Archive | January, 2017

Answering the Who, How, & Why of FAFSA

26 Jan

fafsa
Getting you through FAFSA, one question at a time.FAFSAQs

 

  • Who

    • Who Should File a FAFSA?
      If you are interested in getting any Federal Financial Aid, including federal direct loans, you need to file the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov/  to become eligible. Federal loans are almost always preferable to private loans.  In addition, many colleges’ need-based scholarships rely on FAFSA information to verify that you are eligible. In short, everyone should file the FAFSA – even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any federal aid

     

    • Whose Information is Needed to File a FAFSA?
      This answer depends on if you are a dependent student or not. Unsure if you’re Dependent or Independent? Check here. (Note: this is not the same as being independent for tax filing)
      Dependent students: You need tax information for both you AND your parents. If your parents are divorced, you need the information on whoever you receive the most support (51%) from.Independent students: You only need your own information unless you are married. If so, you will need your spouse’s information as well.
  • What

     

     

    • What If Things Change After I File The FAFSA?
      If your family situation has a significant change after you’ve filed your FAFSA, and any time while you’re in school, stop by your Financial Aid office to see if you qualify for a “special circumstance”.  These could include job loss, divorce, death of a parent, child birth or other unexpected situations that impact your financial status.

     

    • What Types of Federal Financial Aid are there?
      There are three main types of financial aid:
      1. Grants — Federal Pell Grants do not have to be repaid and are sometimes referred to as “gift aid”.  Grants are similar to scholarships, except that they are often for those who demonstrate financial need, where scholarships can be either merit-based or need-based.
      2. Student Loans — This is the type you hear about most often.  Filling out the FAFSA is required to be eligible for Federal Direct loans.  Federal loans are almost always preferable to private loans from lending institutions, because they have fixed interest rates and flexible repayment options.
      3. Federal Work Study (FWS) — Work study may provide you with more opportunities to find on-campus jobs. Rather than being given the funds in the beginning of the semester like loans and grants, FWS earnings are distributed to you as part of your paycheck.
  • Where

     

    • Where Do I Get the School Code and FSA ID?
      You’ll need the school code for whatever schools you are interested in applying to. They are available here. Your FSA ID is used to login and electronically sign your FAFSA.  Set it up at here.

     

    • Where Do I Get Help?
      College Goal Sunday will be held on Sunday, February 12th at 2:00 p.m. in Indiana and it provides FREE FAFSA filing assistance. It is at Ivy Tech in West Lafayette, but to find a location near you in one of the participating 42 states, go to www.CollegeGoalSundayUsa.org.  You can always call the Financial Aid office of your prospective school to ask questions as well.
  • When

    • When Can I start the FAFSA?
      You can begin the FAFSA any time after October 1st of the year before you plan to attend college. The FAFSA uses the student/parent tax information from two years ago (You could start filing Oct. 1 of 2016 for the 2017-18 school year using your 2015 tax information) . You can estimate the required information to beat a college priority filing date, but the info must be corrected after the taxes are complete!

     

    • When is the FAFSA Due?
      If you are a Purdue student, the FAFSA priority filing date is March 1st, so be sure to have it done by then! Other colleges (and states) have their own priority dates. Check for deadlines here.
  • How

    • How Do I Get my Financial Aid?
      Your financial aid is sent directly to your school and they will apply it directly toward your billing and send any excess aid to you to be used for books and other education related expenses. The exception is Work Study which needs to be earned by working, and is paid via a paycheck.

     

    • How Much is the Maximum That Can be Borrowed?
      Most students don’t know this, but there is a maximum amount of Federal Loans you can take out each year. There is also a maximum amount you can take throughout your college career! If you take the maximum amount for four years, there won’t be as much left for a fifth year if needed. Plan ahead!Remember: Everything you borrow you will have to pay back with interest for the next 10 (or more) years. For every $5,000 you borrow at 6% interest, you pay back $6,661.23 over 10 years ($55.51/ month)
    • FAFSA-brw-chart
  • Why

    • Why Should I Do a FAFSA?
      Other than qualifying for grants and Federal Loans? Many state grants and institutional scholarships require FAFSA information submitted. Even if you aren’t sure, it is always worth submitting!

