ELFI is monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and following guidance from state and federal agencies. If you have been impacted by the Coronavirus, our Customer Care Center is available to help you.
×
TAGS
For College
For Parents

Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

October 21, 2019

It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While some may have the resources to pay tuition, many just do not have that kind of money lying around. Thankfully, there are plenty of options when it comes to reducing the cost of college. We’re sharing the steps middle-income families can take to secure various types of financial aid.

 

FAFSA

If you’re looking for financial aid options, you should start by filling out The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA. Even as a middle-income family, you may still receive some need-based aid, especially if your student plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. Further, many scholarships require the student to fill out the FAFSA anyway. Over $120 billion are awarded through federal grants, work-studies and loans every year, so why not throw your name in the hat? The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year before your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid.

 

Scholarships

Perhaps the best thing your child can do is research and apply for scholarships, and it pays to go local. Many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they provide any scholarships or financial aid for employees’ children. After exhausting local options, your child may want to research national opportunities. A quick web search could reveal countless free scholarships – Niche®, Fastweb®, and eCampusTours® are an excellent place to start. Just remember, scholarships are not exempt from internet scams, so do your research and make sure they’re legitimate. The FTC warns families to be cautious if the following lines are included in the application:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
  • “You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
  • “I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
  • “We’ll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee.”
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.”
  • “You’ve been selected” by a “national foundation” to receive a scholarship – or “You’re a finalist” in a contest you never entered.

Source: FTC

 

Finally, seek out the colleges that offer the best financial aid packages. Student Loan Hero recently highlighted 50 U.S. Colleges With the Most Generous Financial Aid Packages, and yours may be on their list! If it’s not, reach out to your school’s financial aid office, and they’ll be happy to provide you with all of your options.

 

Tuition Discounts

While you’re asking about scholarships, inquire about tuition discounts.

 

Sibling Discounts: Sometimes, if more than one child is enrolled at the same college or university, the school may offer a tuition discount. Often the discount is only applied to one sibling’s tuition, but it is still helpful for the family’s overall finances. These discounts can range from a flat rate to a percentage off each semester or each year. If your children are planning on enrolling at the same school, this option is worth seeking out.

 

Military Discounts: Colleges may also offer discounts to military veterans and their families. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 ensures veterans and dependent family members will not be charged out-of-state tuition if they meet specific requirements. Again, check with the school’s financial aid department to see if they offer “military-friendly” discounts.

 

Alumni Discounts: If you attended your child’s school of choice, your child may be eligible for scholarships, discounts, or other benefits. Many colleges have legacy programs, competitive scholarships, or even special legacy tuition rates. If you have other family connections to the university like grandparents, make sure you talk to an admissions counselor about the financial aid options available.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning Credit provides a 20 percent tax credit for the first $10,000 in yearly, qualified tuition expenses. Programs like this, as well as tuition savings plans, offer a few different ways for middle-income families to receive tax benefits.

 

Federal Loans

If you’ve taken advantage of all your aid options and find you still have a debt to pay, it may be time to consider loans. Non-need based federal loans such as the Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for students and the Federal PLUS Loan for parents can bridge whatever gap you find in your aid and your expenses. Federal education loans generally have low-interest rates or may be tax-deductible, so they’re a smart alternative to using a credit card, for example.

 

Private Loans

You may find that you still need financial assistance after exhausting all the options above. If that’s the case, private student loans may be an option. We always recommend you take advantage of grants, scholarships, and federal aid before taking out a private student loan. To learn more about ELFI’s private student loan options1, click here.

 

Other Qualifications

Remember that financial aid in the form of discounts and scholarships aren’t always one and done. Even if you’re getting a scholarship based on your family history or some type of local competitive scholarship, you may be required to meet certain qualifications to receive the money. Sometimes you might be required to complete a number of service hours or stay enrolled in school full-time to keep your scholarship, for example. Make sure you know any additional qualifications or requirements before applying for the scholarship or another type of aid – you don’t want to be caught off-guard.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels. If you find yourself in that position, don’t despair. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. No matter what, don’t lose sight of the end goal: getting a degree and ultimately establishing a sustainable career. If you’re already looking for financial aid, you’re well on your way.

