Loan Repayment- it’s a thing

Graduation is an incredibly exciting time. The thought of walking across that stage and finally being finished with school is enough to push you through that final stretch of presentations, papers and extreme consumption of coffee. With your thoughts on the future and what your post-graduation plans are there is one thing to keep in mind- loan repayment (sorry buzzkill) For the purposes of financial aid we will focus on repayment options for the most common student loan debt- Stafford loans. However it is important to keep in mind that if you have borrowed Perkin’s, Mass No Interest Loans, or any private loans that those all have various repayment options as well.

Once you graduate your grace period will begin. For students who have not taken any time off between school years this will be 6 months. In these six months you will be contacted by your assigned loan servicer. The Department of Education uses several different servicers for billing and repayment for student loans and it is your responsivity to stay in touch with your servicer. Your servicer will be your main point of contact from here on out. You can look at your repayment options and even begin the consolidation process with them.

Now two questions may come to mind at the moment- what are the repayment options and what is consolidation? Great questions! I wanted you to ask those so that worked out well- didn’t it? There are various repayment options that you can look into with your loan servicer. There is the Standard Plan, Extended Plan, Graduated Plan, and Income- Based Plan.

The Standard repayment plan is the plan that your loan servicer will place you on automatically if you do not chose another plan. This plan will save you money over time because the payments are usually larger but you also pay the loan off in a shorter time, thus saving you money on interest. These loan payments are minimum $50 a month and are made for up to 10 years (for non-consolidated loans only).

The Extended repayment plan lowers your monthly payments but increases the amount of time you are paying off for your loans. Instead of payments over 10 years the payments are made for up to 25 years. In order to qualify for this plan you must have over $30,000 in outstanding Direct Loans.

The Graduated repayment plan begins your payments lower and gradually increases every two years. Payments are made for up to 10 years (for non-consolidated loans) and payments will never be less than the amount of interest accrued between payments. This plan is a good option if your income starts low but you expect to increase over time.

Income- based repayment are plans that are designed to make your debt manageable by decreasing your monthly payment amount to a certain percentage of your discretionary income annually. There are three different income based repayment plans and each have their own timeline and payment percentage differences.

Since we have reviewed the different repayment options for your loans it’s time to talk consolidation. Loan consolidation allows you to combine federal loans into one loan which results in one single monthly payment instead of multiple payments for each loan. There is no fee for applying to consolidate your loans but you should carefully consider whether or not it is the right option for you. You will be able to simplify your loan repayment process but centralizing your bill into one and give yourself up to 30 years to repay all the loans. Loan consolidation will also take your variable interest rates for each loan give you a fixed interest rate for all the consolidated loans. This is usually an average between all of your interest rates so for example let’s say you have three loans at 3.5%, 4.6% and 6.2% the average interest rate between the three is 4.7% so you lose that lower interest rate but also decrease the overall interest for some loans. For information about the pros and cons about consolidation check out this great article from SALT.

Hopefully this doesn’t dampen your spirits too much- remember that graduating college is a great accomplishment and an investment in your future. As always we are here to answer any questions you may have!

Until next time!!

-Mady

Scholarships 101

Today Wentworth’s various endowed scholarships will become available on Academic Works. These scholarships are a great opportunity for student’s to get additional funds to help with the cost of their education and we have lots of them!

For those of you who don’t know these scholarship opportunities are available due to generous donations made to the college from various sources, including alumni, faculty, staff, corporations and one from our very own President Pantic!

It is important to note that in most cases you must be a returning WIT student to be considered, meaning you have completed at least one semester at WIT during the 14/15 academic year.

There are some specific qualifications set by the donors for the awards but it is easy to tell on Academic Works if you fit the qualifications or not. In this post we will review best practices for these applications and tips on how to maximize your chances of being awarded a scholarship.

First things first, let’s go over how to actually apply. Go to www.wit.academicworks.com and log in with your standard Wentworth log-in (what you use to get into the computer). This should direct you to the main scholarship page where you can submit your General Application, let’s call it GA for short. The GA is probably the most important part of your application so be sure to fill it out to the best of your abilities. There are three sections to the GA- demographic questions, activities, and essays.

Please note that ALL questions MUST be answered fully in order to even be considered for a scholarship. We will NOT consider anyone who does not fully complete the application. This means that if you do not answer even one of the essay questions your application will not be considered.

Now that we’ve gotten that bit out-of-the-way let’s talk about best practices. The first section of demographic information is pretty simple and straightforward. We recommend using your WIT email address on the application itself.

The second section is all about activities. Now these can range from on campus involvement, high school activities, Co-Op’s, Internships, jobs, anything really! Just list the relevant items that you are doing while enrolled at WIT.

The third section is arguably the most important the essays. There are four different essay questions that, again, must ALL be fully answered to be considered. Grammar and spelling do count towards your consideration so we recommend writing your essays in a program like Word so that you can run the checks on the essays. The scholarship committee uses these essays to get a feel for who you are, your goals, and why you would benefit from this award so be honest but also remember that you are applying for scholarship funds so appropriate language is key. There is a minimum character requirement (150 characters) but feel free to write until you feel the question is answered fully.

The cool thing about Academic Works is that once you hit that submit button you will be auto-matched to various scholarships based on your qualifications. It is still important to go through the scholarships to apply directly to some awards as some of the scholarships require additional information that is not covered in the general application.

Once you’ve applied to all the scholarships you feel you would be a good match for and you have fully submitted your application there isn’t much else you need to do. Review will begin over the summer and awarding takes some time on the committee part. You can expect to hear back in the fall semester.

We also highly recommend that students look to outside scholarships to assist with your balance. As we’ve mentioned in our past few posts, SALT is such a great resource for students on how to find scholarships that best suit their needs. We recommend starting with this article on “Where to Find Scholarships” as a great jumping off point. If you are an International student check out this video to help you in your search as it can be a bit more complicated.

As always if you have questions feel free to contact us!

See you next time!

-Mady

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