Need Advice About Your Student Loans? Your Loan Servicer Can Help!

Let’s face it, repaying your student loans can be quite overwhelming, especially if you’re new at it. I may have spent my senior year of college interning at Federal Student Aid, but when my first student loan bill came in the mail, I’ll admit, I had no idea where to begin.One of my first questions was, “Who do I pay?” I knew I had only federal student loans, but I kept getting letters and e-mails from Sallie Mae.* Why was that? If you asked yourself a similar question, this may help.

*Sallie Mae is my federal student loan servicer, but may not be yours. Here is a complete list of the federal student loan servicers.

Why am I receiving federal student loan bills from a company rather than the U.S. Department of Education?
Those bills you get in the mail are coming from one of the U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan servicers. These loan servicers are companies that work on behalf of the Department of Education to help you understand your student loans and to facilitate payments.
Note: Even though you make your monthly payments to your loan servicer, your loans are still federal student loans and are owned by the Department of Education.

What can a loan servicer help me with?
Loan servicers do more than just collect payments from you. Your loan servicer is there to ensure that you, as a federal student loan borrower, get the customer service and repayment support you need to successfully repay your student loan.

Your loan servicer can help you:

How do I find out how many loans I have and who my loan servicer is?
To view information about all of the federal student loans you have received and to find contact information for your loan servicer, visit www.nslds.ed.gov and select “Financial Aid Review.” You will then be prompted to log in using your Federal Student Aid PIN, so make sure you have that handy.

Note: If you have multiple federal student loans, you may have more than one loan servicer, so make sure you click through each loan individually for information specific to that loan.
If you also have private student loans, I recommend getting a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com to identify them.

Not sure what kind of loans you have? It’s best to look at nslds.ed.gov and get a free credit report too. Then you’ll know about all of your loans right away.

Moral of the story: Your loan servicer is here to help.
Trust me, as a recent college graduate, I know how difficult it can be to make these payments every month. Truthfully, I still get anxious every time that payment comes out of my bank account. But that’s all the more reason to stay in touch with your loan servicer. Whether you’re having trouble making your payments or you just want advice about which repayment option is best for you, they can help.

Still have questions?
Well, you’re in luck! Some of the federal student loan servicers will be joining us for this month’s #AskFAFSA Office Hours. Start tweeting us your student loan questions today!

This article was originally posted on Homeroom on October 28, 2013 by Nicole Callahan

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

$1,000 Scholarships for United States Service Members and Spouses

The Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) is pleased to offer $1,000 scholarships each year to United States Service members (active duty/veterans) and spouses of Service members who are working towards the completion of higher education degrees. All applicants must submit the online CCME Scholarship Application, transcripts, and two recommendation forms NLT Oct. 1, 2013. For more information, visit the CCME Scholarship website (http://ccmeonline.org/scholarships) or send an email to scholarship@ccmeonline.org. Master Chief David Acuff, USN, DANTES Senior Enlisted Advisor

Marine Corps Changes Eligibility for Tuition Assistance

According to MARADMIN 456/13, most of these changes will only affect first-time TA applicants. Applicants must:

  • Have at least 2 years of time in service, and can only enroll in one course unless documentation is provided that the Marine has an Associate’s Degree or at least 60-college credits with a minimum GPA of a 2.5.
  • Complete the Marine Corp Institute “Leadership” and “Personal Financial Management” courses before applying
  • Be eligible for promotion
  • And more ...

For more information check out the link: http://www.marines.mil/News/Messages/MessagesDisplay/tabid/13286/Article/149668/tuition-assistance-ta-guidelines-update.aspx

 

Military TA in Jeopardy Again?

News outlets are all buzzing about the coming changes to the military Tuition Assistance (TA) program. The Department of Defense (DoD) has been called upon to continually tighten its fiscal belt. Many “Quality of Life” (QoL) programs like tuition assistance have been evaluated for cost savings and efficiency. Unlike other QoL programs, DoD is leaving the execution of reducing TA costs to each of the Services.

