02.14.14 | Do Colleges Provide Adequate Disclosures to Student Consumers?

Posted in College Life, News, Parent Advice, Student Credit by David Levy

Do Colleges Provide Adequate Disclosures to Student Consumers?The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a study that describes the growing number of colleges and universities who have entered into arrangements with financial institutions to market bank accounts, prepaid cards, debit cards and other financial services (including disbursing financial aid) to students. While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has encouraged financial institutions to voluntarily fully disclose these agreements on their websites, the CFPB found that nearly a third of public colleges and universities fail to do so.

Schools argue that these college-lender agreements offer convenience for students and, potentially, help lenders to establish long-term financial relationships with students. However, the GAO remains concerned about how some of the financial agreements impact students, their families and colleges.

For example, the GAO found that many schools encouraged students to choose the college-lender product rather than providing unbiased, neutral information to help student consumers select the financial product that best meets their needs. The GAO speculates that these endorsements on the part of colleges and lenders may be influenced by incentives the schools receive as part of the school-lender agreements. These incentives may not be adequately disclosed to students.

The GAO cites an instance in which a lender provided $25 million to a school for the use of the college’s logo on affinity credit cards. Such a practice is currently banned for student loans but not for credit cards. In another example, a college is paid an up-front fee for endorsing the lender’s financial services on campus. (Additionally, the college can receive a bonus payment for each new student who signs up for the services.) The GAO report also cited instances in which college card fees for purchases using a personal identification number were higher than for similar debit card products provided by banks.

The CFPB notes that while “many financial institutions offer good products at competitive prices,” colleges, universities and lenders who have financial arrangements should disclose these relationships and provide unbiased information to students. Without more transparency about these types of relationships, student consumers are prevented from making informed decisions about what is in their best financial interest.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) published a report, The Campus Debt Card Trap, which identified high fees and inconvenient free ATMs as key issues.

Both the U.S. General Accountability Office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have indicated that they will be addressing these issues as they develop new rules. The U.S. Department of Education will also be revising the regulations concerning disbursement of federal student aid funds through debit cards.

In the meantime, students and their families are encouraged to review the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Managing Your College Money and consumer advisory for information on accessing student loans and scholarships. Students and parents who wish to complain about a student loan, checking account, or credit card, may submit a complaint online or call 1.855.411.2372.

09.17.13 | Take a Deep Breath and Beware of the Annual U.S. News College Rankings

Posted in News by David Levy

Now that the college rankings season has resumed, it’s a good idea to take a deep breath and consider the timely advice offered by Dr. John Tierney in The Atlantic. Despite its title, “Your Annual Reminder to Ignore the U.S. News and World Report College Rankings,” the article provides both a summary of the criticism leveled each year at the U.S. News rankings as well as other resources students and families should consider when looking at prospective colleges or even one’s alma mater. Before experiencing increased anxiety about the college admission process and deciding to which colleges to apply, keep in mind Dr. Tierney’s assessment about college rankings: “(they are) about as good for you as eating potato chips and Gummy Bears for dinner. With maple syrup.”

David-Levy-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.

09.11.13 | Converse College Slashes Tuition

Posted in News by David Levy
Converse College

Image source: Converse.edu

Converse College, a small independent women’s liberal arts college in Spartanburg, South Carolina, announced that it is cutting its tuition by 43% for the 2014–15 academic year. The one-time tuition reduction or “reset” from $29,124 in the 2013–14 academic to $16,500 in the coming academic year affects both continuing and incoming full-time undergraduate students.

While ten other colleges have made similar tuition reductions since 2012, most have done so to increase enrollments. Citing increased enrollments over the past three academic years (including a 30% increase from last year), Converse College President Elizabeth Fleming declared that the College was making this move from “a position of strength.”

The college reported hearing from families about the flattening of their incomes over the past decade, intensifying concerns about the issue of college affordability. By resetting tuition amounts to back to levels not seen in more than a decade, Converse says it is working to reassure students and their families of the value of a Converse education.

In its announcement, the college indicates that it hopes this new pricing strategy — which will not reduce existing student services or its commitment to need-based financial aid — will reduce the “sticker shock” many families encounter as they plan for the cost of a Converse education.

David-Levy-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.

08.27.13 | Why More Parents Might be Planning to Pay for College: The Rest of the Story

Posted in News by David Levy

An annual survey commissioned by Discover Student Loans shows that the number of parents who plan to help their children pay for college is up from last year.

Parents increasingly feel that a college education is valuable and a worthwhile expense.

  • Eighty-seven percent of parents say college is “very important” to their children’s future, compared to 81 percent in 2012.
  • Eighty-one percent of parents plan to help pay for their children’s college education, an increase from 74 percent a year ago.

But, as many families are learning, there is a big difference between a parent’s willingness and their ability to pay for college expenses.

08.23.13 | Obama Proposes to Shake-up Higher Education

Posted in News by David Levy

Citing “higher education as the single most important investment students can make in their own futures,” the Obama administration offered a plan to make college more affordable for American families.

Among several proposals, the initiative would create a new ratings system for judging colleges based on the value they provide to students and taxpayers. The new ratings system would become available before the 2015 academic year and would use a combination of factors to determine value:

  • student outcomes (i.e., graduation rates and graduation earnings),
  • affordability (average tuition, scholarships, and manageable loan debt) and
  • access (the percentage of students receiving Federal Pell Grants).

Institutional eligibility for student aid funding would be linked to these ratings starting in 2018. Students who enroll at high-performing colleges would receive larger Federal Pell Grants and better interest rates on loans.

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.

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.”

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…)

07.01.13 | 3 Things You Should Know About the Stafford Loan Interest Rate Increase

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

As you may have heard, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans just increased from 3.4% to 6.8%, effective July 1, 2013. Congress wanted to keep rates down, but the deadline hit before all parties could agree on a course of action. Here’s what you need to know about these changes.

1. It only affects new loans

I’ve received a lot of questions lately about the impact of this rate increase. It seems like graduates everywhere are concerned that their student loan payments will soon be skyrocketing. The good news is, it’s not retroactive — meaning it won’t affect any subsidized loans originated before July 1, 2013. So for borrowers who are currently repaying older loans, don’t worry, you’re in the clear.

However, the new rate will impact loans originated after July 1, 2013. This means any new subsidized loans will have the 6.8% rate. Despite this rate hike, subsidized loans are still a better deal for borrowers because the interest subsidy remains intact.