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Grad Sense: A Financial Tool for Graduate Students

Thinking about grad school but you just are not sure how much it will benefit you?
GradSense.org is a website that helps you calculate how much you will get paid with a bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, or professional degree. This website also gives you valuable savings tips, loan repayment options, and job finding tips.

What is the average pay for people that graduate with your degree?
On the home screen it will prompt you with a question asking what your highest level of education will be at graduation. The next question asks what field of study you will attain with your degree. Grad Sense then takes this information and gives you a low median and high level of pay that you can expect after graduation.

How can you save money?
Under the Add It Up tab, Grad Sense gives you examples of ways that you could be saving money on everyday expenses. The compound interest calculator provides information on how much you can expect to save annually based on if you make your coffee at home rather than from a coffee shop, for example, while you’re in school. The calculator then shows you how much you can have saved by the time you retire if you invest these savings after graduation.

Do you want to know how long it will take you to repay your student loans?
Grad Sense shows you the different repayment options for federal student loans as well as some useful links under the Loan Repayment tab. It also gives you an example of how much a student with a $40,000 federal student loan would pay monthly under the standard, graduated, or extended repayment plans.

Need some job tips?
Grad Sense provides information about choosing a job based on the benefits it offers and even helps you develop good salary negotiating skills. Job salary is not everything. Sometimes job benefits can be very helpful, and you should make sure you know what benefits each company offers. After looking at the company’s benefits you need to negotiate your salary. Your job is to know what the salary range is for your position and negotiate your salary based on your experience and skills.

Tyler Larson
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Student Loan Servicers

A loan servicer is a company issued by the U.S. Department of Education that takes care of federal student loans. They deal with billing, loan consolidation, repayment plans and other services that are related to federal student loans.

When you are issued a student loan from the federal government, the government is not the one that holds on to them and keeps track of the information about the loan. The U.S. Department of Education passes your student loans to one of the eleven loan servicers after the loan amount is disbursed. A list of the loan servicers and their phone numbers for loans disbursed through the Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan) and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) are below:

Aspire Resources Inc. 1-855-475-3335
CornerStone 1-800-663-1662
ESA/Edfinancial 1-855-337-6884
FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA) 1-800-699-2908
Granite State – GSMR 1-888-556-0022
Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc. 1-800-236-4300
MOHELA 1-888-866-4352
Nelnet 1-888-486-4722
OSLA Servicing 1-866-264-9762
Sallie Mae 1-800-722-1300
VSAC Federal Loans 1-888-932-5626

To find out who your loan servicer is, start by going to the National Student Loan Data System website (nslds.ed.gov) to access information regarding your student loans you received from the federal government and the contact information of your loan servicer. If you received a loan in the current year or will receive a loan in the upcoming year, you will need to contact your financial aid office at your school over the status of the loan, loan disbursement timings and loan cancellation within 120 days of the loan disbursement. If the loan was disbursed in a prior year, then you will need to contact your loan servicer to get the information.

There are a number of reasons why you should be in contact with your loan servicer:
• Change in address, name or phone number
• Dropped below half-time status in school
• Stopped going to school
• Transferred to a new school
• Graduated

Once you graduate, this does not mean that you are done contacting your loan servicer. You will need to be in contact if you:
• Change your address, name, or phone number
• Need to change to a different repayment plan
• Have a question regarding your student loans or monthly payments

There may come a time when you find out that your loan servicer is changing to a new company. Do not worry if this happens. From time to time the Education Department transfers loans from servicer to servicer in the expectations that it will give more customer and repayment support. There are a few things that will happen if your loan servicer is transferred.
• You will receive an e-mail or letter from your current loan servicer when your loans are transferred to the new servicer.
• Your new servicer will then send you a welcome letter once they have your loans in their system, and in this letter should contain their contact information and how to proceed with them.
o You will have to create a new account with the new servicer.
o If you have your repayments set up through a bank, you will want to make sure and update the new information to have the payments sent to the new servicer.
• You will have the same terms of repayment.
• If you are making payments during the transfer process the servicers will work to make sure the payments are accounted for.

