Archive for ‘need-based aid’

April 21, 2015

Evaluating college financial aid award letters

by Grace

Among its “tips for deciphering financial-aid letters”, the Wall Street Journal includes information that can be useful in evaluating student loan offers.

Difference between subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans

The federal government pays interest charges on federally subsidized loans while a student is in school, for example, which can help borrowers substantially. Such loans are generally given to students who demonstrate some kind of financial need, but students don’t need to come from low-income families to qualify.

Just over 34% of undergraduates with family income of at least $100,000 received subsidized Stafford loans at colleges where total annual costs, including tuition and room and board, were at least $30,000 in 2011-12, according to an analysis by Edvisors of the most recent federal data available. Just 12% of such students received the loans when attending less-expensive colleges.

Unsubsidized federal loans can be less desirable because interest accrues while the student is in school, which—if unpaid—could result in a significantly larger balance by the time the student graduates. Some colleges don’t include unsubsidized loans in financial-aid offers.

Colleges and universities also may offer their own loans, which may or not be preferable. Compare and contrast the terms on offer, including the interest rate and when interest charges begin to boost the outstanding balance.

Check out this link for the full article:

Annamaria Andriotis, “How to Play the College Financial-Aid Game”, Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2015.

April 15, 2015

You could lose your tax refund if you have a past-due student loan

by Grace

Say good-bye to your tax refund if you have past-due student loans.

In most cases, creditors are unable to touch tax refunds. Not so with student loans.

While credit card companies and other private debt collectors are barred from garnishing money coming to taxpayers from Uncle Sam, some federal and state creditors can help themselves to tax refunds via a process known as ‘offsetting.’ Under the Treasury Offset Program, these entities get a whack at your tax refund if you have an outstanding debt in certain categories, including:

  • past-due child support payments
  • back taxes
  • any unemployment compensation owed to the state
  • past-due student loans

This is another reason to pay your student loans on time, or better yet, make sure you only take on as much debt as you can afford to pay back.

———

Aron Macarow, “You Can Lose Your Tax Refund if You Have Student Loans”, Attn:, March 21, 2015.

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April 13, 2015

Only some colleges count home equity in financial aid calculations

by Grace

While most colleges that use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE do include the value of your home in calculating eligibility for financial aid, there are some exceptions.

PROFILE Schools That Ignore Home Equity*

  • Bard College
  • Bucknell University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • DePauw University
  • Hamilton College
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • Santa Clara University
  • University of Virginia
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Whitman College

*This list was compiled last year, and changes may have occurred since then.

Additional information about how other PROFILE schools treat home equity can be found by clicking the link above.

Summary:

  • Schools that only use the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to determine eligibility for financial aid do not use home equity in the calculation.
  • Schools that use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to determine eligibility usually use home equity in the calculation, but often the amount is capped as a percentage of a family’s income.

Running the Net Price Price calculator for a particular college will usually show if home equity is counted, but the best way to be sure is to ask the school.

Schools can be flexible in awarding financial aid, and Lynn O’Shaughnessy reminds us of this important point:

By the way, how schools treat home equity can also depend on how desirable an applicant is.

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Lynn O’Shaughnessy, “Will Your Home Equity Hurt Financial Aid Chances?”, The College Solution, August 7, 2014.

April 6, 2015

Stanford just became free for more students

by Grace

Stanford University just got more affordable for upper middle-income families.

Stanford University announced last week that tuition will be free for students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. The standard had been $100,000. Students whose families’ annual incomes are lower than $65,000 will also be exempt from paying room and board, up from the current $60,000 cutoff.

Wealthy students help pay for the free ride received by other students. 

… Stanford is able to fully subsidize the tuition of these students because of the high number of wealthy students who attend….

Cost of attendance at Stanford before financial aid is “roughly $65,000″ per year.

Of course, before getting the great tuition deal, students will have to gain admission at the “Toughest College to Get Into in the United States”.

… Stanford University is the toughest college to get into in the nation. Yes, harder to get into than Harvard.

———

Fred Imbert, “Stanford just made tuition free for these students”, CNBC, April 2, 2015.

Liz Dwyer, “What’s the Toughest College to Get Into in the United States? Hint: Not Harvard”, TakePart, April 01, 2015.

March 25, 2015

Tips for older student loan borrowers

by Grace

How can older Americans sidestep student debt trouble?

With the need to retool career skills or pursue new vocations, more Americans are taking on loans to finance education later in life — for new degrees, certificates or course work called continuing education units to improve knowledge in demanding professions.

According to the Government Accountability Office, student debt held by those 65 and older has risen significantly in recent years, growing to about $18.2 billion in 2013, from about $2.8 billion in 2005. While it’s not known how much of that is the result of college loans co-signed for children or grandchildren, a good portion is for continuing education. Before the last recession, the working-age population pursuing “re-entry” courses jumped 27 percent over a decade, according to the Education Department.