 

 


1Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Use your student discounts
2020-07-27
Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, and More: Getting the Most Out of Student Discounts

Student life can be expensive, but the good news is, most businesses are aware of that. Many provide college student discounts and special offers.   With the new school year rapidly approaching, now is the time to take advantage of the many deals available to you. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of student discounts to help you save some money during college.  

Music Streaming Services

If you’re into streaming music, you’re in luck. Many music streaming services provide large discounts to students.
Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube Music, and Tidal all offer 50% discounts to students for up to eight semesters. Some subscriptions even offer additional benefits, for example, Spotify provides student members with access to both Hulu and Showtime.  

Apple

Apple is currently offering a variety of back to school deals for students or and teachers. Qualifying product purchases, including many models of MacBooks and iPads, come with a free pair of AirPods.  

Amazon

Let’s be honest. We all love two-day free shipping. What a wonderful feeling it is to order something and have it delivered to your door in what feels like no time. The good news is, Amazon offers a Prime Student discount. After a six-month free trial, students can access Amazon Prime for $59 a year.   In addition to two-day free shipping, a prime student membership includes access to Prime Video and Amazon Prime Music. Canceling a membership is easy, so even if you don’t choose to pay for the membership, it’s worth taking advantage of the six-month free trial.  

Best Buy and Other Tech Retailers

If you’re on the market for some new tech, don’t miss Best Buy’s student discount program. From TVs to TI-84s, Best Buy offers student discounts on a variety of products. A number of other tech retailers, including Logitech and Lenovo, also offer student discounts.  

Clothing Retailer Discounts

If you’re a fashion icon, these retailers have your back. JCrew, Banana Republic, TopShop, H&M, and many other clothing retailers offer student discounts of around 10%-15%. Retail discounts will occasionally stack with other promotions, as well. For even better deals, check out your local Goodwill, as they, too, often offer student discounts.  

Software Discounts

A number of companies provide student discounts on software. For instance, Adobe offers a 60% discount on their Creative Cloud software for students. Github also provides a number of developer tools at discounted student rates. If you’re into producing music, Ableton Live offers a student discount. For note-takers, Evernote offers their premium accounts at a 50% student discount. If you’re not looking to spend any money, check with your college to see if they provide any free software. For example, many colleges provide access to Creative Cloud programs and the Microsoft office suite, accessible through your .edu email.  

News Sites

Several newspapers offer student discounts for current college students. The New York Times offers a discounted plan for students at $1.00 a week, which includes online access to the newspaper’s complete archives and articles. The Wall Street Journal offers a comparable student discount for digital access to the newspaper, and an additional option at $10 a month to receive a print copy of the newspaper six days a week.  

Service Discounts

When you think of service discounts, senior discounts often come to mind. Several service-based industries, however, also offer student discounts. Many museums offer free or reduced admission to students. Several movie theater chains such as Regal and Cinemark also offer student discounts.   If you’ve caught the travel bug, don’t forget to keep an eye out for travel discounts. Amtrak, for example, offers regional student discounts. Greyhound has a similar program, offering 20% discounts to students. Student airfare is even up for grabs, so make sure to check with your airline before you buy your tickets.  

Car Insurance Discounts

It’s no secret that car insurance is expensive for young people. Fortunately, many car insurance providers offer student discounts to help balance some of that cost. These discounts vary by provider, but often include discounts for good grades.   If you participate in any campus-sponsored activities, keep an eye out for organization-based discounts. For instance, Geico offers discounts to members of some fraternities, sororities, and honors societies.  

Cell Phone Plan Discounts

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all offer special student pricing. Several of them also offer student phone discounts. However, these discounts vary, so it’s best to check with your cell service provider and university to find out what discounts are available for students.  

