Constitution Day!!

Each year on September 17th we celebrate Constitution Day which is a celebration of the signing of the US constitution in 1787 (it was officially ratified by the states in 1788 but let’s not get too technical here). As I am sure you know the Constitution is the supreme law in the United States. The framework for our country was established through the constitution. Since its inception it has been amended 27 times which roughly balances out to an amendment every 8.4 years.

The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights and address two major concerns of the founding fathers; protecting individual freedom and the balance of power between the states, federal government, and the people. The Bill of Rights was added into the constitution in 1791 and cover important subjects such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The amendments that follow in the constitution range a variety of subjects; including voting rights, prohibition and the ratification of that amendment, and abolishing slavery.

Here are some fun facts about the constitution and the amendments that followed.

  • The 27th amendment was first introduced on September 15th, 1789. Yes- you read that correctly. 1789. It was finally ratified on May 7th, 1992 which means that it took OVER 200 years to get passed. The next longest passage took almost 4 years so that is one big time difference
  • The Constitution was penned by a man named Jacob Shallus for $30 a day (now would be over $700 a day)
  • The Constitution was written in secret, behind closed doors that were guarded by sentries (Think like this but you know… not British)
  • There are various spelling errors in the Constitution but the most obvious one is the misspelling of “Pensylvania” right above the signatures
  • There have been over 500 proposed amendments to change the electoral college system of election we still have today but none of them have been successful
  • The first national Thanksgiving Day was established for November 26th, 1789 by George Washington as a way to give thanks for the Constitution
  • Over 11,000 amendments have been introduced to Congress but only 27 of them have passed. That’s approximately .0024% approval rate

We asked some of our financial aid counselors to see what they thought the post important aspects of the Constitution was. Their responses ranged over various fundamental elements to amendments.

Shannon Glaser, one of our Associate Directors stated the most important elements would be the 19th amendment which prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex and the 21st amendment which was the repeal of prohibition. That’s good news for Shannon since if you recall she brews her own line of beers.

Rae Daniel, one of our financial aid counselors said the 15th amendment which prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or the previous condition of servitude.

Ned Konin is rather fond of the third amendment which prohibited the quartering of soldier’s in private homes without the owner’s consent during peacetime. It’s a rare one but who are we to judge.

Mady Scolnick had a few items on her list. She thinks in the original constitution the checks and balances system that was created with the three different branches of government was incredibly important for shaping our country. She also is fond of the 19th amendment like Shannon which granted women the right to vote and the 1st amendment which grants freedom of speech, press, religion, and the right to assemble.

So which part of the constitution do you hold nearest and dearest to your heart? Send us your thoughts here, via Twitter or by email (contact scolnickm@wit.edu) for a chance to win a cool prize!

Thanks for tuning in- see you next time!!!

-MS

FERPA stands for what?

FERPA- it is not just a funny phrase you hear higher education professionals throwing around. FERPA stands for The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and that name may not help you understand it any better but that is what we are here for. FERPA was passed in 1974 and is a federal law in place to protect student’s attending higher education institutions.

FERPA comes into effect when a student enrolls in an institution of higher education and/or the student turns 18. At Wentworth, the student is considered as enrolled once the student registers for a course. There are several rights granted to students under the FERPA act in regards to their educational records.

Students have the right to consent to disclose personally identifiable information contained in their educational records. Without such a consent no information regarding a student’s account may be disclosed to any party- including parent’s/ spouse or other family members

As a student you have to inform Wentworth of any and all people you consent us  to speak regarding your accounts, account, grades, financial aid records, billing, payments, and veteran records. That means your parents, spouse, other family members, and guidance counselors, etc. 

No information or  records will  be released unless you provide written consent by completing the  FERPA Form that student’s submit you can indicate all educational records or just a few.

As the student it is your decision. You can submit the release from by completing the form (http://www.wit.edu/ssc/forms/FERPA%20release%20form%20WIT.pdf) and returning it in person at the Student Service Center, or by mail, fax (617-989-4201) or e-mail (ssc@wit.edu.)

Hopefully this helped explain FERPA! As always see you next time!

-Mady

Hey, why did my aid change?