So, how will they respond? There is nothing official yet. However, it is likely that each Service will keep its TA caps at $250 per semester hour for a total of $4,500 per year.  Also, Services may choose not to abruptly stop TA coverage as most did in March this year. What may change is who is eligible to participate in the TA program. In an Army Times article today, Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler mentioned possible changes for the Army that may include limiting TA based on time in Service and rank.

While official announcements on new TA policies may not be released until 1 Oct., service members still have options. If you no longer qualify or have limited TA funds for FY 14, there are other ways to earn college credit and pay for school that you can take advantage of today. DANTES exists to offer service members programs that are alternatives to TA. Check out these articles to learn more:

TA Alternatives: Ways to Pay for College

TA Alternatives: Ways to Earn College Credit

Find Scholarship Money

Tips for Applying for Scholarships

GI Bill Assistance

Graduate Student Funding Opportunities

Top CLEP and DSST for College Credit

Saving on College Costs

To discuss your options, contact your local or virtual education center counselor today!

Find Your Military Education Center

Taheesha

Taheesha Quarells is the Education Project Manager at DANTES. With over 10 years of experience, she is dedicated to expanding academic and career development opportunities for military members, veterans, and their family members.

 

Tools for Selecting a College and Comparing Costs

Finding the right school that fits your needs can be a confusing and complicated process. Where can you get the most for your education dollars? Which school gives you the most flexibility in your chosen field of study? Does the school offer financial aid that you can use? What about transfer credits, ACE recommended credits, or credit-by exam credits? Does it all make your head spin? Don’t worry, help is just a click away - tools that can help manage the overwhelming information and get answers to your questions. Here are a few:

College search made easy

Have you heard of the Department of Education’s (ED) College Affordability and Transparency Center’s College Scorecard? The College Scorecard is a very user friendly way to search for a college that is a good fit for you, just search the college name of choice and press enter. The system will populate the scorecard with typical attendance costs, graduation rate, loan default rate, amount borrowed for undergraduate study, and employment options upon graduation. Your search can also be customized based on selected options, such as college location, type of college, and areas of interest.

Cost of an education
Did you know? In 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau partnered with the ED to launch the “Know Before You Owe: student loans project.”After releasing a prototype of a model financial aid offer form to the public and reviewing the process improvement feedback, a financial aid shopping sheet was created. The ED Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is a standardized form that participating institutions will use to assist prospective students and their families better understand the costs of attending an institution before making the final decision on where to enroll. The Shopping Sheet will be available for use beginning in the 2013-2014 award year. To learn more about the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet and see a list of institutions that have adopted the shopping sheet, click HERE.

Comparing schools

The Financial Aid Comparison Shopper worksheet was created to help students make college comparisons tailored to their individual circumstances. The Web site allows prospective students to enter the names of three schools and receive detailed financial information on each one. The site also provides the first-year sticker price for each school as well as the average grants and scholarships packages and the total borrowing per year based on these figures. Once the prospective student enters additional financial aid award information or personal contributions, the program calculates the student’s projected financial burden, along with an estimate of any possible monthly student loan payments once the student has graduated.

Take a few minutes to explore these tools and find out more about a college’s affordability and value so you can make more informed decisions about which college to attend.

 

Did You Know That You Could Earn College Credits Through Testing?

