and to access federal student aid information online.


2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov

  • Go to fafsa.gov and click “Start Here” under the “New to FAFSA.gov?” heading.
  • Once on the log-in page, you will see two options. If you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child, choose the option on the right, “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.”

  • Enter your child’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Then, click next.
    • Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete.
      2019–20 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.
      2020–21 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
    • Both: If your child will be attending college during both time periods and hasn’t completed the 2019–20 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait until it processes (one to three days), then go back in and complete the 2020–21 FAFSA form after.
    • Were you given the option to submit a FAFSA® Renewal?
      If your child is present, you should choose this option. If you do, a lot of the demographic information required will be pre-populated. Your child must be present because he or she will need to enter the student’s FSA ID to continue. If your child is not present, you should select “Start NEW FAFSA.”
  • Create a save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your child to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save your child’s FAFSA form and return to it later. Once you create a save key, share it with your child. He or she will need it to complete later steps.

IMPORTANT TIPS
— The FAFSA® form is the student’s application, not yours.
When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted).
— Avoid simultaneous logins.
Your child should not be filling out their FAFSA online at the same time you are. Your progress can be lost if they click “Save” at a different point in the application.
— If you need help:
Click on the blue question mark symbol at the corner of each question.


3. Fill out the Student Demographics section

After the introduction page, you will proceed to enter basic demographic information about your child, such as name, date of birth, etc. If you chose the FAFSA renewal option in step two, a lot of his or her personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on his or her Social Security card so you don’t encounter any errors. (That’s right, no nicknames.)


4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent

In the School Selection section, you’ll add all the schools you want to receive your child’s information. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools that have been added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if your child later decides not to apply or attend. If your child doesn’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard his or her FAFSA form. You can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If your child is applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.


5. Answer the dependency status questions

In this section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether or not your child is required to provide your (parent) information on the FAFSA form.

  • These dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports him or herself, and files taxes separately from you, he or she may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes.
  • If your child is determined to be a dependent student, he or she will be required to report information about you. If your child is determined to be an independent student, you can skip the questions about providing parent information (unless otherwise noted by the school).

6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section

This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information. Are you divorced? Remarried? Below is a guide to determining which parent’s information needs to be included on your child’s FAFSA form. For specific guidance, review our “Reporting Parent Information” page.

Infographic: Who’s my Parent when I Fill Out myFAFSA?


7. Supply your financial information

This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your child’s school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see an option to “Link to IRS.”

Next, you’ll likely be asked to provide your child’s financial information.

  • If your child filed taxes, the easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS DRT. Your child would need to be present because he or she needs to provide his or her FSA ID to use the tool. If your child is not present, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, and then use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA form and sign it.
  • If your child did not file taxes, you can enter his or her financial information manually (if you have access to the required information). If you don’t have access to the information, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, complete the FAFSA form, and sign it.

NOTE: If you need to save and exit your child’s FAFSA form so he or she can complete the remaining information, you’ll need to log back in and sign your child’s FAFSA form before your child can submit it.


8. Sign your child’s FAFSA® form

Both you and your child need to sign the FAFSA form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

If your child is not present, here’s what you do:

  1. Sign your child’s FAFSA form with your FSA ID first.
  2. Save and exit the application.
  3. Instruct your child to log in using their FSA ID and sign the FAFSA form.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your child forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve it
  • Make sure you and your child don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his/her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his/her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number. If you don’t remember whether you were listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, you can go back to the parent demographics section to check.

2020-21 FAFSA Parent Signature

  • If you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form, here’s what you should do. Note: This is often the result of mixing up the student and parent FSA ID.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your child’s FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your child are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your child’s FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.
  • If you have multiple children who need to complete the FAFSA form, you can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of your children. You can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.


Congrats you’re finished!

Your child is one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, learn what your child should do next after submitting the FAFSA form.

Categories
Education

How to Fill Out the FAFSA® Form When You Have More Than One Child in College

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel overwhelming. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about filling out the FAFSA form when you have more than one child in college:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID.