The New York Times’ advice for senior citizens seems to be the same that younger student loan borrowers should follow.

… “Do a cost-benefit analysis. How will it maximize my earnings? Will I be able to service the debt?”…

“Evaluate your postgraduate payment plan,” Mr. Weber suggests. “What will your salary be after graduation? Will there be an immediate payoff in terms of a higher salary?”…

You can overpay for a degree or certificate that will yield little career advancement or salary increases. Mr. Weber warns against for-profit colleges that market aggressively and says their programs and graduation rates should be carefully vetted.

The federal government offers some flexibility in paying back loans, including income-based repayment (IBR).

But what happens after you’re out of school with continuing education debt if you can’t increase your income or don’t start earning money right away?

If you have federal loans, you can qualify for a break from payments until you can start paying them down. See the Education Department’s federal student aid website to explore the options.

Another option is income-based repayment, available only for federally guaranteed loans. Private loans are the least flexible in terms of repayment.

Retired borrowers may be more likely to qualify for IBR.

“If you’re at or near retirement, your income may be lower, which may affect your ability to repay your loan,” she said. “There is income-based repayment available, which can make repayment more manageable, but can also extend the repayment period, leading to more interest accrual. It’s something to keep in mind as you plan for the future.”

Since assets are not counted in determining eligibility for IBR and similar debt relief programs, senior citizens with substantial home equity and retirement accounts may find it easy to qualify.

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John F. Waskimarch, “Managing Student Loan Debt as an Older Adult”, New York Times, March 19, 2015.

March 19, 2015

New ‘Student Aid Bill of Rights’ makes it easier to pay back student loans

by Grace

The Obama administration’s new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” will “simplify the process to apply for income-based repayment”, a move likely to shift more of the burden for paying back student loans from borrowers to taxpayers.  That is just one of the new benefits for the 40 million borrowers holding $1.3 trillion in student debt.

President Barack Obama announced a new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” Tuesday, directing the Department of Education and other federal agencies to undertake initiatives in three areas to help improve affordability for the estimated 40 million borrowers with federal loans. “We’re going to require that the businesses that service your loans provide clear information about how much you owe, what your options are for repaying it, and if you’re falling behind, help you get back in good standing with reasonable fees on a reasonable timeline,” Obama said during his speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology Tuesday afternoon.

This is the government’s rather magnanimous promise:

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

  1. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.
  2. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college.
  3. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan.
  4. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans.

Summary of changes:

1. Create a centralized website that makes it easy to file complaints and to see all your student loans in one place….

2. Try having federal employees collecting debts instead of private contractors…

3. Make it easier for borrowers who become disabled to get their student loans discharged….

4. Ensure that the private debt collectors hired by the Department of Education apply prepayments first to loans with the highest interest rates, unless the borrower requests a different allocation.

5. Make it easier for students to get IRS information to qualify for income-based student loan repayment.

6. Clarify the rules under which students who declare bankruptcy can get their student loans reduced or eliminated….

While I disagree with some of the federal student loan program’s fundamental policies, it’s nice to see the government take the initiative for more clarity and transparency.

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Kelli B. Grant, “Student loan initiatives could benefit 40M borrowers”, CNBC, March 10, 2015.

Kim Clark, “6 Ways the New ‘Student Aid Bill Of Rights’ Will Help Borrowers”, Money, March 10, 2015.

March 16, 2015

Most borrowers take more than 10 years to repay student loans

by Grace

The standard maximum repayment time for federal student loans is 10 years, but in reality most borrowers take longer.

The vast majority of former students entering repayment on their federal student loans in 2012 picked 10-year plans. The numbers were higher for former students from two- and four-year programs, up to 90 percent of which picked the standard 10-year plan.

Recent history indicates that many of those borrowers will be repaying their federal student loans for far longer than 10 years. With a lackluster economy, tepid wage growth and vast numbers of Americans still looking for full-time work, some federal policymakers fear current borrowers will need more time to repay their loans than previous generations.

20150314.COCStudentLoanRepaymentTimes2

Just last month the Obama administration predicted “the increased use of student loan forgiveness programs will cost taxpayers $22 billion next year”. Student loan forgiveness programs allow reduced monthly payments that typically extend the repayment period beyond ten years.

Here’s a listing of federal student loan repayment time frames.  Click the links to find more details. 

REPAYMENT PLAN TIME FRAME
Standard Repayment Plan Up to 10 years
Graduated Repayment Plan Up to 10 years
Extended Repayment Plan Up to 25 years
Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) Up to 25 years
Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan Up to 20 years
Income-Contingent Repayment Plan Up to 25 years 
Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan Up to 10 years

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Shahien Nasiripour, “These 9 Charts Show America’s Coming Student Loan Apocalypse”, Huffington Post, 08/20/2014.