You can earn college credit for what you already know by earning qualifying scores on introductory-level college subject examinations. The DANTES-managed academic testing program provides fully funded exams for active duty, Guard, Reserve, and Coast Guard, including: GED; CLEP and DSST; undergraduate/ graduate admission exams; and teacher certification. Successful completion of these tests can save Service members significant time and money, and spare Tuition Assistance (TA) and/or GI benefits. Nearly 118,000 credits were earned last year through CLEP and DSST programs with a cost avoidance of $25M in TA. Just remember the first time you take a test it is fully funded. If you fail the test, you will have to pay for any re-tests of that subject. Master Chief David Acuff, USN, DANTES Senior Enlisted Advisor

Back to School: Starting School (Part 4 of 5)

This is part four of the Back to School series designed to be a step-by-step guide to make military members aware of the resources and education benefits that are available to assist in pursuing advanced education while on active duty. In part one Get Started with Self Assessments, you had a chance to take assessments that helped identify possible career fields that would best fit your unique skills, abilities, and work values. With this list of careers, part two provided tools that helped Explore and Narrow Your Options and begin to understand the qualifications that civilian employers prefer. Part Three provided tools to Map Your Route to Success by setting goals and choosing a degree or certification program to reach them. This article focuses on the next steps to actually getting started at a new college or university.

1.    Apply. Once you have done the work to prepare for school, as discussed in previous articles, your next step is to apply for the college or university of your choice. Most schools have applications online. While some schools offer no application fees for military members, most schools charge a non-refundable fee between $30-$75. During the application process, state-funded colleges and universities require certain documents to establish residency for tuition purposes. Be prepared to provide a copy of your orders if needed. Although each state has different residency requirements, since July 1, 2009, members of the armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) on active duty for a period of more than 30 days and his or her spouse, or his or her dependent children are be eligible to receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state where they reside or are permanently stationed. Once a Service member or their family members are enrolled and paying in-state tuition, they will continue to pay the in-state tuition rate as long as they remain continuously enrolled at the institution even if the Service member is reassigned outside the state.

2.    Send Transcripts. Most applications have an area where you list previously attended colleges and universities. You need to request a copy of your transcripts from each institution have you attended. Since you are in the military, you have the option of also sending your Joint Service Transcript (JST) and/or CCAF Transcript. These transcripts list recommended college credits you have earned from your military training, education, and occupational experiences. Click HERE for instructions on requesting your JST. Many military members have taken CLEP or DSST exams to obtain college credit for common general education requirements. To obtain your transcripts, click HERE .

3.     Placement Testing. If you need to take college level math or English, many schools require that you take a placement test first. This test will determine if you are ready for college level math and English courses or if you need to take developmental courses to prepare. The Online Academic Skills Course (OASC) is a free resource for military members and their family that can assess and improve academic readiness. Take the assessments in OASC as practice for the placement test. Your results will highlight your strengths and weaknesses. If there are areas where you need to improve, the course designs a custom set of lessons tailored to your specific needs. Click HERE to get started.

4.     Degree Planning. Once your school has had a chance to review your transcripts, you will be given an official degree plan. This will list the course you need to take in order to complete your degree. If you are using military tuition assistance (TA), you will need to supply a copy of your degree plan to the local or virtual education center. If you are attending a school that is a member of the Servicemember’s Opportunity College (SOC) Degree Network System (DNS), then you are eligible to request a SOC Agreement. This agreement is a contract for a degree issued by participating DNS colleges and it follows students through their academic career providing a complete evaluation of prior learning, including courses from other colleges and universities, military training courses, military occupational experience, and nationally recognized tests, as well as clearly identifying requirements for completing the degree. As long as you complete 25% of your degree with the school that you have a SOC Agreement with, you may take courses at other institutions and transfer them back to your original school to meet degree requirements. This is particularly helpful for military members and their spouses who prefer traditional classroom learning but have to change schools due to PCS moves.

5.     Register for Class. Once you have your degree plan, you will know which courses you need to take. Most schools will not issue an official degree plan until all transcripts are received. Since this may take a while and delay being issued a degree plan or SOC Agreement, consult your school’s Academic Advisor for course recommendations and registration procedures.

