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…)

01.14.13 | 5 Tips for Filing Your FAFSA

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

Person Typing on ComputerWith the holidays coming to a close, many of you are putting down the eggnog and starting to prepare for the upcoming year. All those who will be entering college in the fall, whether it be for their freshman or senior year, are trying to minimize the costs of school, and the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is one of the best ways to do that.

I’m back from my third semester of college to provide some tips for filing the FAFSA. So, without further ado, here are my five pieces of FAFSA advice.

1. Do It

Many families don’t file the FAFSA because they believe that they earn too much to qualify for federal aid. Income is only one of the factors that determines eligibility, so you should file the FAFSA regardless of income. Even if you only qualify for $500 of federal aid, this is certainly better than nothing.

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.

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.

01.18.12 | Paying for college: What you should know

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

Misty makes some excellent points in this video, especially for families who are applying for financial aid for the first time. She mentions that the FAFSA is free, and we can’t stress this enough! For families who have questions about the FAFSA, feel free to pose a question to the financial aid experts at FinancialAidForum.com, or check out some of the other common questions from families.

01.16.12 | Check out the FAFSA Help Guide eBook

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

FAFSA Help Guide eBookIt’s FAFSA season again, and thanks to FAFSAOnline.com, we’re providing students and families with a downloadable FAFSA Help Guide to the online form. This detailed guide will answer the most common questions about filing the FAFSA, as well as provide some useful tips to help you get the most financial aid. Best of all, it’s free!

What information can you find in the FAFSA guide?

  • Filing your FAFSA before taxes
  • Tax credit information
  • Determining a student’s dependency status
  • Defining a parent
  • Using IRS Data Retrieval

And much more!

01.10.12 | 2012-2013 FAFSA: What’s changed?

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

Father and Daughter on ComputerThe Department of Education has been making great strides in streamlining the often-confusing online FAFSA form. This year, students and parents should find it much easier to navigate through the process, as well as collect the information necessary to file the form.

Here’s what you can expect to find in the improved 2012-2013 FAFSA:

  • Easier online navigation- The sections and questions have been reordered to make it easier to navigate. This best part of this is that the system now knows where you left off, so if you fill out the form over a few sessions, there’s no more searching for your next steps. Plus, it’s “skip logic” has been improved. This means that the system will eliminate unnecessary questions based on what you’ve already answered, making less work for you!
  • (more…)

11.09.11 | Financial Aid Basics

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

Financial Aid 101 eBookJanuary is quickly approaching, and you know what that means? FAFSA season. Filing your FAFSA is a critical step in the financial aid process. However, if you have never applied for financial aid before, everything can get overwhelming, and fast! This is why you should know your options beforehand. You can then apply directly to a loan lender.

Major types of financial aid:

  • Private scholarships and grants
  • Federal grants (Pell, Academic Competitiveness Grant, SMART, FSEOG)
  • Federal student loans (Stafford, Parent PLUS, Graduate PLUS, Perkins Loans)
  • Federal work study
  • Private Student Loans

How to apply:

Scholarships and grants
Private scholarships and grants have individual applications and deadlines. While the application process can be time-consuming, every little bit helps!

Federal aid
The FAFSA is your application for all of the federal types of financial aid listed above. Students need to submit it starting January 1st of each year, and the sooner you file, the better!

Private loans
If you’ve exhausted your scholarship and federal aid resources, then it’s time to apply for a private loan. Each lender will have different interest rates and benefits, so it helps to compare your loan options to find what’s best for you.

For more information on the different types of financial aid and for a helpful financial aid calendar, check out our Financial Aid 101 eBook.

03.10.11 | Appealing your FAFSA Dependency Status

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

One of the most common issues students deal with revolves around the FAFSA filing status. Many students feel they should be considered independent, yet the FAFSA still requires them to file as dependent. Under special circumstances, students have the ability to appeal their dependency status. For those students who believe their circumstances qualify them for financial independence (for FAFSA purposes), I’m going to walk you through how to do this, including what documents you may need. If you don’t know your current status, read our post on Dependent VS. Independent Status.

What types of situations can be appealed?

First thing’s first, if your sole reason for filing an appeal is that you support yourself or that your parents refuse to support your education, then you will not qualify for an appeal. However, other circumstances are considered. Some common reasons for appealing dependency include:

  • Abandonment
  • Danger of physical or mental abuse
  • Your parents (or parent for single parent family) are incarcerated
  • Your supporting parent is deceased and you have no contact with the other

Keep in mind, these are not the only reasons that are accepted as schools differ in their requirements. If you’re not sure if your particular situation qualifies, you should contact a financial aid officer from your school.

How to appeal

Each school has specific guidelines for the appeals process, and in some cases, there are school-specific forms you will need to fill out. Most of the time you can find the qualifications and forms on the school’s website. However, the one thing that most schools ask for is a letter from the student explaining their circumstances. In this letter, make sure to be specific! After all, you’re arguing your case, so the more information you provide, the better. Included in this letter should be 1) why your parents aren’t helping 2) information regarding your income and what your money is allotted for and 3) your educational goals, explaining why more money is necessary to achieve them through your institution. Each situation is different, so tailor the letter to you and what your needs are. Along with this letter, it is important to provide as much documentation as possible to back up your claim. Acceptable documentation includes (but is not limited to):

  • Letters attesting to a student’s situation: Most schools require students to submit letters from independent sources. These can be from almost anyone who knows your story- ministers, friends, non-parental relatives, guidance counselors, attourneys etc. These letters should explain the writer’s relationship to the student, and like the student’s letter, provide as much detail as possible about the student’s situation. Depending on school guidelines, these may need to be notarized.
  • Bank statements
  • W2s
  • Court documents/ police reports
  • Documentation of parental incarceration
  • Death certificates

What now?

Once all of your required documents have been submitted, all you can do is wait. Depending on your school, your appeal will be reviewed by a financial aid officer or panel of officers who will work with the Department of Education to change your status (hopefully). It is possible that more documentation may be required, and if this is the case, you will be contacted. If you do need to provide more, don’t panic! Simply provide the requested documents and wait it out. Note: If you are approved for a certain year, this does not mean that you are approved for upcoming years as well. For future academic years, you will need to appeal again!

Navigating the FAFSA to get adequate financial aid can be a nightmare for some students, so appealing dependency status may be the difference between going to school or not. If you have any specific questions about your school’s process, they should be directed to your financial aid office. Good luck!

02.23.11 | Understanding the Financial Aid Roadmap

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

Applying for and receiving financial aid can be a long and confusing process, but don’t fret, we’re here to help! We’ve compiled information on all of the steps necessary for receiving financial aid to help answer your most common questions. The financial aid roadmap outlines all of the steps you should take, from how to fill out your FAFSA to tips on comparing financial aid packages.

So, what are the steps?

  1. Prepare for, and fill out your FAFSA form
  2. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)
  3. Compare your award letters and financial aid packages
  4. Review your federal loan options and contact your financial aid office to accept
  5. Apply for additional aid to cover your full cost of tuition

Now that you have the entire process at your fingertips, make sure to start early! It’s important to file your FAFSA as soon as possible so that you can receive maximum aid and be on your way to that college degree.