IRS Data Retrieval- An Update

For those of you in the past month or so who have attempted to use the IRS data retrieval tool on the FAFSA, you may have been shocked to find that the tool is currently unavailable. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows students and borrowers to transfer their tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA and online application for Income Driven Repayment Plans (IDR).

The data retrieval tool was turned off after concerns that the data could be used by identity thieves to file fraudulent tax returns. The Department of Education will be adding extra security measures to ensure that student and parent data are protected. They announced that they anticipate the data retrieval tool to be offline until October 2017, which is when the 2018/2019 FAFSA would become available.

While it is still possible to submit your FAFSA and application for IDR plans, you will be manually entering in the data from the relevant tax year.  To ensure the same level of accuracy when filing the FAFSA, we have a few recommendations to make the process easier.

  • Have you and your parents (if required) 2015 tax information on hand and in front of you ready to go
    1. If you do not have a copy of the tax return that you filed, you may request a tax return transcript at: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript
  • Do not include decimal points. When cents are included round up or down depending on the amount
  • Have your W2’s (and your parents if required) on hand to ensure wages are accurately reported

*For those of you who submitted a FAFSA in previous years, please note that it is imperative that all your information on the 2016/2017 FAFSA matches the 2017/2018 FAFSA when the 2015 information is required.

We highly encourage each student to review their Student Air Report (SAR) to see if they were selected for verification. If you were, we highly recommend requesting copies of your Tax Return Transcripts (https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript) as we are unable to use copies of 1040’s for verification purposes.

While the loss of the data retrieval tool will certainly complicate the FAFSA submission process, we highly encourage all eligible students to file ASAP to ensure timely processing for the upcoming academic year. As always, feel free to reach out to us should you have any questions!

Until next time!

Mady

** EDIT UPDATE

To ease the burden on students, the Department of Education has announced that they will now allow students and parents to submit copies of their 2015 tax returns for both the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 academic years.

Please note that these copies MUST be signed non-electronically. If the parents file a joint return both parents must sign the copy submitted to Wentworth.

Families are encouraged to submit copies of the Tax Return Transcripts as requested from: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript however if you are unable to obtain a copy you may submit your tax return to the school to satisfy tax verification requirements.

1098-T and the Tax Payer Relief Act

Ah, tax season. Everyone’s favorite season second only to fall. Whether it’s your first time filing taxes or your 5th, it’s important to know what potential tax benefits you may be eligible for. Let’s start with a wee history lesson, shall we?

The Tax Payer Relief act of 1997 created two possible tax incentives for students and their families. The American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning credit are tax credits that can be claimed for out-of-pocket tuition and fee expenses. Since Wentworth does not have any fees, in our case they can be used for tuition only.

The American Opportunity Credit is an up to $2,500 credit per student that can be claimed for only 4 years by either the student or family. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible but you must be enrolled in a degree program and be at least ½ time.

The Lifetime Learning Credit is a maximum of $2,000 credit that can be applied to both credit and noncredit courses. You also do not have to be enrolled at least ½ time to be eligible for this credit.

Quick important not here, you cannot combine both of the credits- only one can be used. You can learn more by checking out this great article from SALT Money! https://www.saltmoney.org/content/media/Article/your-college-education-may-come-with-tax-benefits/_/R-101-6591

To determine whether or not a student is eligible to claim these tax credits, Wentworth reports student enrollment data to both the IRS and student’s (via a 1098-T form).

We file 1098-T’s for any individual enrolled at Wentworth that has been billed for qualified tuition and related expenses during the calendar year (with a few exceptions, of course).

We do not file 1098-T’s for students who fulfill one (or more) of the following conditions

  • Entire qualified tuition and related expenses were waived or paid for with a scholarship or paid under a formal billing agreement where the institution only an employer or government entity
  • Nonresident aliens
  • International Students
  • Non matriculating students
  • Students enrolled in courses which no academic credit is offered

Now, it’s important to note that 1098-T’s do not HAVE to be used. They serve first and foremost as a verification of student’s enrollment during the calendar year. They will also list the amount of students qualified tuition and related expenses and the amounts received in scholarships and grants.

Wentworth reports enrollment, charges, and scholarship information on a calendar year basis. That means whatever tuition charges were applied during a calendar year will be reflected. Same goes for scholarship and grant funding that disbursed during the calendar year. We do not report payments made by students/ families.

For student’s that do a Co-Op term there are no tuition charges for the given term so while you are still registered the total tuition charges for the calendar year may be less than the scholarship and grant aid that disbursed. It is important to note that this information is correct and as a reminder, the forms are not required to be used. Ultimately, the information will balance out in the next academic year.