March 10, 2015

Which are the ‘altruistic’ professions that deserve special treatment?

by Grace

High school history teacher Kate LeSueur wrote that she wishes to “enlighten” us “on the discrepancy between the price of my education and the salary of an altruistic career such that of an educator”.

She compared a master’s in education with a master’s of business administration, pointing out that individuals with MBA degrees typically enjoy substantially higher salaries and lower student debt levels.

Why is it that we both went to school for the same amount of time and both earned master’s, yet my degree costs more and I get paid significantly less? I am not arguing that I deserve $90,000 a year — only that the cost of my education should be comparable to my salary. Society expects us to accept a fate guaranteeing small paychecks and large student loan bills. I am writing to say, America, we aren’t going to accept it much longer.

I find it hard to accept the rather sweeping statement that teaching is an altruistic career.  Although teacher unions have long maintained the message that all their efforts are “for the children”, I don’t buy it.  I’m not claiming that teaching is rampant with evil, money-hungry people, but neither are most other professions.  A typical MBA working to keep his employer profitable is no less deserving of special adoration than is a typical teacher.  And many people who earn generous salaries show their altruism in other ways, such as donating their time and money to worthy causes.

Furthermore, it’s troubling when the government gets in the business of deciding which jobs deserve special treatment, like the most generous Income Based Repayment benefits that are reserved for government and nonprofit employees.  George Leef points out the consequences of this politicized meddling.

… Whenever the government gets involved in an activity that is not properly any of its business, we get the infamous trio: waste, fraud, abuse, and then the politicians feel the need to meddle still more in an effort to solve the problems they’ve created. The federal student-aid programs are a perfect illustration. Repayment of loans is being politicized, with easy terms for students provided they make the “right” choices in employment. That will only further misallocate resources and help to keep the higher-education bubble inflated.

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Kate LeSueur, “The price of a good education, $80K and counting”, cleveland.com, March 01, 2015.

February 26, 2015

Student loan defaults are the only type that continue to rise

by Grace

Americans are having more trouble paying off their student loans than their mortgages or any other type of debt.

As student debt balances continue to grow . . .

20150224.COCTenYearStudentLoanGrowth2

. . .  student loan defaults have overtaken those for all other types of debt.

20150224.COCStudentLoanDefaultTenYearGrowth2

America’s total student loan debt is now nearly $1.2 trillion. One reason the burden is difficult to pay off, Fed researchers wrote: “Student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy like other types of debt … Delinquent or defaulted student loans can stagnate on borrowers’ credit reports.”

The number of student borrowers almost doubled over ten years.

The surge is fueled by more people borrowing — and borrowing larger amounts. The number of borrowers rose 92 percent between 2004 and 2014, according to the Fed researchers. The average student loan balance grew 74 percent.

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Danielle Paquette, “Americans are having more trouble paying off their student debt than their houses”, Washington Post, February 19, 2015.

February 25, 2015

Are we seeing a ‘big quasi-bailout’ for student loan borrowers?

by Grace

The Obama administration projects that the increased use of student loan forgiveness programs will cost taxpayers $22 billion next year.

… Primarily because of the recent growth in enrollment in the program, projected long-term revenues from the federal direct student loan portfolio were reduced by almost $22 billion compared with the best guess from the previous year….

This looks like ‘a big quasi-bailout’

That’s a big quasi-bailout, increasing the deficit nearly 5 percent. The White House budget office was unaware of any larger re-estimates since the current scoring rules for credit programs went into effect in 1992. As a January Politico Magazine feature on the government’s unusual credit portfolio reported, the Federal Housing Administration has stuck more than $75 billion worth of similar re-estimates onto Uncle Sam’s tab over the last two decades, most of them after the recent housing bust led to a cascade of FHA-backed mortgage defaults. But it’s never had a one-year shortfall quite as drastic as this.

Borrowers are made out to be innocent victims of “circumstances beyond their control”.

Regardless of which accounting method is used, the federal government is expecting to write off billions of dollars in future student loan balances under the program in order to reward public service employment and protect borrowers from economic circumstances beyond their control.

It’s not as if a student loan bailout should come as a surprise.  Here’s a question from 2011.

Is a student loan bailout inevitable?

20110913.COCCollegeLoanGrowth

Seeing the trend lines, Mark Gimein wrote this four years ago.

Eventually both private lenders and the government will be on the hook. The government has already moved to ease some loan terms. It will need to find more, especially for those snookered into paying for degrees worthless in the job market. The private loans, meanwhile, will simply blow up. We may as well start figuring now how graduates, taxpayers, lenders, and schools will split the bill.

Taxpayers just took on $22 billion, and there’s probably more to come.

Related:  “Politicized federal student loan program bails out ‘deadbeats’”

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Kevin Carey, “Flip Side of Reducing Student Debt Is Increasing the Federal Deficit”, New York Times, February 10, 2015.

Michael Grunwald, “The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget”, Politico,  February 05, 2015.

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