If you are a returning student here at Wentworth you may have received an email informing you that your financial aid award for the 2014-2015 academic year is now available from Wentworth. If you did not receive such an email we recommend checking your L-Connect account to see if you were selected for verification or if there are any other missing requirements which may be holding up your financial aid package. If there are no missing requirements we ask that you be patient as the awards are still being generated.

If you are one of the over 1,300 students to receive that email you may or may not have noticed some changes in your financial aid between last year and this year. There are several reasons this change could occur and we hope to ease some of your questions/ concerns in this post!

The most common reason that your financial aid may change could be differences in the Estimated Family Contribution between last year and this year. As a reminder the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) is a number generated by the FASFA that estimates how much you/ your family will be able to contribute to your education within a given year. Year to year it is common for the EFC to fluctuate and that fluctuation may change your eligibility for financial aid. Let’s say for example that you were eligible for a Pell Grant last year but this year you do not see it on your financial aid package. It is highly likely that your EFC has increased and taken you out of the threshold for the Pell Grant. Unless your EFC decreases then you would not be eligible for Pell this year.

Since we package students on a first come, first serve basis there may be financial aid that is exhausted before we package students with later FAFSA dates. The FAFSA  application for the next year becomes available on January 1st and you can start submitting your application as early as that date. You can use estimations on the initial FAFSA and after you file taxes make corrections based on the actual information later. We highly recommend student’s file as soon as possible as many need based funds such as Perkin’s or Gilbert Grants can be exhausted very quickly. If you had them last year and don’t see them on your package this year that may be the reason why in addition to the above mentioned EFC changes.

If you see an odd amount of Stafford loans on your account that isn’t in line with what you have been offered in the past you could be reaching the aggregate limit for Stafford loans. Dependent student’s have an aggregate lifetime limit of $31,000 and independent undergraduate students or students with prior PLUS loan denials have a limit of $57,500  for both Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans. Once you have reached the lifetime limit there is no increasing that amount and you would not see Stafford loans on your financial aid awards in the future.

These are just a few reasons that your award may vary year to year. There are many more reasons that can be far less common than the ones listed above. If you do have more in depth questions that this post can’t answer we recommend contacting your financial aid counselor or submit a question here! Until next time!

-Mady

Soooooo now what?

Are you officially a member of the Class of 2018? Well let’s start off by saying we are SO excited to have you join the Wentworth community (you may or may not be counting down the days till you arrive… its  102 by the way). You may be wondering where you go from here. What are your next action steps? Well, if you are this post will hopefully answer any questions you may have.

The good news is that until bills become available there is not a ton of things that can really happen. E-Bills for the Fall 2014 semester will be available on your L-Connect account beginning June 20th.

After the bills become available on June 20th then you and your family will have until July 31st to have a payment method in place for any remaining balance that financial aid is not covering. The bills are done on a semester basis so you will only see the balance for the fall but that does not mean you cannot apply for loans for the year’s balance. Basically just take that balance- multiply by two and viola- a pretty good estimate of your year’s balance. Please note that the housing deposits you made thus far are ONLY for the fall semester. There is an additional deposit for each semester you are attending.

There are a few different ways in which you can cover any remaining balance. First, there are Parent Plus or alternative loans. Parent Plus loans are taken out by the parent of dependent students and the loan is entirely on the parent and not the student. Check out our “Game of Loans” post to see the interest rates on Parent Plus loans for next year. If you don’t want to go that route we have a list of commonly used alternative loans by Wentworth students in the past three years. This is not an exhaustive list of potential lenders but just some options that other students have utilized.

If Parent Plus/ alternative loans are not the route you want to go Wentworth does offer a payment plan through Tuition Management System. Our website has plenty of information about the various plans you can create so we highly recommend checking it out here if your family decides to do that.

You can also pay your bill in its entirety without setting up a payment plan or seeking an alternative loan. We have several different methods of paying your bill outlined here that should prove helpful.

The other big item on your list should be deciding, if you have not done so already, what financial aid you plan to accept. Scholarships and grants are automatically accepted so you don’t have to worry about that but when it comes to the Stafford loans and the Work Study you have a decision to make. If you do decide to accept all the aid that was offered to you would need to do so on your L-Connect account. If you decided to accept the Stafford loans then you will need to sign onto http://www.studentloans.gov and complete the Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling for the loans. You will NOT be able to receive these loans until you complete these two items. They are very important and outline important points to know when borrowing these loans so don’t take it too lightly. While it may take upwards of an hour to complete it really is there to assist you.