Note: Your FSA ID is associated with your Social Security number and is equivalent to your legal signature; therefore, each person can only have one FSA ID. If you are a parent, you will use the same FSA ID to sign each one of your children’s FAFSA forms.


How many FAFSA® forms do we have to complete?

Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA form. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2020–21 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before Jan. 1, 1997, or can answer “yes” to any of these dependency status questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to go to college or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSA forms, one for each child.


Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA® form to another so I don’t have to reenter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA form is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. At the bottom of the confirmation page, you’ll see an option that asks, “Does your brother or sister need to complete a FAFSA?” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and select the arrow at the right.

Note: This transfer option is available on fafsa.gov but it is NOT currently available on the myStudentAid app.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his or her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

Once you select the arrow, a new window will open, allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left (I am the student) in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the option on the right (I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State) and enter your child’s information.

Note:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so, when the FAFSA form says “you,” it means the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the ribbon at the top left of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re being asked to provide student or parent information.

After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information prepopulated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!


I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA® form?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA form.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA form. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSA forms.


How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.

TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA form again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.

Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

  • Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.
  • Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA form is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute toward the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that as a parent, your annual ability to pay per child decreases as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

  • Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs, visit the CollegeScorecard.

 

Categories
Education

8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form


1. Create an account (FSA ID)

  • Student: An FSA ID is a username and password you need to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, get an FSA ID here ASAP. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID. If this will be your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you’ll be able to use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your FAFSA form online. If this is not your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you may need to wait one to three days for us to verify your info before you can use your FSA ID to renew your FAFSA form and sign it online.

IMPORTANT:

Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and that they do not share it with ANYONE, not even with each other.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov

The 2020–21 FAFSA form launched October 1! Even if your state and school deadlines aren’t for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible because some states and schools run out of financial aid early and have limited funds. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

TIP: If you are the parent read, The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA Form.

  • If you are the student: Click “I am the student.” Enter your FSA ID username and password, and click “Next.”
  • If you are the parent: Click “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.” Provide the student’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth, and click “Next.”

Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:

  • 2020–21 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
  • 2019–20 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.
  • Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2019–20 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait one to three days until it processes , then go back in and complete the 2020–21 FAFSA form.

TIP: If you are given the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, saving you some time.

Remember, the FAFSA form is not a onetime thing. You must complete a FAFSA form for each school year.

Create a save key

  • Unlike the FSA ID, the save key is meant to be shared. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your parent(s) to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save the FAFSA form and return to it later. This is especially helpful if you and your parent are not in the same place.

3. Fill out the Student Demographics section

This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or if you log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be prepopulated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

Parents:
Remember that the FAFSA form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted). Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information.


4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent

In the School Selection section, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But, you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.


5. Answer the dependency status questions

In the dependency status section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.

The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you’ll be required to report information about your parent(s). If you’re determined to be an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information and you can skip the next step.


6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section

This is where your parent(s) will provide basic demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you were determined to be a dependent student in the step above.

Start by figuring out who counts as your parent on the FAFSA form.


7. Supply your financial information

Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide your financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that option and follow the prompts.


8. Sign and submit your FAFSA form

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

Note: If you (the student) logged in to the FAFSA form with your FSA ID at the beginning, you won’t need to provide it again on this page. But, if you’re a dependent student, your parent will still need to sign before you can completely submit.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your parent forgot your FSA ID username or password, you can retrieve it.
  • Make sure you and your parent don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If your parent doesn’t remember whether he or she was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, he or she can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of his or her children. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.

  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.

 2020-21 FAFSA Signature Options


I’m finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing! You’re one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.


 

Categories
Education

5 Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster

The first thing people say when they find out where I work: “Can you delete my student loans for me?” If only I had that power. Just like many of you, I am a student loan borrower. Each month, my federal student loan servicer, withdraws my $381.35 student loan payment from my bank account and I still cringe every time. (Do you know how many trips I could take with that money?) Point is, I understand what you’re going through.