If you have a Federal Perkins Loan, and want to know who to contact, you will want to first contact the school that you attended when it was disbursed. Federal Perkins Loans are issued by the school, and will normally be the loan servicer as well. If you contact your school and find out that they are no longer the loan servicer for your loan, you will contact ECSI Federal Perkins Loan Servicer at 1-866-313-3797.

If you have a private student loan then you should contact the lender who you received the loan from for information about that loan.

Steven Plott
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Everything You Need to Know about the FAFSA

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that should be completed annually by any college student seeking student loans or grants for the next school year. To get any kind of federal financial aid, you must file the FAFSA. It will determine how much financial need you have for student loans, grants, and even work study. Federal student loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are loans that the federal government subsidizes for you while you are a student. That means that the interest on the loan is paid for you. Unsubsidized loans have interest that accumulates while you are in school. Grants do not need to be repaid. They are basically free money given based on need. Work study is given based on need as well. You work on campus part-time and get paid with that money.

Who is it for?

Subsidized loans are available for undergraduate college students with financial need. Unsubsidized loans are available for undergraduate and graduate college students with no requirement to show financial need. You must show financial need in order to qualify for grants and work study as an undergraduate and graduate student. You must also be at least a half-time student to receive federal financial aid.

When should it be done?

Submit your FAFSA application by March 1st for K-State because it is their priority deadline. That is when certain grants will be awarded to needy students. The sooner you submit your application, the better. Keep in mind that every school has a different priority deadline so make sure you know when it is. If you miss the priority deadline, it’s not too late! Go ahead and file your FAFSA as soon as possible.

Where to start?

Complete your FAFSA at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. If you have not completed the FAFSA previously, you and your parents may need to register for a Federal Student Aid PIN. You can do so at pin.ed.gov. Remember that pin and do not share it with anyone. It will serve as your electronic signature at the end of your application.

If you are a dependent of your parents’, then you will need their information in addition to yours. You will need social security numbers, 2013 federal income tax returns, bank and brokerage statements, and your PIN numbers.

You need your tax information for the FAFSA but if you have not done your taxes yet, then you should still submit it with estimates first. You can go back to it later and import your tax information directly to your FAFSA using the tax filing pin you created when doing your taxes.

Renewing your FAFSA

If you have completed the FAFSA before, it will be easier to fill it out now. Your information from prior years will be transferred, then you can just update your information with new tax return information, etc. You can use the import tool to retrieve your income tax information.

Melissa Daovannary
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Preparing for Next Semester

With finals right around the corner and winter break fast approaching, you may not even want to think about next semester yet.  However, it can save money to get ready for it sooner rather than later and you won’t have to worry about it when returning to campus.

There are many things you’ll need to consider when thinking about next semester including budgeting, financial aid, school supplies, textbooks, class registration, and class drop dates.

Budgeting

The first thing to do when preparing for next semester is to determine a budget.  A budget can help keep you on track and set financial goals, such as saving up for spring break.  It can help you know what spending money you have available and where you can work on spending less (and can even help you determine some New Year’s resolutions).

Financial Aid

Part of the budgeting process may involve student loans, scholarships, grants, and fellowships.  Look back over this past semester and see how much financial aid you accepted and determine if it was just enough or if you could have gotten by with less.  This involves taking a hard look at your spending over the past semester and seeing if there were times you could have saved money.  If you could have gotten by with less, then contact the financial aid office (http://www.k-state.edu/sfa/) to ask them to reduce the disbursement for next semester.  This will not only help you learn to control spending, but will also save you money in student loans and interest costs down the road.