6.     Pay for classes. As a military member you have several options when paying for classes. The first option you should explore is TA though your local or virtual education center. Your Service may require online or face­­-to-face TA counseling prior to using TA for the first time. TA will pay for up to $4,500 per year of college coursework. The following are links to articles with other ways for paying for school:

TA Alternatives: Ways to Pay for College

Find Scholarship Money

Using Your Post 9/11 GI Bill on Active Duty

New Student Loan Counseling Tools

7.     Buy Books. A few colleges will supply free textbooks automatically when you register for a course. However, most schools require you to purchase books. To save money some students buy used books, take advantage of book rental programs, or purchase them from popular online discount bookstores. Check out Save Money in College with Cheaper Textbooks for more tips.

8.     Attend Class. Steps 1-7 above may seem like a lot to do, but with those accomplished you are ready to show up or log in to start your classes. Now the fun begins. Part 5 of this series will provide things you need to know as you navigate your way through your classes.

 

 

 

 

 

Post 9/11 GI Bill Housing Allowances Q&A

The following message is from Curtis L. Coy the Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Veterans Benefits of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

GI Bill payments, particularly monthly housing payments, can sometimes be a mystery. You may hear about people receiving a smaller than expected monthly housing payment or not getting one at all when they think they should. Please allow me to explain how they work. Please get this out to all of our Veteran students and schools. I apologize for the longer than usual note, to summarize the key take always….

  • GI Bill housing allowance is paid after the fact. So if you start school on September 1 – the earliest you could be paid under the best of circumstances is October 1. We often hear … my housing allowance is late, how am I supposed to pay my rent, food, etc.
  • We do issue partial housing allowance. So if you were not in school the entire month (i.e.; December or January) you will get partial payment. We often hear … someone messed up my check, its less than I got last month….

“What is the monthly housing allowance?”
It’s a monthly benefit paid via direct deposit to students while attending school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and is equal to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) of an E-5 with dependents. It is based on the zip code of the school (a chart of BAH rates by ZIP code is at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/perdiem/bah.html<http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/perdiem/bah.html> ). Active duty members and spouses of active duty members using transferred entitlement cannot receive the benefit, but Veterans, their spouses and dependents can receive the benefit.

“When does VA send payments?”
Payments are issued at the beginning of each month for training that occurred during the previous month. For example, assuming timely certification of enrollment by the school and timely processing by VA, payments for training taken in January will be issued by VA in February. The school must submit a student’s enrollment information to VA in order to start the payments.

“Why is my payment less than expected?”
The most common reason for a smaller than expected BAH payment is due to the payment being pro-rated based on the number of days in the month that a student is enrolled. Payments are made in arrears and only for the days actually attended, so if the term starts in the middle of January, the payment received in the beginning of February will be pro-rated accordingly. The first full payment will be issued in March for the month of February.

For example, suppose you are attending school full-time and your housing rate is $800 per month. The term starts on January 19th and goes until May 14th. All months are based on 30 day periods, so months that have more or less days do not impact the benefit amount. Therefore, the payment in this case for the month of January will be for 12 out of 30 days (19th to 30th), in the amount of $320, and it will be received in February. The payments for February, March, and April will be $800 each month, and the payment for May will be $373.33 (pro-rated from the 1st through the 14th).

Also, a student must attend more than half-time to receive the housing allowance payment. Benefits for attendance at less than full-time are pro-rated to the nearest multiple of ten. For example, if 12 credits are required for full-time attendance and the student is taking 8 credits, the student will receive 70 percent of the housing allowance (8 divided by 12 equals .66, which is rounded up to 70 percent).

Lastly, lower than expected payments may also be caused by over-payments. Over-payments are usually caused by students reducing the number of credit hours for which they are enrolled during the middle of a term, which can cause payments to be made based on the incorrect number of credit hours. When this occurs, the amount of the over-payment is deducted out of future benefit payments until the account is corrected.