UNiDAYS

UNiDAYS is a great website for finding college student discounts on almost anything. It functions as a platform that shows student discounts as well as verifies the student. It makes it easy to apply student discounts to wherever you shop regularly.   By no means is this a conclusive list of all student discounts. If you’re curious whether a place you frequent offers student savings, the best thing you can do is ask. The discounts add up over time, so take advantage of them whenever you can.   If you’ve already graduated and you’re looking to save a little money, you may be out of luck on the student discount front. However, there are other ways to save money after graduation. One such option is refinancing student loan debt. Check out your student loan refinance options with ELFI.*  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.   *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
2020 graduate cap
2020-06-10
Tips for 2020 Graduates Entering the Job Market

While your last semester may have been online, you’ve graduated nonetheless, and you’re finally ready to head out into the world and face the job market. After graduating amidst a global pandemic, you may feel a bit uncertain about your job prospects coming out of college. The fact is you’re entering the job market at a somewhat inopportune time – job openings on Glassdoor have dropped 20.5% after all, and articles are published weekly on the status of the 2020 graduate. However, there’s no need to panic. We’re here to tell you that you’re more prepared than you think, and there are still jobs out there for you. But just in case you feel uncertain, we’ve compiled 5 tips to help you seamlessly enter the job market.  

Be Practical

It’s no secret that the economy is on somewhat shaky footing, making it a little more difficult than usual to get that perfect job. Obviously, that perfect job is the ideal, but now is the time to be practical and expand your job search. Look in areas that you may not have considered before or in fields other than your major. These may be lower-paying than you’d hope for, but the work experience is still valuable, and stepping out of your comfort zone won’t go unnoticed when pursuing future opportunities. Search on job sites like Indeed for entry-level jobs and work from there. Your college also likely has a career center that can help you find employment. Reach out to them to see what help they can offer. Many colleges have partnered with platforms like Handshake that serve to link students with employers.  

Acquire Skills

If you want to hold out for a job in your chosen field, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Now is the perfect time to acquire skills that your employers will find valuable and that will benefit you in the long run. You might take this time to practice job interviews to improve your interview skills. The more interviews you do, the more comfortable you will be during them. As such, never turn one down, even if you aren’t interested. It’s still worth gaining the experience. As for skills that will make you more appealing to prospective employers, sites like Linkedin Learning can help you brush up on things you know or help you pick up new skills. Online classes can also serve as a way to pass the time while acquiring new skills. While building new skills doesn’t bring in immediate income, these skills will serve to make you more valuable to a prospective employer and could improve your income in the future.  

Polish What Employers Will See

Employers see a wide variety of things when looking at a prospective candidate. The resume is perhaps one of the most important. Now is the time to perfect your resume. Add in any relevant work experience you may have forgotten to add. Do some research on what employers are looking for on a resume. This should be an ongoing process. Your resume should be constantly evolving as you acquire new skills and experiences. Likewise, this is the perfect time to get your social media profiles polished. Many employers use social media as a vetting tool for prospective employees. Remove any material that could hinder you from being hired, and, in particular, get your Linkedin profile as professional and complete as possible. Employers love Linkedin, and as more and more of the hiring process is moved online, it has become an invaluable tool for them to look at prospective hires. Thus, it is important for your Linkedin to be filled out and representative of you and your workplace skills  

Expand Your Circle

As important as your skills, networking is essential is you are in the job market. Particularly in these uncertain times, an effective network can mean the difference between being employed and not. Reach out to people in your field via Linkedin or other social media outlets. Ask questions and demonstrate your interest. You may be able to get an interview with them. Even if a job doesn’t come of it, your demonstrated interest will place you in the back of their minds as well as provide you with valuable interview experience. Similarly, interacting with people within your prospective field on any of your social media platforms is beneficial to you. Employers want to see that you are engaged within the wider community of the field. Also, be sure to attend virtual industry meetups and conventions. The importance of becoming involved cannot be understated.  