Have more questions? Ask them in the comments and we’ll do out best to answer them!

4 Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers

25 Jan

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program Forgives the remaining balance on your Federal Direct Loans after 120 qualifying payments (10 years). View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/publicservice. Here are some highlights: This program has the broadest employment qualification requirements of the federal programs listed—it doesn’t require that you teach at a low-income a public…

via 4 Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers — ED.gov Blog

Phishing, other kinds of tax scams rank No. 1 — don’t fall victim 

19 Jan

Kirsten Gibson, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP)

If you receive an email, text or social media message from someone claiming to be affiliated with the IRS, it’s almost certainly a scam. Question phone callers claiming to be IRS representatives, too. If you remember only one thing this tax season, other than to file your return, it’s this: the IRS will not contact a taxpayer asking for personal information via email, text message or social media.

Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

Tax season is ripe for scamming. As taxpayers figure out how to file their taxes in accordance with federal student loan rules, President Barack Obama’s health care law and a myriad of other complications, scammers gear up to take advantage of a period of confusion. The Better Business Bureau consistently ranks tax scams as the top type of scam in the United States by a wide margin.

“Identity theft is always a huge concern,” says Greg Hedrick, Purdue’s chief information security officer. “Criminals who acquire enough of a person’s information, including a Social Security number, may attempt to use those details to fill out a false tax return and claim a refund under another person’s name. Of course, this could also lead to the rejection of a person’s real return.”

Should you find yourself engaging with someone who claims to be from the IRS, pause to assess the situation. The person writing the message or on the phone will probably be insistent that it’s an emergency and action must be taken immediately. They might also threaten you with arrest, deportation or loss of driver’s license.

The callers who commit this kind of fraud often:

  • Use common names (like Jones or Smith) and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles (and the spoofed caller ID again supports their claim).

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to Treasury Inspector General Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

According to TIGTA, since 2013 more than 1.8 million people reported calls from scammers and more than 9,600 victims paid the impostors a total of more than $50 million.

Individuals also might want to sign up for a credit freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – to further guard against fraud this tax season. The freeze can be initiated for free within minutes online at the Indiana Attorney General’s website. Once a freeze is initiated, you can temporarily lift it anytime to apply for new credit or a loan.

Students, faculty and staff should contact the police if they think they have been a victim of identity theft.

 

How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College

18 Jan

Got 2 or more kids attending college

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need? How many FAFSAs do we have to complete?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA®) until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs here.

Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA. Your children will also need to provide your (parent) information on their 2017–18 FAFSA unless they are going to graduate school, were born before January 1, 1994, or can answer “yes” to any of these questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSAs, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA to another so I don’t have to re-enter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. On the confirmation page, you’ll see a hyperlink that says, “transfer your parents’ information into a new FAFSA.” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and click that link.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his/her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation-transfer sibling info

You’ll then see the alert below confirming that you want to transfer your information to another FAFSA.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation-transfer sibling info pop-up

Once you click “OK,” a new window will open allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA, choose the option on the right and enter your child’s information.


IMPORTANT:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA says “you” it means the student. If the FAFSA is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the left side of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re on a student page (blue) or a parent page (purple).


2017-18 FAFSA Login Page Student or Parent

After you select the FAFSA you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation transfer sibling info success

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information pre-populated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA, and you’re done!

NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSAs.

I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSAs.

How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.


TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.


Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.

Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute towards the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that a parent’s annual ability to pay doesn’t change as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Number of dependent children in college full-time Each child’s EFC
1 $10,000
2 $5,000
3 $3,333
4 $2,500

Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs schools based on family income, visit the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov.


Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images

3 details you should know while preparing for tax season 2017

12 Jan

Tax season can be an exciting time for savers. This year, more Americans are opting out of a tax time splurge and focusing on getting ahead with their tax refunds.