We do mail 1098-T forms out to student’s however they can also be accessed online at: https://tra.vangent.com/traPortal/app/login?execution=e2s1.

One final note, while we do generate the tax forms the staff of the Student Service Center are not considered tax experts. Should you have questions regarding your form and how to utilize it, we recommend contacting a tax expert!

To get some more information check out some information videos from FATV! https://wit.financialaidtv.com/play/1805-education-tax-benefits-and-credits/336-can-i-deduct-my-tuition-my-federal-taxes

Until next time!

Mady

How to plan a Halloween Party on a Budget

Ah fall. Such a wonderful time of year. Crisp air, beautiful leaves, jackets, scarves, boots (really all cold weather clothes), and our favorite holiday, Halloween. There are so many great things about Halloween but our personal favorite are costume parties. We’re here to help you figure out how to throw an awesome Halloween party without breaking the bank.

First step in any Halloween celebration is to figure out your costume. There are tons of costume stores all around Boston but they can get pretty pricy for something you’ll (probably) wear just once. Maybe this is the year to try a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) costume! TONS of options are out there and most sites will even provide helpful step-by-step instructions on how to create your costume. Try using clothes you already have in your closet and finding a way to incorporate those into your costume.  A quick Google search brought up 12.7 million results on DIY costumes so hopefully there is some inspiration out there for everyone.

If a DIY costume is not up your alley, you could host a costume swap before the party “officially” begins to trade costumes with your friends from previous years!

Our next recommendation for keeping your party in budget is to schedule your actual Halloween party the day, or weekend, after Halloween. Think of all the discounted candy you can buy to shower your guests with and you’ll get to continue to ride the Halloween spirit train (no pun intended).

Speaking of food, there are some great Halloween activities that can also feed your guests. If Pinterest can give you any idea there are literally hundreds of awesome Halloween treats you can have your guests decorate or participate in, but our top three are: Bobbing for apples, candy apple decoration, and lollypop ghosts.

Now that we’ve gotten food, activities, and costumes covered the next hot ticket item is decorations. Craft stores will often put Halloween decorations on sale right before and after Halloween so while pickings may be slimmer, you can get great discounts on awesome products. Small pumpkins bought in bulk spread out throughout your party space can give your home a quick and cheap fall feeling. If you’re feeling extra creative you can get some cheap paint or use a sharpie and put different faces on all of the pumpkins! Another great decoration idea are paper ghosts. There are a few different ways to accomplish paper ghosts, you can use standard white printing paper, tissue paper, or even cotton balls! Whatever you decide on, they are a cheap festive way to tie any space together.

There are TONS of other ways to keep your Halloween party on a budget. For assistance with crafting a budget for any time of year check out SALT Money!

Until next time!

Mady & Katie

Prior Prior Year or PPY

Now you may have heard those three magic words in recent times and filed them away in some portion of your brain to access later. Well, shockingly enough, it is now time to access those files and prepare yourself for the 2017/2018 FAFSA. Yes, you read that right.

About a year ago, President Obama made some small (aka large) changes to the FAFSA in terms of timeline and availability. Instead of the January 1st launch day for FAFSA, the FAFSA will now be available October 1st. Yes. October. 1st. Instead of using prior year income (meaning for 2016 FAFSA you used 2015 income data) the FAFSA will now utilize income information from two years prior.

Now you see how we got the name Prior-Prior Year.

You may be wondering what the benefits are to using income information from two years prior, rather than one year. Well the top benefit (in our opinion) is that your taxes will already be filed when you go to do the FAFSA. You will no longer have to estimate your income information and then go back into the FAFSA after you’ve filed to update your information. Even better, is that for most people they should be able to use data retrieval and directly import their data into the FAFSA.

For the upcoming FAFSA year, there will be a bit of a unique situation where the same tax info is used for two years. This makes it even more important to update your FAFSA with the correct figures so you don’t run into any issues in October!!

Federal Student Aid made a handy little chart which will help you visualize what FAFSA you need to submit depending on when you plan on enrolling

fafsa

It is important to note that here at Wentworth our timelines aren’t really going to be changing. We still have to wait on other information from the Department of Education before we are able to put awards available so even though FAFSA will be out in October students can still expect to receive their award info between March- June depending on if you are a new or returning student.

Want more info? We have a plethora of helpful resources provided below!

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/announcements/fafsa-changes

https://community.saltmoney.org/community/paying-for-college/blog/2016/8/22

http://wit.financialaidtv.com/#playlist-13876:video-0

Until next time!