Other housing payment issues
The monthly housing allowance payment rate for those enrolled solely in distance learning is half the national average of the BAH rates payable for an E-5 with dependents in the continental U.S. ($684 per month for the current academic year). A student can receive the full housing rate by attending one “brick and mortar’’ class where he or she physically attends.

The housing allowance for attending a foreign school is based on the average of the BAH rates payable for an E-5 with dependents in the continental U.S. (currently $1,368 per month).

Please share this information with the students you know. Understanding when housing payments are received and planning for lower payments due to breaks between terms can be critical to ensuring student’s success.

Answers to your questions regarding GI Bill Housing Payments can be found at www.GIBill.Va.gov <http://www.gibill.va.gov/>. If you have a question about your individual GI Bill payments, please submit your questions through the following link https://gibill.custhelp.com/ <https://gibill.custhelp.com/>

5 Tips for Saving on College

Let’s face it. College tuition can be expensive. If you think about it in real terms, the annual cost of attending some colleges can equate to purchasing a new car each year. It seems absurd, right? Like many others, you might be wondering “How am I ever going to pay for college” and “Is there anything that I can do to lower my costs?” As a college graduate, current graduate student, and high school teacher, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to save on college:

Consider attending a community college first and transferring after two years. Some states, such as Virginia and California, offer guaranteed admissions to certain four-year institution of higher education for students who complete two years at a community college. You can get your prerequisite classes out of the way and save yourself quite a lot of money in the process. Additionally, SAT and ACT scores aren't required to get into community college – another money-saving perk. Taking a path like this is a great way to prevent you from borrowing more money than needed.

Just because you are awarded a sum of money doesn't mean that you have to borrow all of it. Look at your finances, your tuition/school costs, and borrow only what you need. If you want to accept less than what you were offered, let your school know ASAP because borrowing more than you need will cost you extra in the long run.

There is a lot of free money out there. That’s right. I said FREE money; so go find it! You can get it in the form of a scholarship – a sum of money awarded to students to help pay for school. Scholarships are different than loans in that they do not need to be paid back; they are completely free. So, look into applying for scholarships before borrowing a loan. There are thousands of scholarships out there. Scholarships come in all forms – large, small, national, local, etc. On top of that, there are scholarships catered for people of certain ethnicity, locations, majors, religions, skills, along with many other classifications. Think of any topic, and there is probably a scholarship for it – the best homemade duct tape prom outfit, a scholarship for being tall, and a candy technology scholarship. So, my advice is: look into applying for scholarships before borrowing money. Check out College Board’s Scholarship Search to find scholarships that fit your individual characteristics.

In order to reduce the amount of money that you need to borrow, consider getting a job while you attend school. You might even be able to find a part-time job somewhere – perhaps the school library or IT help desk – that allows you to study while you work. Additionally, there are federal and statewide work study programs that can help you earn money to help pay for college, reducing the amount you need to borrow.

When borrowing loans, choose federal student loans over private student loans. If you receive a federal loan, it will have a fixed interest rate , whereas private loans may fluctuate. Moreover, federal loans offer many options for repayment, forbearance, and deferment. Learn more about the differences between federal and private loans.

It’s always a nice feeling to save money. So, make sure to explore all of the money-saving options available to you, and you might be able to alleviate some of your college expenses.  If you have any other questions or concerns about saving on college, visit StudentAid.gov.

This article was originally posted on Homeroom the U.S. Department of Education's blog by Kelly Jubic. Kelly is a digital engagement intern at Federal Student Aid.

 

Military Student Loan Benefits from Dept. of ED

The Department of Education (ED) has released a brochure, entitled “For Members of the U.S. Armed Services: "What You Need to Know About Your Federal Student Loan Benefits.”
The free brochure includes special benefits and repayment options, helpful tips for active duty or deployed members, and useful student loan resources.

Service members can access the brochure at www.studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/militarystudent-loan-benefits.pdf

The following is a sample of the list of military student loan repayment benefits mentioned in the brochure.

MilStudent loan bigger