07.24.13 | 5 Ways to Cover College Costs

Posted in College Life, FAFSA, financial aid tips, Scholarships, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Paying for CollegeWhether you’re a soon-to-be freshman or second semester senior, it is never easy to figure out how to cover the costs of college. With tuition and hidden fees of private colleges averaging out to about $40,000 per year, many of you are still wondering how your family is expected to pay for $35,000 of your education, even after having received your Student Aid Report (SAR) three months ago. To help you out in your pursuit of a college degree, here are 5 ideas for paying for college when Federal aid comes up short.

Befriend the Financial Aid Office

If you are disappointed by the amount of financial aid that you receive, try talking to your financial aid office. Many colleges have an appeal process for financial aid, so get on a first-name basis with someone in the financial aid office and see what else can be done.

Search for Scholarships

There are millions of dollars in scholarships that go unclaimed every year, so why not spend a few days this summer searching and applying for as many scholarships as you can find? On average, you will win 1 out of every 10 scholarships that you apply for, so don’t get discouraged. For starters, try visiting our recommended scholarship search website, or try winning scholarships through the ScholarshipPoints program. (more…)

05.29.13 | Happy 529 Plan Day!

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, News by Student Loan Network Staff

Welcome back readers!  In honor of 529 Plan day (5/29/13), I’m here to help you learn about 529 plans and hopefully help you win some money for college.

What is a 529 Plan?

To start off, what is a 529 plan?  In short, a 529 plan is a savings plan with tax advantages that helps students pay for college.  529 plans can be further broken down into 2 types of college savings plans: prepaid tuition plans and college savings plans.

Prepaid Tuition Plan:

You know how your grandparents always talk about how they could buy a candy bar for 5 cents when they were kids?  Today, that same candy bar costs $1.00.  Over time, prices rise, and prepaid tuition plans enable you to pay the price of college at the time that you start your plan.  Prepaid tuition plans allow you to lock in the current tuition rate for your future educational expenses, and are not subject to federal, and sometimes state, taxes.  However, prepaid tuition plans require the student to attend one of the eligible public colleges or universities from the state of the tuition plan, and place a very tight restriction on how you can spend the money from the plan.  In addition, prepaid tuition plans are counted as a parental asset on your FAFSA application when determining your Expected Family Contribution, thus potentially lowering the amount of federal aid for which you may qualify.
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05.23.13 | Smarter Solutions for Students Act

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, News, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

As you may recall, last year, Congress voted on whether to raise the subsidized Stafford loan interest rate to 6.8%, or keep it at 3.4%.  Congress decided to prolong the decision for another year and keep the subsidized interest rate at 3.4%.  However, a year has gone by, and it is once again time for Congress to vote.  If Congress fails to come to a consensus by July 1, the interest rate on subsidized loans will automatically double to 6.8%.

In response to this impending decision, several politicians have put forth ideas of what they deem to be the best solution.  On May 1, Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, which sought to lower the interest rate on subsidized loans to just under 1%, which she described as the equivalent rate for which banks qualify.
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03.26.13 | 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Financial Aid

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, Repayment, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Piggy Bank With Graduation CapThe financial aid process can be tough to navigate, and like many students out there, you may not know all of the ins-and-outs. To help you make the most of your financial aid, we compiled a list of some noteworthy facts.

1. You must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

To stay eligible for financial aid, there are certain criteria you have to maintain. Many students know about the qualitative measures such as minimum GPA, but there are also quantitative criteria students must meet. For example, a student must not exceed 150% of the credits required for their program of study, and this includes attempted credits. This means that too many withdrawals, failed, or incomplete courses can impede your eligibility for financial aid. Make sure you know your school’s SAP policy to keep your financial aid on track or check out this example from the University of Minnesota.

2. Males must register with the Selective Service

Some students don’t realize this until it’s too late, but in order to receive financial aid, male students 18 and older must register for selective service. If you don’t register by the time you’re 26, you will be unable to receive federal financial aid funds. After that, it’s incredibly difficult to regain eligibility, if at all.
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03.04.13 | 5 Easy Ways for Students to Save

Posted in College Life, financial aid tips, News, Student Credit by Student Loan Network Staff

Saving vs. SpendingDeveloping good saving habits starts when you’re young, but many students don’t know where to begin. While we know it can be tough to save money when college expenses keep growing, every little bit helps.

1. Automate your Saving

If you receive a regular paycheck from a part-time or on-campus job, see if you can allocate a portion to automatically deposit in a savings account. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but by putting a little bit away into a separate account, you’re more likely not to spend it and can even earn interest on the savings.

2. Use your Tax Refund Wisely

Did you just get your tax refund or are you patiently awaiting its arrival? It might be tempting to spend all of the “extra” money right away, but don’t! Put it directly into your savings account to build interest for when you really need it. That doesn’t mean don’t treat yourself to something nice, just keep it reasonable.
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02.26.13 | Make the Most of College Savings

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, News, Student Credit by Student Loan Network Staff

February 25 – March 2, 2013 is America Saves Week, and to kick things off, student loan giant Sallie Mae released a national study on how Americans save for college. In “How America Saves for College: 2013” the statistics show that although most families are optimistic about their college savings, few are taking advantage of their options today. According to the study “Most college savers remain optimistic about their ability to save and plan to increase their savings in the next five years, though two-thirds don’t have a plan to achieve their goals.”