Mady

 

A Day in the Life: The SSC Blogs

Up next in our series of staff profiles is Stephanie Reynolds. Stephanie has been working at Wentworth for (semi-close) to a year now! She has a bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater State University and a Master’s in Education for School Counseling from UMass Boston. She holds a license as a Massachusetts school counselor for grades 5-12 so baaaaaaasically she is equipped to handle any situation.

 

Okay, I won’t leave you waiting any longer. Here are her answers from our interview!

 

What do you love most about Wentworth?

 

Aside from the great education, what I love most about Wentworth is the people and the culture here on campus. I think students really find their “fit” here. I think it is easy to find other students with similar interests and there are so many organizations on campus that students can feel really connected with their peers.

 

In financial aid, I have been lucky to work with such a great group of counselors who really enjoy what they do. We are a group of 9 people all with different personalities but everyone works well together to provide the best service for our students and their families. Every day I look forward to seeing my coworkers and collaborating together!

 

What piece of advice would you offer to a student?

I would tell students to become informed consumers when it comes to their school finances. Don’t just have your parent or guardian handle everything for you. You want to make sure that you know what you are signing up for. Also, students should read as much as you can about loans and make sure you understand fully what you are taking out. You will need to pay your loans back and sometimes the amounts may have an effect on your finances after you graduate. You might have to put off getting an apartment or buying a house while you are trying to make loan payments!

Also, everything we send out is through email so make sure you check your Wentworth email account daily! And last of all, make sure you get involved as much as you can on campus. You want to take the best out of your college experience!

What are your job specialties?

I cover a caseload of students with last names R-V. I also help with Boston Public School scholarships and I work with the Perkins Loan program.

What is something someone may not know about you?

I am ambidextrous. I write primarily left handed but can play many sports using my right hand.

So that’s Stephanie, as you can see she is pretty awesome. Stay tuned for our next staff profile!

 

Until next time!

 

Mady

Ready for launch! FA GetAnswers

Here in the Financial Aid Office, we strive to educate the Wentworth community about all things financial aid in hopes of creating a greater sense of financial literacy amongst the community. From SALT to financial counselors to this blog we are always looking for new and exciting ways to educate.

We are so excited to be introducing Financial Aid TV GetAnswers! GetAnwers is an online library of short video clips that communicate complex financial aid information on demand in an easy to understand style. The videos are about 60-90 seconds long and range a vast number of topics from financial aid, financial literacy, loans, grants, veteran’s and more! We even have videos that are translated in Spanish and ones that’ll be of interest to your parents.

You can check out the entire series of videos here: http://wit.financialaidtv.com/ 

As you can see there are TONS of topics covered in these videos. If you find yourself at 1am curious about financial aid issues (totally happens all the time) you don’t have to wait for our office to open anymore.

The site is organized either by video or playlist. If there is a particular topic you want to know more about there may be a playlist to cover it!

As always, the financial aid office is happy to address any questions you may have so please feel free to reach out to your counselor anytime!

Until next time!

Mady


					

A Day in the Life: The SSC Blogs

As a refresher we have been working on blog posts all about our amazing staff members! We do these for a few reasons, first being that our office is packed full of awesome people, but second that we hope these posts will help you figure out who the best person to reach out to will be!

We did our first post on Katie Paquin (you can read that here!) but next up is another one of our financial aid counselors, Derek Lewis. Derek is a transplat from California that arrived in Boston for school about 12 years ago and never left! (Who can blame him? We are in such an awesome city) He has two degrees in French Horn Performance (BM and MM) but has been working in higher ed for a number of years. He was previously the Operations Assistant in the Admissions office here at Wentworth! You can still spot him playing his French horn all around Boston and we hope it’s the color blue! He enjoys making fermented pickles in the summer and roasting large pieces of meat in the winter.

What do you love most about Wentworth?

The proximity to the orange line. Also, working next to Dan Roark (one of our awesome registrar office members!). But seriously…

The staff and faculty for sure. Although I’m not a student here I do work with faculty and staff daily. I’ve had a few instances where I’ve approached faculty with questions about my own personal hobby projects and they have always been willing to take the time and help. It’s great to see a community that is devoted to all aspects of education.

What piece of advice would you offer to a student?

Make some friends and colleagues outside of your applied major. You never know when an opportunity for a collaboration will show itself down the road.

What are your job specialties?

In addition to being a financial aid counselor I am the Student Employment Coordinator.

What is something someone may not know about you?

My family tree has me linked to royalty in Luxembourg…I’m hoping to get a haunted castle out of it sometime in the future.

Final question- give us a fun fact about yourself.

I cure my own bacon and pancetta

We hoped you enjoyed learning about Derek! We will continue these series of posts throughout 2016 so keep an eye out!

Until next time!

Mady