Early filers can still file as they normally would, but we’ve got a couple tips in mind for how your household can use this information to make the most of your tax time preparations:prep-for-tax-season

  1. File a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file.You can’t get the EITC unless you file a return. End of story. Since the IRS estimates that about 25 percent of taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC fail to claim it, this is a vital first step in determining your eligibility.Bonus? If this is the first year that you are claiming the credit, you can use the EITC Assistant to see if you qualify for tax years: 2015, 2014 and 2013. You can file any time during the year to claim the EITC. Something to know: A new tax law will delay refunds that claim the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15. Learn more here.
  2. Decide where and how you will file your taxes and know your free options.Unless you know your return is going to be complicated this year, paying someone to file a tax return should always be a last resort. Decide whether you’d rather file online or in person, and then check out these free filing options:
    • Use Free File on IRS.gov– This free software walks you through a Q&A format to help prepare your return and claim every credit and deduction for which you may be eligible.
    • Try the Free File Fillable Forms– If you’re comfortable preparing your own returns, this option is for you! It allows you to file electronically using online versions of IRS paper forms.
    • Visit a free tax preparation site– If your total household income is less than $54,000 a year, you can seek free tax prep at one of thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (M-VITA), and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites. To locate the nearest site, you can search online or call the IRS at 800-906-9887.
  3. Make a plan for your tax refund that accounts for the EITC/ACTC delay.We know it can be hard to come up with alternative funds if you already had plans for your refund early in the year, but don’t be suckered by refund anticipation products provided by many commercial tax return preparers. The loan fees will have you seeing red.If you start your planning by dedicating your refund, or at least part of it, to savings, you can get ahead of your savings goals. Enter  the SaveYourRefund promotion with $35,000 in cash prizes and 101 chances to win simply for saving a portion of your refund. For more information and how to commit to saving prior to filing your return , visit saveyourrefund.com.

Tammy G. Bruzon works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.

The Great Debate: Living On-Campus or Off-Campus?

11 Jan

Where you live and who you live with can be one of the most important decisions you make each year. There are benefits and drawbacks of each option, but the best choice varies for each person. Taking stock of what you want in your housing, how you’re paying for it and the various perks it offers can help you find the right spot to call home for the next year.

While residence halls (dorms) are often the go-to for first-year students, they are not mandatory to live in. Apartments and houses are available for incoming students off-campus too, but often you’ll need roommates and finding them when you’ve only been to campus once for a tour can be difficult. But no matter how long you’ve been in school, it’s a decision you have to make every year and a little comparison can only help you make the best choice for you!

living on campus or off campus22.jpg

One of the main differences between living on-campus & off-campus is the distance from your classes and buildings you need to visit. Living on-campus puts you in the closest proximity for getting to your classes, going to the co-rec, or making it to meetings with your advisor. Depending on how far you live off-campus this may or may not be an issue. If you live across the street from campus this is basically on-campus. However, if you’re a ways away you’ll have to rely on the buses, biking in, driving (if you’re quite a distance away), or just hoofing it. Unfortunately all of these options become a lot less fun when the weather goes cold.

Comparing prices between on-campus and off-campus can be difficult since there’s a wide range for both choices and difference in how you have to pay for them. On-campus residence halls and apartments are generally going to cost you more than living off-campus. However, the big difference many people neglect is how you pay for them. Payment for your housing (and meal plan) is due at beginning of the semester along with your tuition if you live on-campus. If you live off-campus in a house or apartment you will be making a payment each month. These monthly payments are typically much easier to pay out of pocket rather than having to come up with a whole semester’s housing all at once.

If you’re living off-campus, you’ll also want to pay attention to your utility bills in addition to your rent – a problem that living on-campus doesn’t have as it’s a fixed rate. Paying for things like heat, electricity and internet can bust your budget if you had not factored them in. Additionally your laundry situation can involve many things including nothing in your place, having coin-operated machines, or even the mythical free-to-use machines in a place where you don’t have to pay utilities.

One cost that you’ll have to pay for whether you live on or off-campus is your food. There’s no difference in the rates for meal plans where you live, but if you don’t live close to campus your plans to eat every meal in a dining hall probably won’t end up happening. As previously mentioned, your cost for a meal plan is due up-front at the beginning of the semester. Even if you have a meal plan it definitely won’t be your source for 100% of your food as you’ll probably buy snacks, go out to eat at a restaurant or grab food to go from another source at some point.