Persevere

It’s important to treat your job search as a job because, for a time, it is your job. Stay at it, and constantly be reaching out to prospective employers. It can be hard to stay motivated in the job search, but remember that this is necessary. Plan out your job search and keep track of the contacts you make. They could be useful later on. Make sure to take breaks when necessary. Like any job, the job search is tiring and can lead to burnout, so make sure that you rest between sending out those surges of applications. Eventually, you will make it.   Congratulations on graduating. Now for your next challenge. It would be a lie to claim this as a great time to enter the job market, and it is certainly an unfortunate time for you to graduate. The job search will be difficult, but by working hard and following these five tips, you could certainly still succeed. You can do it. If you’re looking for more post-graduation tips, we’ve got you covered. Check out this article on saving money after graduation.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
college student refinancing student loans
2020-05-26
Can You Refinance Student Loans While in School?

If you have student loans you probably have wondered what’s the best way to handle them. Should you wait to pay them after graduation or start paying them while in school? Or maybe you have heard about student loan refinancing and are wondering if it is right for you. Read on to find out one way you can manage your student loans that will benefit you right now.  

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

When you refinance student loans you take out a new loan to pay off one or multiple federal or private student loans. You will have a new loan term and presumably a lower interest rate. You can refinance to a new loan with the same amount of years left as your old loan or stretch out the term to allow a longer time for repayment. If you increase the amount of time to repay this will lower your monthly payment but likely will cause you to pay more interest over the loan term.   

Can You Refinance Student Loans While in School?  

The short answer is yes, but it may be difficult to find a lender that you can refinance with if you are still in college. Many lenders require a Bachelor’s degree as an eligibility requirement for refinancing. The other
requirements to refinance* with ELFI include: 
  • You must have a credit score of at least 680 and a minimum yearly income of $35,000. 
  • Must have a minimum credit history of 36 months.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, the age of majority. 
  If you cannot currently meet these requirements, you can have a cosigner that fits these requirements.     If you have federal student loans some may argue you should wait to refinance them until you graduate because they offer more flexibility with deferment and forbearance. However, some private lenders also offer deferment and forbearance options. Some other things to consider are:
  • If you think you will get a job in the public sector that would qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may not want to refinance because you would lose the benefit of having your federal student loans forgiven under the program. 
  • If you think you will want to take advantage of an income-driven repayment plan when you graduate, you may not want to refinance because this is only offered for federal student loans. Tip: Be aware that when you take advantage of income-driven repayment plans, your monthly payment is lower, but you will end up paying more for the loan in interest costs.   
  There are many benefits to refinancing while in school to put you on a better financial path when you graduate. The average college graduate has $31,172 in student loans. However, you can work to reduce that amount by refinancing. Student loan refinancing can be beneficial for many reasons: 
  • Consolidate - Refinancing allows you to consolidate multiple federal and private student loans into one new loan. You can refinance some or all of your loans. Consolidation makes it easier to manage one loan as opposed to multiple loans. With only one loan you will be less likely to miss a due date, and avoid any associated late fees. 
  • Lowers Interest Rate - When you refinance you can potentially qualify for a lower interest rate. A lower interest rate saves you in interest costs over the life of the loan. 
    • If you have unsubsidized federal student loans (the ones where interest accrues while you are in school) your loans could be growing by an average of 4.53%. But if you refinance you may qualify for a lower rate, as low as 3.86%, and less interest would be accruing. 
  • Lower Monthly Payment - If you score a lower interest rate when you refinance you will be paying a lower monthly payment. To find out how much you could potentially save, use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*  
  • New Lender - Do you always have trouble with customer service when you want to ask a question about your loan? When you refinance, you can get a new lender if you choose. It’s great to find a lender with high customer reviews. At ELFI we pride ourselves on providing award-winning customer service. 
  • Fixed Interest Rate - if you have a loan with a variable interest rate it may be more advantageous to refinance and lock in a fixed interest rate. With a variable interest rate your payment can increase when interest rates increase, which could put a financial strain on your budget. 
  Important tip: if you refinance while in school and after graduation your credit score and income increase, you can always try refinancing your loan again to possibly get an even lower rate.*   

Conclusion

Researching how to handle your student loans while still in school is a great initiative to set yourself up for a strong financial future after graduation. Student loans may seem like a heavy burden, but utilizing resources available to you will make the monthly payments easier on your budget.  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.