That said, there are manageable ways to pay off your student loans faster than you had planned and save yourself money by doing so!

Here are some ideas:

1) Pay Right Away

Even though you’re usually not required to, consider making student loan payments during your grace period or while you’re still in school. If you’re short on cash, consider at least paying enough each month to cover the amount of interest you’re accruing. That way your interest doesn’t capitalize and get added to your principal balance. Not doing this was one of the biggest mistakes I made with my student loans.

2) Sign up for Automatic Debit 

If you sign up for automatic debit, your student loan servicer will automatically deduct your student loan payment from your bank account each month. Not only does this help ensure that you make payments on time, but you may also be able to get an interest rate deduction for enrolling. Contact your loan servicer to see if your loan is eligible for this benefit.

3) Pay More than Your Minimum Payment 

Even if it’s $5 a month! Paying a little extra each month can reduce the interest you pay and reduce your total cost of your loan over time. (Pay attention! This next part is important!) If you want to ensure that your loan is paid off faster, make sure you tell your loan servicer that the extra amount you’re paying is not intended to be put toward future payments. If given the option, ask your servicer if the additional payment amount can be allocated to your higher interest loans first.

4) Use Your Tax Refund

One easy way to pay off your loan faster is to dedicate your tax refund to paying off some of your student loan debt. Part of the reason you may have gotten a refund in the first place is because you get a tax deduction for paying student loan interest.

 

5) Seek Out Forgiveness and Repayment Options 

There are a number of situations under which you can have your federal student loan balance forgiven. There are forgiveness and repayment programs for teachers,  public servantsmembers of the United States Armed Forces, and more.

Most of these programs have very specific eligibility requirements, but if you think you might qualify, you should definitely do some research. Also, research whether your employer offers repayment assistance for employees with student loans. There are many who do!


Nicole Callahan is a New Media Analyst at The U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid. She is scheduled to finish repaying her student loans in 2021, but is hoping that by taking her own advice, she will finish much faster.

Categories
Education

Keeping the Promise: Announcing a New StudentAid.gov

By: Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown, Federal Student Aid

New StudentAid.gov

New StudentAid.gov

Hi. I’m Mark Brown, the chief operating officer at Federal Student Aid (FSA). Today marks my first post on the Homeroom blog, and do I have exciting news for you!

StudentAid.gov—your trusted source to learn about, apply for, and manage your federal student aid—is all new and better than ever! Let me explain …

Each year, FSA’s top-four websites are visited more than 120 million times. These sites offer a wide variety of information, tools, and resources:

  • StudentAid.gov provides information and videos about all of the federal student aid programs.
  • Borrowers go to StudentLoans.gov to complete loan documents and counseling, as well as recertify for income-driven repayment plans.
  • At fsaid.ed.gov, students, parents, and borrowers can create an account username and password to log in to U.S. Department of Education systems.
  • The NSLDS® website provides students, parents, and borrowers with specific information about their federal grants and loans and eligibility.

Now, the new StudentAid.gov combines functionality from StudentLoans.gov, fsaid.ed.gov, and nslds.ed.gov into a single, one-stop shop for you. Think of it like a new “digital front door,” welcoming you to learn all about and manage your federal student aid.

When you visit the new StudentAid.gov, you’ll more clearly see information about the federal student aid you’ve received. You can now complete multiple tasks, like learning about what types of aid are available to you, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, completing loan counseling, and finding the right repayment plan for your situation.

Some students, parents, and borrowers will be introduced to a virtual assistant named “Aidan.” Get it? Aidan? We’re thrilled to pilot this digital resource that uses artificial intelligence to learn how we can better help you get answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. As Aidan learns and is able to answer more specific questions, we’ll roll it out to even more customers.

We’re also implementing some behind-the-scenes features that will improve the way we deliver personalized information and solutions to you. When you’re logged into the new StudentAid.gov, we’ll be able to directly provide you with information about your federal student loan application.

