08.21.13 | Federal Government Reports More Students Receiving Financial Aid

Posted in Financial Aid, News by David Levy

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released new data showing that more than seventy percent of undergraduates received some type of student aid (including student loans) during the 2011-12 academic year. Overall, nearly 8 percent more students received grants and 3 percent more students received loans in 2011-12 than in 2007-08. The report, a preview of the 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) to be released later this fall, is the most comprehensive source of data about how students and their families pay for college. The survey is currently conducted every four years.
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08.07.13 | Student Loan Servicer Transfer

Posted in Financial Aid, News, Repayment, Student Loans by samantha b

Federal Student Loan Servicer Transfer

Last week, the United States Department of Education released a newsletter informing students and their schools that federal student loans handled by four nonprofit servicers would soon be transferred to new servicers. Over the next two months, the majority of loans that are currently serviced by COSTEP, EDGEucation, and EdManage will be transferred to MOHELA, while those serviced by KSA Servicing will be transferred to Aspire Resources Inc.

What is a Loan Servicer?

To provide a little background, your loan servicer is assigned to you by the Department of Education after your loan has been fully disbursed. This company processes your payments and works as your customer service representative while you repay your student loans. For additional information on loan servicers, try visiting StudentAid.ed.gov.

Transfer Process

You will receive either an email or a letter in the mail prior to the transfer to inform you if your servicer will change, as well as an additional notification once the transfer is complete. These notifications will provide information on your new servicer, along with a statement that they will be servicing the loan on behalf of the the Department of Education.

You will need to contact the new servicer to activate features such as electronic billing and automatic loan payments. In addition, both MOHELA and Aspire Resources claim that students will not need to reapply for deferment or forbearance if their previous servicer already reviewed their application, but you should contact your new servicer just to make sure that this information carries over. (more…)

08.05.13 | Measure Twice: The Impact on Graduation Rates of Serving Pell Grant Recipients

Posted in Financial Aid, News by David Levy

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, an independent committee providing expertise on student aid to Congress and the Secretary of Education, has recently released a policy bulletin, “Measure Twice: The Impact on Graduation Rates of Serving Pell Grant Recipients.”

The analysis raises concerns about tying federal student aid to measures of college performance such as 6-year graduation rates and academic progress. By examining correlations between a college’s six-year graduation rate and three other factors—the percentage of first-time students who are Pell Grant recipients, average student test scores, and the amount of endowment per student, the committee found that colleges with more Federal Pell recipients and fewer financial resources tend to have lower graduation rates. “The [ACSFA] analysis finds that these three inputs are powerful determinants of 6-year graduation rates at nonprofit 4-year public and private colleges.”

As Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher of Edvisors, has noted, “College graduation rates correlate with academic performance and other risk factors, so refocusing the Pell Grant program on completion will shift eligibility from financial need to academic merit. High-risk students – such as first-generation college students, low-income students, students who are single parents, students who lack a high school diploma, students who work full-time while enrolled and students who enroll part-time – are less likely to graduate. This represents an abandonment of the basic principle of college access that every student should have an equal opportunity to pursue a college education without regard to ability to pay. Refocusing the Pell Grant program on completion will introduce a bias in favor of Bachelor’s degree programs at more selective colleges.”
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08.02.13 | The Usual Mistrust or a Preview of More Bipartisanship?

Posted in Financial Aid, News, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by David Levy

Federal Student Loan Compromise

This content was updated on 7/9 to reflect the passage of the Smarter Solutions for Students Act

With bipartisan support, on July 31, 2013, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (also known as the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, as amended by the Senate), by a vote of 392 to 31.

President Obama  signed the legislation into law on August 9, 2013.

Under the new law, interest rates on new loans each July 1 will be based on the last 10-year Treasury auction in the previous May. The specific interest rates will be as follows:

  • Undergraduate Students (Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans): 10-year Treasury + 2.05% with an 8.25% cap
  • Graduate and Professional School Students ( Federal Stafford Loans): 10-year Treasury + 3.6% with a 9.5% cap
  • Parents and Graduate/Professional School Students (Federal Parent and Federal Grad PLUS Loans): 10-year Treasury + 4.6% with a 10.5% cap

Based on the current 10-year Treasury rate, this will yield interest rates of 3.86%, 5.41% and 6.41%, respectively, for new loans this year, made after July 1, 2013. (more…)

07.25.13 | Doubling Interest Rates: The Devil is in the Details

Last night, the Senate passed a bill to address the doubling of the interest rate on new subsidized Federal Stafford loans.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the legislation will save the federal government $715 million over ten years, which would be applied to deficit reduction. Many feared that the multi-partisan Senate deal would fall apart because the CBO found that an earlier version would cost $22 billion over ten years.

Under the Senate-approved legislation, interest rates on new loans each July 1 would be based on the last 10-year Treasury auction in the previous May. The specific interest rates would be as follows:

  • Undergraduate Students (Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans): 10-year Treasury + 2.05% with an 8.25% cap
  • Graduate and Professional School Students ( Federal Stafford Loans and Federal Grad PLUS Loans): 10-year Treasury + 3.6% with a 9.5% cap
  • Parents (Federal Parent PLUS Loan): 10-year Treasury + 4.6% with a 10.5% cap

Based on the current 10-year Treasury rate, this would yield interest rates of 3.9%, 5.4% and 6.4%, respectively, for new loans this year, made after July 1, 2013.