School Supplies

School supplies can be relatively inexpensive by themselves, but over time, the total cost accumulates to a big amount.  Some ways to save money on school supplies are:

  • Make a list of what you need and stick to it.  It can be tempting to want to buy some supplies that could be useful, but you may not use them or need them when it comes time.
  • Buy in bulk.  If you know you will be using a certain supply frequently, it will save money to buy the large quantity that’s cheaper per unit.  For example, if you know you’ll be printing a lot of articles, contemplate buying the multiple pack of ink cartridges or the carton of paper instead of a ream each time you run out.  Costco can be a good place to look for bulk supplies
  • Look for coupons.  Many stores have coupons or weekly ads available on their sites and may advertise for upcoming sales.  Before setting out to shop, make sure to look for coupons or sales by going to the stores’ websites. Staples also has a 20-25% off brown bag sale for back-to-school times, so keep on the lookout for when that will be!
  • Think about holiday sales.  Some stores also have sales on holidays such as Boxing Day (December 26th) that can save you money.
  • Look around for what you may already have.  It can be easy to lose pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. Before going out and buying new supplies, scour your room for these missing items.

Textbooks

College textbooks can be a major drain to the bank account.  You can learn ways to save money on them by implementing these few tips.

Book requirements can be found at http://courses.k-state.edu/.  You can click course schedules, then select the year, select course schedule and finally select the department (which are arranged by colleges).  There’s a book icon you can click that will list the required, recommended, and optional books.  The direct link for next semesters’ books is http://courses.k-state.edu/spring2014/schedule.html.

Consider buying used instead of new.  Used books range from like-new to acceptable and are offered at a significantly reduced price.  Used books are sold by bookstores, major companies such as Amazon, and private sellers such as students who took the course previously.  You can compare used book prices at the following sites:

Consider renting textbooks instead of buying.  For some textbooks, you may only want to have the book for the course and won’t use it afterwards.  There are many sites, including Chegg and Amazon, that offer the option to rent the book for a month, a quarter, or a semester.  If you decide that you want to own the book after using it, you can pay the difference between the buy price and rent price and not have to return the book.  Beware when renting to return the book on time.  You may be charged late fees, an extra semester, or the cost of the book if you are late.

And finally, email your professors about buying international editions or previous versions.  Many textbook makers make a few changes and rerelease the book as a new version that can be charged at a higher price for those few changes.  Many times professors use the older version book anyway and would allow you to buy the old version as well.  This can shave a lot off the list price of the new version.  International versions typically have different covers, page numbers, and chapter orders than the United States versions, but contain the same information.  This can complicate reading assignments when you’re given the page numbers or chapter names, but can cut costs sometimes up to 50-75%.  For both of these options, make sure to ask your professors before making the purchases.

For more information on saving money on textbooks, you can visit http://lifehacker.com/5613591/the-complete-guide-to-getting-cheap-textbooks.

Registration/Drop Dates

You probably are already registered for classes next semester.  However, since your tuition is calculated based on the courses you are enrolled in, if you are contemplating adding or dropping a course, it may be helpful to make the final decision sooner rather than late.  That way, you won’t have to deal the complexities of either paying extra for a class added or going through the process of getting a refund to your account for classes dropped.

It’s also important to know when the refund drop dates are for courses.  These dates can be found by going through the academic calendar at http://www.k-state.edu/cgi-bin/eventview/registrar/academic.  For the spring 2014 semester, the last day to drop a course, but still get 100% of the tuition costs back is February 10th.  After that, you will only get 50% of the tuition cost back.  The last day to get 50% of the cost back will be February 17th.  If you are contemplating dropping a course, try and make this decision before these dates in order to get back your tuition costs.

The academic calendar will also inform you about the last days to drop a course before receiving a W or a WF.

Resources

For other money saving tips throughout the semester, check out these sites:

http://www.shmoop.com/college/save-money-in-college.html

http://moneyfor20s.about.com/u/ua/studentloans/best_college_savings_tips.htm

http://collegelife.about.com/od/moneyfinances/a/ManagingMoney.htm

http://blog.chegg.com/2013/08/02/on-a-budget-top-10-ways-to-save-money-at-college/

Christyne Stephenson
Peer Financial Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Income Based Repayment (IBR)

Graduating soon with an overwhelming amount of debt?  Will your salary not be enough to cover it?  You might be able to qualify for the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan.  The repayment plan is a new way to make your federal student loans more manageable.