We’re not stopping there! Now, you only have to call one number—1-800-4-FED-AID—to be connected to all of FSA’s contact centers. And, we’ve made enhancements to our mobile app, myStudentAid, so you can seamlessly switch between completing tasks on the mobile app and web.

We’re making all of these improvements for you, the students, parents, and borrowers, we’re proud to serve. These and other enhancements are part of a big initiative we call “Next Gen FSA,” where we’re modernizing and simplifying how you interact with your federal student aid.

I know how important it is that we get this right for you. I come from a working-class family. My mother and I tried to figure out the best way to get money for college. Through a combination of federal student loans and grants, along with help from the United States Air Force, I was able to pursue my educational dreams.

At FSA, we’re committed to helping you pursue yours. That’s a promise we intend to keep, and today is a big step in our journey.

Throughout the next year in this “Keeping the Promise” blog series, I’ll update you about our Next Gen FSA progress. Until then, I invite you to check out the new StudentAid.gov, and let me know what you think.

Categories
Education

How to Deduct Student Loan Interest on your Taxes (1098-E)

1098-E Tax Form

Student loans, interest payments, and taxes: three things that have scared many people for years now. Read on to learn how these things can benefit you.

If you made federal student loan payments in 2019, you may be eligible to deduct a portion of the interest paid on your 2019 federal tax return. This is known as a student loan interest deduction. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make the money you’ve paid work for you! Below are some questions and answers to help you learn more about reporting student loan interest payments from IRS Form 1098-E on your 2019 taxes and potentially get this deduction.


What is IRS Form 1098-E?

IRS Form 1098-E is the Student Loan Interest Statement that your federal loan servicer will use to report student loan interest payments to both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to you.


Will I receive a 1098-E?

If you paid $600 or more in interest to a federal loan servicer during the tax year, you will receive at least one 1098-E.

The IRS only requires federal loan servicers to report payments on IRS Form 1098-E if the interest received from the borrower in the tax year was $600 or more, although some federal loan servicers still send 1098-E’s to borrowers who paid less than that.

If you paid less than $600 in interest to a federal loan servicer during the tax year and do not receive a 1098-E, you may contact your servicer for the exact amount of interest you paid during the year so you can then report that amount on your taxes.


How many 2019 1098-E’s should I expect to receive?

That depends on how much you paid in interest, how many federal loan servicers you had, and some other factors. Read through the scenarios below to find where you fit and learn how many 2019 1098-E’s you should expect.

  1. Your current servicer was your only servicer in 2019:
    In this case, your current federal loan servicer will provide you with a copy of your 1098-E if you paid interest of $600 or more in 2019. Your servicer may send your 1098-E to you electronically or via U.S. mail.
  2. You had multiple servicers in 2019:
    In this case, each of your federal loan servicers will provide you with a copy of your 1098-E if you paid interest of $600 or more to that individual servicer in 2019. Your servicer may send your 1098-E to you electronically or via U.S. mail.

If you paid less than $600 in interest to any of your federal loan servicers, you can contact each servicer as necessary to find out the exact amount of interest you paid during the year.


How will reporting my student loan interest payments on my 2019 taxes benefit me?

Reporting the amount of student loan interest you paid in 2019 on your federal tax return may count as a deduction. A deduction reduces the amount of your income that is subject to tax, which may benefit you by reducing the amount of tax you may have to pay.

For more information about student loan interest deduction, visit the IRS’s Tax Benefits for Education: Information Center.

Now that you know student loans, interest rates, and taxes aren’t as scary as you may have originally thought, you are ready to report your student loan interest rates on your 2019 federal tax return!


What if I still need help or have more questions?

While we are not tax advisors and cannot advise you on your federal tax return questions, your federal loan servicer is available to assist you with any questions about your student loans, including questions about IRS Form 1098-E and reporting the student loan interest you’ve paid on your 2019 taxes. If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is, visit nslds.ed.gov to find contact information for the loan servicer or lender for your loans. To see a list of our federal loan servicers, go to the Loan Servicers page on StudentAid.gov.