If you were selected for verification and have not sent in the required paperwork you should definitely get the ball rolling on that. You can see any outstanding requirements on your L-Connect account and can find information regarding verification and what that means here.

Again, until the bills become available it’s really a waiting period for new students at this point. If you are a returning student then you are probably waiting on your financial aid package (which we will have ready for you shortly), completing verification requirements or just enjoying your summer/ taking courses. Enjoy the calm and quiet and as usual contact us if you have any questions!

Until next time!

-Mady

Game of Loans

If you are intending on accepting the Stafford loans offered by the federal government then you definitely need to read this. Each year the federal government powers that be meet and come up with the new interest rates for the Stafford loans for all different levels.

To review there are two different kinds of Stafford loans- subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Subsidized Stafford loans interest is paid by the federal government while the student is enrolled half time or more in school so it does not accrue interest for the student to pay while they are in school. Unsubsidized loans do accrue interest while in school. There are also Direct Plus (Parent and Grad) loans whose interest rates are also controlled by the feds.

Without further ado, here are the interest rates for Stafford and Direct Plus loans for 2014-2015 academic year.

Direct Subsidized loans for undergraduate students: 4.66% 

Direct Unsubsidized loans for undergraduate students: 4.66%

Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate/ professional students: 6.21%

Direct Plus Loans: 7.21% 

Those are the interest rates you can expect to see for loans that are disbursed between July 1st, 2014 and July 1st, 2015. There will probably be new interest rates each year for the loans so it will be good to keep track of what loans are gaining what interest while you are in school.

Aside from the interest rate, Stafford and Plus loans also have something called an “origination fee.”  This is a fee that is withheld from every loan that is paid for by the federal government and is included in the total amount you borrow from the government. First let’s review what the origination fee percentages are and then what that means for your balance.

For Direct Stafford Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford loans the loan fee percent is going to be at 1.073% and for Plus loans it will be 4.292%.

So what does that mean for your balance? It means that if you have the full $5,500 Subsidized Stafford loan as a junior or senior then $59.01 of that amount is going to be withheld and $5,440.99 will pay to your account balance BUT it is important to remember that you are borrowing the full $5,500 and will have to pay that amount back instead of what actually pays to your account.

So that’s the important news going around in the world of student loans these days. If you have questions please let us know! We understand that student loans can be a complicated business and we financial aid counselors are more than happy to help clear those murky waters.

Until next time!

-Mady

Special Circumstances

Here at Wentworth we do understand that sometimes the FASFA/ Federal Government don’t take certain things into consideration when generating that Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). I mentioned awhile back or sometimes things just happen that are unavoidable and deeply affect your financial situation.

These situations are called “special circumstances” and you can submit a review of your financial aid package if your family fits into one of the categories for a review. We have a two-step process for financial aid appeals. First we verify ALL students who are submitting their information for an appeal. You can check out the “Verifica-what” post to get a general idea of what verification is. Typically for this you would need for this is to either use the Data Retrieval Tool directly on the FASFA or submit copies of your IRS Tax Transcripts along with a household form. Other forms may be required if your family falls above the asset threshold but we will take those on by a case by case basis.

The second step is to complete all the paperwork outlined on the special circumstances form. Please note that we will ONLY accept appeals once they have been fully completed. We will not review any appeals that are incomplete or missing items.

So what situations would qualify your family for a special circumstances review? Well there are 7 different situations and each of them has specific requirements for additional paperwork so we ask that before you submit the form please ensure that you have gotten ALL the required paperwork. You can find that info on the special circumstances form.

First up is loss of employment. If you, your parent or spouse has been out of work for AT LEAST 6 months and you expect that your 2014 income will be less than your 2013 earned income information then you would qualify for this review.

The second is loss of taxable income in the form of child support, alimony or worker’s compensation. If your family received benefits in 2013 that has been ceased or reduced then you could submit an appeal for this.

The third is if you or your parents have separated or divorced AFTER filing the FASFA. This must be a legal separation or divorce with documentation to support the claim.