The idea behind IBR is to allow for lower monthly payments based on your income and family size.    The loan payments are capped at 15% of your discretionary income.  This is decreasing to 10% in July 2014.  Discretionary income is defined as Adjusted Gross Income (income before taxes) minus 150% of the poverty line for your family size.  You may have a payment of $0 if your income is less than 150% of the poverty line!

You must reapply every year to stay on IBR.  However, if you do so for 25 years, your remaining debt and interest will be forgiven!  For new borrowers starting July 2014, this time period will decrease to 20 years.

If you have a public service job, IBR has more benefits for you.  You may qualify for public service loan forgiveness after only 10 years.

For more information, see www.IBRinfo.org.

 

Kari Christensen
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Financial Aid Tips for the Kansas State Student

That time is growing near to start thinking about finances for the coming school year.  A great way to find funding is through filling out the FAFSA. Here are some useful tips and resources for deciding which type of federal funding is best for you.

You should start the process now. The amount of financial aid available is limited, meaning federal funding is based on a first come, first served basis. If you have not yet begun this process, you can get started at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. You will need to fill in the required information as prompted throughout the procedure. If a question arises while filling out the FAFSA, you can contact your Student Financial Aid Advisor in the Office of Student Financial Assistance. This office is located in 104 Fairchild Hall and can be reached at 785-532-6420. The spring deadline in Kansas for turning in the FAFSA is April 1, 2012.

Once you have filled out the FAFSA and received financial aid, the office of Student Financial Assistance will inform you and it will show up in iSIS under Self Services=>Campus Finances=>View Financial Aid. It is now your choice to decide which aid you would like to accept; your choices may consist of:

Federal Direct Subsidized loans: a need based student loan. The federal government “subsidizes” this loan by paying the interest on it provided you pass all the eligibility requirements. Interest will be subsidized by the federal government for 6 months upon graduation. You will more than likely want to choose these types of loans before accepting an unsubsidized loan

Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans: which is a non-need based student loan. Accrued interest on this loan is your responsibility even while in school. You will want to accept these loans with caution, because interest will start building up as soon as you do.

Federal Parent Plus loans: a non- need based parent loan. If you accept this loan, your parent must apply for it and pass a credit check. Your parent will be responsible for repaying this loan including all accrued interest

Federal Grants: a need-based form of federal gift aid. Grants are basically free money and should be accepted because they are the lowest-cost financial aid, along with Federal Work-study and Scholarships.

Federal Work-study: According to Kansas State University’s financial aid description, Federal Work-Study is a need-based form of federal work aid. If you accept the award and secure a part-time Federal Work-Study job, this award can assist you in paying for college expenses. To learn more about this topic, go to www.k-state.edu/sfa/jobs. Participation in this part-time employment program will provide you with a paycheck on a bi-weekly schedule. Your pay will go directly to you and will not automatically offset any University charges you might have.

Private Scholarships: Private scholarships will also show up with your financial aid and will need to be accepted.

According to a tip found on https://www.nextstudent.com/financial-aid/financial-aid-tips/, “If you’re not happy with the financial aid packages you’re offered, negotiate. School financial aid officers develop the final student aid packages, and school officials may not fully understand your financial situation. Talk to them. Ask them how they arrived at the final numbers. Help them understand your position. Each school’s financial aid package may be different, so don’t give up until you’ve tried them all.”

Even though you have earned these funds this year, never stop looking for new scholarships or grants. Your financial aid eligibility can change from year to year. Financial aid is a great way to account for the cost of school, and there are many types of loans and grants available for students.

Also, if you have questions about this process, or any other questions regarding loan decisions and management, feel free to make an appointment on the Powercat Financial Counseling website: www.ksu.edu/pfc or call us at 785-532-2889.

Jessica Stewart
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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