What if I want to use my refund for…?

It’s that time of year here at Wentworth where we are gearing up to issue refunds to students who have a credit on their account from federal or institutional financial aid. Whatever that credit amount on your account currently you are required to spend the money on eligible education-related expenses if that credit came from financial aid from the federal government or Wentworth funds. Now what do those educational related expenses include? Well that’s why we are here!

We made a handy- dandy chart that outlines some potential expenses and whether or not you are permitted to use your federal refund money on.

What I want to buy Can I?
Textbooks for class Yes!
Gas for my car to get to school Yes!
Pay rent or utility bills Yes!
Buy new clothes or shoes No
Pay my credit card bill No
Return my funds to the Department of Education Yes!
Purchase a monthly T-Pass Yes!
Buy a Valentine’s Day present No
Get a new videogame No
Refinance other debts No
Groceries living off campus Yes!

Now obviously this list is not exhaustive. If in doubt you can reach out to your counselor to see if an expense qualifies as an education-related expense. We highly recommend utilizing a budget tool to ensure that your refund will stretch as far as possible. If you’ve never designed a budget before never fear because all Wentworth students have access to SALT and can check out some great articles designed for assisting first time budgeters. If you haven’t registered yet it takes about 30 seconds at http://www.saltmoney.org.

Until next time!

-Mady

SALT- It’s not just for food!

You may have heard the word “salt” uttered around the Student Service Center and while some may have been talking about the delicious seasoning the rest of us were talking about $alt Money.

Salt is a nonprofit organization that was created by the American Student Assistance to help students around the United States make great decisions about paying for and paying back the cost of their education. And the best thing? It’s free.

Salt strives to help each and every student who wants a college degree get it in the most financially responsible way possible. They can help you compare loan options- both federal and private, personalize a repayment plan for loans and even have resources on how to find scholarships, internships and jobs! It’s really a full circle type of deal with them.

Salt also provides information based on the type of degree you are interested in. From Associate’s to Master’s degree’s Salt has a plethora of resources available no matter what you want from your tenure in higher education.

So how can you take advantage of this great- and did I mention free- resource? By going to https://www.saltmoney.org/register/ right now and registering with your Wentworth email address. Registration takes about 30 seconds to unlock a world of amazing articles, resources and guides. That’s like listening to a chorus of a Taylor Swift song.

Each month we are going to be highlighting one of Salt’s great features and providing some great information and articles on a wide range of topics. Interested in scholarships? How about loan repayment? No matter where you are in your Wentworth career there is something for you.

Check out this blog each month for posts on the following topics:

February: Refunds and budgeting

March: Scholarships

April: Loan Repayment

May: Career and job applications

June: Financial aid awards

July: Loans- federal and private

August- Budgeting 101

Until next time!

Mady

Hey ho lets FAFSA!

Every year on January 1st we celebrate the beginning of a new FAFSA becoming available for students. It’s a time of new beginnings and resolutions to complete the FAFSA as early as possible. This post will help you in that resolution.

Now you may be thinking “Filing now?!- but I haven’t even started to think of my 2014 taxes!!!” but that’s okay because did you know you can file the FAFSA before you have done your taxes? That’s right. You can use estimations based on last year’s income and knowledge of your family’s situation to best represent your actual income and plug those numbers into the FAFSA. They don’t have to be perfect- but they should be as close to the actual figures as possible.

We highly recommend submitting the FAFSA as early as possible as some of our financial aid is awarded on a first come- first serve basis and we do award based on the initial FAFSA filing date.

Here is the information you will need before filing the FAFSA:

  1. Your social security number
  2. Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a US Citizen
  3. Your federal income tax information
  4. Bank statements/ records of investments (if applicable)
  5. Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  6. Your Federal Student Aid PIN to sign electronically (If you forgot or do not have a Federal PIN please go to https://pin.ed.gov/PINWebApp/pinindex.jsp)

Please note if you are a dependent student you will need most if the information above for your parent(s) as well.

Now you probably woke up this morning eager and ready to file that FAFSA after a quiet night of celebrations and already have all this information ready. Well the next step is to go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and sign in with that pretty pin of yours and get started on next year’s FAFSA! When you are ready you will need to enter Wentworth’s school code to ensure that the FAFSA is sent to us. When that time comes please enter in 002225-00 and submit that. This will now automatically send us your FAFSA data.