How Families are Saving

Much of the data has been compiled into an infographic, which shows a variety of ways families save, and the types of accounts they’re using. Of the families saving for college, only 27% choose 529 college savings plans. Other savings vehicles include general savings accounts, checking, investments, and even retirement accounts.

How America Saves for College

Best Ways to Save

Parent-Owned Accounts
Savings in the student’s name is assessed at a much higher rate than parent savings when applying for financial aid. While a maximum of 5.6% of parent assets count against a family, a whopping 20% of a student’s assets are used in financial aid calculations. When possible, keep funds out of the student’s name, and take advantage of incentivized savings vehicles over checking accounts, for example.
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12.18.12 | New Changes to Income Based Repayment – Pay as You Earn

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, News, Repayment by Student Loan Network Staff

Great news for student loan debt holders who are struggling to pay those loans every month. Have you heard of the Income Based Repayment (IBR) program, or the “Pay as You Earn” plan? Well if you haven’t, you might want to listen up.

To give you a little history- the US Department of Education implemented an Income Based Repayment (IBR) program in 2007, which aimed to help borrowers pay off their student loan debt, relative to their earnings. However, the program wasn’t cutting it as the student debt number continued to rise to $864 billion in federal loans and most students out of college were landing low paying jobs.

The improved version of this program, also referred to as the “Pay as You Earn” plan, is designed to address this issue and will launch on December 21st, 2012.

This plan is designed to do two things:

  1. Reduce the cap on monthly payments from 15 to 10 percent of discretionary income.
  2. Accelerate the time it takes for students’ loans to be forgiven from 25 to 20 years.

Here is an example of potential savings with this improved plan for a household of 1 with an income of $45,000/year and $60,000 in loans:

Standard Old IBR Pay as You Earn
Monthly Payment $720 $297 ($423 savings) $198 ($522 savings)
Amount forgiven N/A $156,927 after 25 years $139,769 after 20 years

To qualify for the “Pay as You Earn” program:

  • You must have taken out a federal student loan after October 1, 2007 AND have taken out at least one loan on or after October 1, 2011 (Private student loans do not apply).
  • Use the IBR calculator to determine if you are eligible for the Income Based Repayment Program.

The Department of Education estimates that at least 1.6 million borrowers qualify for the “Pay as You Earn” plan, but very few are aware that it exists, so spread the word and share this important information with your peers! Learn more about Income Based Repayment.

10.25.12 | New Scholarship Search Ideas for Students

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, Scholarships by Student Loan Network Staff

Student Scholarship ListsWith millions of students putting in the effort to search for scholarships, it seems a shame not to share the findings! That’s why StudentScholarshipSearch.com asked students, just like you, to suggest their scholarship lists – and the results were fantastic! Students picked topics that were important to them, created their lists, and now they’re being shared with you!

From scholarships for southpaws to no essay scholarships, and scholarships for single parents, it’s never been easier for students to find scholarships relevant to them. To find a student scholarship list relevant to you, head on over to StudentScholarshipSearch.com and get started!

We should also mention that if you’re a student who has put a lot of time into researching scholarships, you can share your list, too. Suggest a list and help other students find scholarships – after all, why reinvent the wheel?

10.11.12 | New Ways to Search for Scholarships

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, News, Scholarships by Student Loan Network Staff

Student Scholarship Search HomeFinding scholarships is tough. With so many students looking for aid, many often get discouraged and stop applying. However, searching for scholarships has never been easier. Recently relaunched, the new StudentScholarshpSearch.com allows students to find scholarships quickly and easily, no registration required!

With Student Scholarship Search, you can find scholarships for all sorts of things like state scholarships, scholarships by interest or even by career. The important thing when searching for scholarships is to look for what’s unique to you. Are you a 6’5″ girl? Search for tall scholarships. Do you live in Hawaii? There are scholarships for that too. Searching for scholarships is more effective when you narrow down your criteria – it’s less overwhelming, and you can be more productive.

To make it even easier, you could always use the scholarship matcher, which identifies applicable scholarships based on 5 simple questions like your GPA or gender. Or you can check out scholarship lists created by other students with your interests.

With thousands of scholarships in one place, you can now spend less time hunting, and more time winning money to help get you through school.

Head on over to StudentScholarshipSearch.com to see what scholarships you can find!

10.03.12 | What color is the FAFSA form this year

Every year we get the same question, so here is your answer:

For the 2013–2014 year, the FAFSA will be green, with a purple section for parents.

For the current year, 2012–2013 the FAFSA is orange.

In previous years:

  • 2011–2012 FAFSA was Yellow
  • 2010–2011 FAFSA was Blue

For detailed information on completing the FAFSA, visit FAFSAonline.