The fourth is if a parent or spouse has died AFTER you filed the FASFA.

The fifth covers one time income distributions. If you, your spouse or your parents received a one-time income distribution in 2013 which could include a pension, IRA distribution, inheritance or bonus and that income is not available for educational purposes you can submit an appeal.

The last section is medical/ dental expenses. If you, your spouse or parent’s out of pocket medical or dental expenses exceeded 11% of your total adjusted gross income then you would qualify for this review. A quick way to find out if you do is to take what your total AGI is for 2013, multiply it by 11% and that will give you the number that your out of pocket medical expenses has to exceed.

Under those outlined circumstances we can review financial aid packages. Special circumstances DO NOT include the following items:

  • students or parents who do not wish to take out loans to cover educational expenses
  • parents who do not wish to contribute to their child’s educational expenses
  • student loans taken out for other family members in college
  • Expenses like credit card debt, wedding expenses, sports, enrichment activities, etc.

We do require at least TWO weeks for a special circumstances review. Those two weeks begin after the complete file has been submitted. If you are planning on submitting an appeal or are questioning if you fall into one of the categories then we highly encourage you to reach out to your counselor to talk through the situation.

Stay tuned for more exciting information about the world of financial aid!

-Mady

Verifica-what?

Were you selected for a little something called verification or are you just super interested in learning all there is about financial aid? Well then our post this week has your name on it. Well not literally. You get my drift.

Verification is controlled by the federal government. They randomly select a population of people who submitted FASFA’s each year to go through the process but there are some things that may trigger you to be not so randomly selected for verification. For example let’s say you put on your FASFA that your Adjusted Gross Income was the same amount as the taxes you paid. Well, the government is going to see that and go ” this person made a mistake let’s flag them for verification” and you have to provide various documentation to your school in order to complete the verification.

As with everything in financial aid, verification is super simple- wait hold on I meant can be kind of difficult to wrap your head around.  There are different verification groups that you could end up in depending on what information the government would like to confirm. They are referred to as V1-V6 groups.

V1 Verification group is the most common and is considered the standard verification group. This verification group basically needs to verify your household information and your income information for both tax filers and nontax filers. You would typically provide a household size form and either use the data retrieval tool on the FASFA through the IRS or request your IRS Tax Transcripts from the IRS website. There may be other forms on a case by case basis but this is the easiest group to understand and the most common.

V2 doesn’t exist anymore so let’s just move on shall we.

V3 is the Child Support Paid verification group. It’s pretty self explanatory. You need to provide information on child support paid by the student (or their spouse), the student’s parent’s or both.

V4  is a custom verification group. It could include verifying high school completion status, an identity/ statement of educational purpose, SNAP benefit overview, Child Support Paid, all sorts of fun stuff. If you are selected for this group then information about what you need should be on your LConnect account but you can also check in with your FA counselor.

V5 is the Aggregate Verification Group. Sounds intimidating, right? Well, not really as it’s just a combination of the other verification groups and basically means that you need to verify a multitude of information that could include income information for tax filers and nontax filers, high school competition, identity/ statement of educational purpose, SNAP, Child Support, basically anything that fits into the other groups could be thrown into here.

And finally we have the V6 verification group which is the… drum roll please…. Household Resources Verification Group! Such fun! This verification group is broken down by whether or not you are a tax filer or a nontax filer. As a tax filer you would need to verify your income information, household size, SNAP, Child Support, whatever is applicable to your information. It’s similar to V1 verification but is not exactly the same because V6 is commonly associated with those who have lower income brackets than others. If you are a tax nonfiler- meaning you didn’t make enough or didn’t work to file taxes in the previous year then you would have to complete an untaxed income clarification form as well as the household, child support, SNAP or whatever else was required for your case.

Now that we have gone through the various types of the ever so exciting verification I want to add a small disclaimer. There is not anything wrong with being selected. It doesn’t mean that the government doesn’t trust what you said or thinks you are lying it just means that they want to confirm whatever you put to make sure you are getting exactly what you should be getting. About 40% of the people who submit FASFA’s each year are selected. That’s a big population of people. Really you should be honored to be included.

And that concludes our post on verification! Stay tuned for our post next week on Special Circumstances (woooo!)

-Mady