In most cases your estimated family contribution will be calculated after you submit the FAFSA. This number will help the school determine your need and what financial aid you are eligible for.

Now you may be wondering what happens after you file your FAFSA. Well we don’t award students until later in the spring so you won’t be hearing anything from us regarding the actual financial aid award offer until later. We typically will award financial aid to new incoming students in March and returning students in June. However there are some other things you can do in the meantime.

  • Once you and/or your parent(s) file taxes you can import that data directly into the FAFSA by using the data retrieval tool. We highly recommend that all families use this tool so that the information is as accurate as possible.
  • If you are selected for verification you won’t be able to submit the documentation until later in the spring to the Student Service Center but you can make note and start gathering whatever documentation will be required. (Please note if you are a returning student selected for verification you cannot be awarded financial aid until you hand in all required verification documentation and it is processed)

If you have questions about the FAFSA we highly recommend visiting their FAQ at https://fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm as it should answer most of your questions. You can always contact them through a number of ways at https://fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm.

Until next time!

-Mady

R2D2.. no wait R2T4? *Sigh* Federal Refund Policy

The Department of Education requires that institutions that award federal financial aid such as loans and/or grants have a policy  that outlines what happens when a student withdraws or otherwise fails to complete a term for which financial aid was awarded or paid out to the account.

So what does that mean for you- the student? Essentially if you end up withdrawing from a given term/ semester there are some things you need to be aware of.

If you withdraw you need to fill out a Voluntary Withdrawal Petition and turn it into the Student Service Center so the Financial Aid Office is aware of your last date of attendance. After that we calculate the percentage of student aid earned and what was “unearned” in the semester. If you completed MORE than 60% of the semester then you would be eligible to keep 100% the financial aid awarded. But let’s say you completed 58% or 14% or 37% then you may be required to pay all or a portion of the financial aid back that you received in that semester. Make sense? Good.

Now you may be asking “well Financial Aid Office, how DO you calculate the total amount of earned aid?” Well that is a great question and let me give you a breakdown. Basically we take the number of days completed and divide that by the total number of calendar days in the semester. If this percentage ends up being less than 60% then we calculate the amount of unearned funds and what would need to be returned to the federal government, if anything. Funds are returned in the following order:

  1. Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
  2. Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan
  3. Federal Perkin’s Loan
  4. Federal Direct PLUS loan (parent)
  5. Federal Direct PLUS loan (grad)
  6. Federal Pell Grant
  7. Federal SEOG

Still with me? Well here’s an example to help explain it.

Let’s say Mady is enrolled in the chemical engineering program but decides she wants to leave Wentworth to go study The Theory of Doctor Who at another school. She fills out the withdrawal petition and takes it to the Student Service Center for processing. After the calculations the Financial Aid Office has determined that she has attended 52 of the 98 days- or speaking in percentages 53%. That’s below the 60% mark which means they will need to figure out how much of the funding she received has to be returned. This term Mady received a Pell grant for $1,000 and a Subsidized Stafford Loan for $3,500. We take the TOTAL amount of Title IV aid disbursed $4,500 and multiply that by the 53% which gives us the earned and unearned aid.

Let’s present this in a more math friendly way- shall we?

$4,500 total aid X 53% competition= Earned Aid of $2,385 and Unearned Aid of $2,115.

Now there are several steps even AFTER all these calculations but those would be done on a case by case basis. Essentially it means figuring out what the school has to return, what the student has to return, and if there is any remaining balance how the student intends on paying that to the school. We go through the same process with institutional aid so these policies also apply to your Wentworth Grants and your Merit Scholarships and all that jazz.

You may also encounter procedures for post withdrawal disbursements which basically means that we will notify you if you are eligible for a disbursement of financial aid AFTER your official withdrawal from the school.

If you are intending in withdrawing from the university you MUST submit the Voluntary Withdrawal Petition to the school in order to officially withdrawal.

While we don’t wish to see any of our students leave we definitely understand the reasons as to why students go. It’s always encourage to discuss your particular case with your academic advisor, billing counselor and financial aid counselor before you move forward with it. Any questions you can reach out to our office and we can assist!

See you next time!

-Mady

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