Possibly the biggest make-or-break part of anywhere that you live is your roommate. Rooming with someone you never met, or even your best friend, can be extremely difficult. Whether it’s sleeping a few feet from them in a dorm room or just sharing a kitchen and living room in an apartment, roommate issues are a frequent source of contention. While you do have the option to have your own place, it comes at a considerable cost both on and off campus. The showering situation in the residence halls might get a bit of flack but sharing a shower with a few of your friends and not cleaning it properly or often enough can make its own frightful situation.

The last major consideration is whether you plan on being around during the summer for classes, internships/ jobs, or just because. Most off-campus contracts are year-round so if you’re splitting back to your family’s home once classes end you’ll still be paying for your place at school. However, living in a residence hall and having summer classes can put you in a spot in having to find a sublease too. While it’s not usually too hard to find options since so many students would rather have someone sublet from them than have to pay their rent during the summer it’s not always the easiest to find a perfect situation to slide into.

Remember, you can use your financial aid to pay for living both on and off-campus! If you live on-campus you’re billed for housing along with tuition and it is due when classes start. This makes it extremely important to have your aid lined up for the beginning of the semester. If your aid doesn’t cover everything that you owe, you’ll need to find a way to cover the difference or create a payment plan with the Bursar’s Office. Any extra aid above what you are billed (whether you live on or off-campus) will be refunded to you. If you’re living off-campus it’s usually a good plan to put this toward your rent. Paying ahead can be great for lifting any worries for a while, just be sure to get a receipt if you do!

Ways to Save on Utilities this Winter

4 Jan

Yikes! Did your first winter energy bill come in higher than you expected? Turning off the heat to save money for the rest of the winter isn’t going to be an option when you live in Indiana, unfortunately, so we’ve rounded up some tips to help you save some cash until it’s warm outside again.

Turn down the heat

Both on your thermostat and your water heater, which you should have access to in a utility closet. Lowering the heat in your house to around 68 is enough to keep you warm (you may have to add a couple layers) and can help to reduce your heating bill. If you have a programmable thermostat take advantage of the settings and turn the heat down a couple more degrees (but always stay at least at 50 to avoid your pipes freezing) so you’re not using extra energy while you’re gone. Also, making a minor adjustment on your hot water heater will save you money. Not to mention that having less hot water will cut your shower time down.

Unplug electronics you aren’t using

This is a simple one that can be used all year. Even if you’re not using your laptop and it’s in hibernation mode, it’s still using electricity. Unplug it and save yourself a couple bucks (so you can have heat!). Even keeping little things like toasters or phone chargers plugged in when they aren’t being used creates a small drain on electricity. Also, avoid space heaters! They use a lot of electricity and are extremely inefficient at heating compared to your central heating. Oftentimes, tossing a blanket on your lap or pulling on a sweatshirt will keep you just as warm.

car in snow with text overlay: Save $$ on utilities this winter

Cover your windows

Plastic over leaky windows can save you tons of money. This is an especially good idea if you live in an older apartment or rental house. We had a window in a rental house that leaked so badly that we could literally watch the plastic sheet we taped around it billow and fill with cold air! Just covering that window saved us a lot in heating costs. wikiHow has a great article on how to properly cover your windows.

Turn your ceiling fans clockwise

Apparently there’s a setting on most ceiling fans that will allow you to switch the direction they spin. This is typically located above the blades of the fan. And turning clockwise will push the hot air back down to keep the heat in your rooms instead of pushing it up towards the ceiling (hot air does rise, after all).

Always wear layers

Add an extra blanket to your bed, keep your slippers handy, invest in some sweaters from the thrift store, keep extra blankets in the living room. Switching your lounging clothes from shorts and a t-shirt to a hoody and sweatpants makes a huge difference. Plus it’s extra comfortable to toss a blanket on your lap while you watch TV. Putting on layers keeps you warm and will keep you from turning up the heat, saving you money on electricity.

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