According to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors, “This is still an interest rate increase masquerading as a decrease. Interest rates are at historically low levels and have nowhere to go but up. We can expect interest rates to start increasing by about 1.5% per year in 2015.” These federal educational loan rates are expected to climb as the economy improves and it becomes more expensive for the government to borrow money. Thus, interest rates on new loans will probably exceed the current 6.8% rate in 2017 and certainly by 2020. “So, while students enrolling in college now will save money on their student loans, their younger siblings will pay a lot more. A few years from now students and parents will be demanding a return to fixed 6.8% interest rates.”
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07.23.13 | How America Pays for College — 2013 Report

Posted in Financial Aid by David Levy

Sallie Mae has issued its sixth annual report, How America Pays for College. David Levy breaks down the key findings:

  • Most families still see a college education as an important investment in their child’s future.
  • More than 90% of families believe their students will earn the degree they are seeking.
  • Despite reports of increased reliance on educational loans, families view grants and scholarships as the top resource to pay for college.

Because of the post-recession economy, families have reduced the share they contribute to college expenses and have looked for ways to make college more affordable. These cost-cutting strategies include: choosing less expensive post-secondary institutions; increasing work hours; having the student live at home; and utilizing education tax credits.

As the economy continues to improve, parents’ attitudes about the value of college and their ability to finance this second largest family expenditure are slightly more optimistic.

Parents remain worried about how to finance college, but with the economic recovery underway, this concern seems to have decreased over the past three years. As consumer confidence increases (as it has over the past few months), it will be interesting to see if consumer expenditures for college and its related costs also increase, too.

To read the report, find the summary and PDF download links here.

Mark-Kantrowitz-EdvisorsDavid Levy is Associate Editor of the Edvisors Network. David brings 30 years of experience as Director of Financial Aid at some of the nation’s leading colleges, including the Scripps College, California Institute of Technology and Occidental College. He is respected by students, parents and financial aid professionals nationwide because of his extensive outreach and volunteer activities, his extensive knowledge of financial aid and his leadership in helping to simplify the aid application process.

06.26.13 | Will Student Loan Interest Rates Double on July 1?

Posted in Financial Aid, News, Stafford Loan by Mark Kantrowitz

If Congress does not act, interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1, 2013. Previously originated subsidized Stafford loans and all other education loans will not be affected.

Doubling of the interest rates certainly sounds dramatic, but the actual impact on students will be more muted.

Each year, less than a third of undergraduate students receive federal subsidized Stafford loans. The average subsidized Stafford loan is $3,357, based on data from the 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), with average subsidized Stafford loan debt at graduation of $9,008 ($11,329 for Bachelor’s degree recipients). Only 3% of subsidized Stafford loan borrowers graduate with debt equal to the aggregate limit of $23,000.

Assuming a 10-year repayment term, doubling of the interest rate on $3,357 in debt increases the monthly loan payment by less than $7. On $9,008 in debt, the increase is less than $18; on $11,329 the increase is less than $24; and on $23,000 the increase is less than $48.

Doubling the interest rate does not double the monthly payment. Most of the monthly payment goes to principal, not interest. For example, on a 10-year term, increasing the interest rate from 3.4% to 6.8% increases the monthly payment by about one sixth (16.9%).

So while the interest rate increase will increase borrowing costs, it is not a major disaster.

Focusing on the interest rates, on the other hand, is a distraction from the real problem (more…)

06.14.13 | 5 Solutions to the Subsidized Student Loan Debate

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

Over the past month, you may have heard about the impending subsidized student loan interest rate increase, as politicians frantically work to come to a consensus before July 1. Right now, subsidized student loans interest rates currently stand at 3.4%, but will increase to 6.8% unless a new bill is passed by July 1.

With this decision having a major impact on your future, it is important to stay up to date with the issue and the suggested solutions.

1. Default Solution: Increase to 6.8%

As stated above, if politicians fail to come to an agreement, the interest rate for subsidized loans will increase to 6.8%.

2. Democratic Solution: Student Loan Affordability Act

Most Democrats in the House of Representatives argued for a two-year extension on the 3.4% interest rate, which would maintain the current interest rate and bring the question to Congress again in two years. However, this bill was rejected in the Senate on earlier this month.

3. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Solution: Student Loan Fairness Act

Senator Warren proposed a bill which would dramatically cut the interest rate on subsidized loans. Citing the fact that the student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, Warren proposed cutting the interest rate to 0.75%, which is the same rate that banks are able to get from the government. For more information, please see our recent article on the details of Warren’s bill.
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06.11.13 | Impacts of the Potential Stafford Loan Rate Increase

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

Student Loans in the MediaWith the recent legislation involving the subsidized student loan interest rate, many have begun to express concern towards the fact that if Congress is not able to reach an agreement by July 1, subsidized Stafford loan interest rates will automatically increase from 3.4% to 6.8%.  In the process, many news sources have erroneously been reporting that this increased interest rate would yield an additional $1,000 in annual debt for the average borrower. However, this figure is much lower in reality.

Using the loan repayment calculator from Finaid.org, we can begin to calculate more-accurate rates (though still estimates). Assuming a student borrows $23,000 over the course of four years—the maximum amount that can be taken out for undergraduate studies—the annual increase will be less than half of what has been reported.
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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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