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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05.16.13 | Elizabeth Warren Calls for Student Loan Changes

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

Last year at this time, the big issue in the news was the impending doubling of student loan interest rates. The interest rates of Subsidized Stafford Loans were set to double from 3.4% to 6.8%. Before this could happen, Congress stepped in, temporarily lowering them for another full year.

That extra year of low rates is now coming to a close, and rates are once again set to double. This is why Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act. This act would allow students to borrow at the same rate as banks, which is about “one-ninth the amount that students are asked to pay”.

Here is a quick list of what this bill seeks to do:

  • The bill would charge students a rate equal to the rates banks are getting from the government (for subsidized loans only)—a rate of less than 1%.
  • Loans would be funded through the federal reserve, with administration by the Department of Education

Senator Warren gives an excellent overview in her introduction of the bill to the Senate Committee. Watch it below.

04.05.13 | Happy Financial Literacy Month!

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid, News, Student Credit by Student Loan Network Staff

Piggy Bank in GrassDid you know that April is Financial Literacy Month? With the recent economic struggles, it’s clearer than ever that many students (and even parents) need some personal finance training, stat! According to the National Financial Educator’s Council:

“About thirty-four percent of parents have taught their teen how to balance a checkbook, and less than that has explained how credit card interest and fees work and ninety-three percent American parents with teenagers report worrying that their children might make financial missteps such as: overspending or living beyond their means.”

While parents can be a good starting point, “Around sixty-nine percent of parents admit to feeling less prepared to give their teenager guidance about investing than they do having the ‘sex talk’ with them.” Yikes!

In the spirit of Financial Literacy Month, we want to help you learn to manage your money! To kick things off, here’s a list of some great websites designed to teach you those much-needed money skills!

My mother always told me, “Don’t put it on a credit card if you can’t afford it in cash” and I’m free of credit card debt to this day! Share your wisdom and tell us some of your own personal finance tips by leaving a comment below!

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for more personal finance posts in the coming weeks or check out last year’s Financial Literacy Blog Series!

Source: http://www.financialeducatorscouncil.org/financial-literacy-statistics.html

03.28.13 | How Repealing DOMA Could Affect Financial Aid

Posted in College Life, FAFSA, Financial Aid, News by Student Loan Network Staff

This week has brought a flood of news on gay rights as Supreme Court justices review the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). The repeal of DOMA would bring many benefits to same-sex families, such as death benefits, tax incentives, and health insurance coverage.

What does this have to do with financial aid? A lot, actually.

An increasingly common issue in the financial aid application process is how LGBT families file the FAFSA.

Because of DOMA, financial aid for same-sex families is determined differently and can lead to non-uniform aid awards. When filing the FAFSA, both parents (if married) are required to provide their financial information. In the case where marriage is not federally recognized, only one parent would be able to file for the student, leading to increased financial aid for the family. What’s more, any financial support from the other parent would be reported as untaxed income and subject to different treatment in the aid calculations. The same logic applies to married students.

If DOMA is repealed, the application process would be streamlined for all married couples. Financial aid would take all financial support for the student into account, and the question of “which parent should file the FAFSA” would be eliminated for these families.

This also means that same-sex families might get less financial aid, because financial awards would be based on both parents’ income and assets, not just one.

Clearly DOMA has far-reaching impacts for college students and their families, as repealing DOMA would mean uniformity in the financial aid process for all married couples.

03.06.13 | Sequester Impacts on Financial Aid

Posted in Federal Work-Study, Financial Aid, News, PLUS Loans, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

As you may have heard by now, the recent sequestration has huge implications for education across the board, and Higher Ed. is no exception. The budget cuts that took effect on March 1, 2013 will affect most types of federal student aid, including Federal Work Study (FWS), Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Service Grants, TEACH Grants, and the Direct Student Loan Program. Fortunately for many students, Pell Grants were specifically exempt from the budget cuts.

Here’s a brief overview of what to expect from student aid programs going forward:

Federal Work Study and FSEOG Programs

Budget cuts of $86 million do not only mean a reduction in the FSEOG program, it could also mean a loss of on-campus employment for as many as 33,000 students if colleges do not step in with funding. While these campus-based programs are funded through the remainder of this year, program cuts will take affect for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Iraq – Afghanistan Service and TEACH Grants

For both of these federal grants, funding has been reduced for any award first disbursed during the sequester. It should have no impact on grants first disbursed before the cuts took effect.
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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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02.15.13 | Evaluate College Costs with the College Scorecard

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

College ScorecardEarlier this week, President Obama talked about the new College Scorecard tool in his State of the Union Address. This new tool provides college data to students and families going through the college selection process and aims to provide some statistics that allow families to assess the return on investment.

Tool Features

The College Scorecard allows users to evaluate colleges on:

  • Costs
  • Graduation rate
  • Loan default rate
  • Average borrowing
  • Employment outlook

While historically, many families have chosen schools based on social environment, location, and academic programs, college costs are now a driving factor. The College Scorecard allows families to make better decisions around college expenses, by providing average borrowing and default rates of schools.
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01.04.13 | Changes to the 2013-2014 FAFSA

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, News by Student Loan Network Staff

It’s January, and that means FAFSA season is underway! Students can now file their FAFSAs for the 2013-2014 academic year. As you prepare to file, we wanted to make sure that you have all the information at your fingertips, so read on to learn about some of the changes and enhancements that were made to the FAFSA form this year.

Food Stamps

To stay in line with program changes, references to food stamps have been altered to say Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Additionally, explanatory text regarding this name change has been removed from questions 74-78 and 95-99.

High School Information

Starting this year, if you answer “High School Diploma” to the high school completion status question, you are now required to complete the subsequent questions about the name, city, and state of your school. This change is intended to better-ensure applicant eligibility.
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