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Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

February 10, 2020

It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, students and their families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While high-income families may have the resources to pay tuition, footing the entire bill just isn’t realistic for some families, especially if they have more than one child attending college. This is why many students rely on financial aid to fund their education.

 

It’s generally known that students from lower-income families can qualify for special scholarships and grants that help fill the gap to fund their education, but for families around the middle-income tier, financial aid options may be harder to come by and make them feel that their options are limited. Rest assured that there are options for middle-class families to receive the financial assistance they need – it just may take a bit more effort.

 

FAFSA

When it comes to looking for financial aid for college, the FAFSA is a great place to start. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has no income cutoff for eligibility, so your child could still receive some need-based aid from the FAFSA, especially if he or she plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year prior to your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid. 

 

Scholarships

Researching and applying for scholarships has continually proven itself worthy of the effort. Many scholarships are merit-based instead of need-based, so your child may be eligible for many different scholarships depending on the qualifications. Start by looking for local scholarships – many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. If your child visits the school guidance office, they may have some applications on file. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they offer any type of 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 a good place to start. Finally, many colleges offer merit-based scholarships and endowment scholarships. Make sure your child looks for institutional scholarships at the school he or she plans to attend. You may discover that if your child joins a club or raises a standardized test score by a couple of points, he or she could receive thousands more dollars of financial aid.

 

Tuition Discounts

If a family member, such as a parent or grandparent attended the same college or university you’re enrolled in, you may receive a tuition discount. There may be additional requirements to qualifying for this discount, such as, your family member being active in the school’s alumni association or maintaining a certain GPA.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning credit has income requirements that exclude those who earn over and under certain amounts. 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 financial aid options and find you still have more 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 for you. 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 options,* click here.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels, but middle-income families often struggle the most to find good financial aid options because their finances fall between affording college and needing assistance. If your family is in this situation, don’t let it get you down. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. Don’t lose sight of the end goal – getting the degree you want and establishing a successful career. If you’re already looking for financial aid options, you’re well on your way.

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

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2020-02-05
7 Tips for Parents Paying A Child’s Student Loans

By Tracey Suhr   $233,610. This is the amount of money today’s average American family can expect to spend raising one child. If this seems like a lot, get ready for more sticker shock since this doesn’t include the cost of college. The average tuition at a public in-state school for the 2019-2020 school year is $10,116. Multiply that by four years (plus student loan interest), and you’re adding another $50,000+ to the total cost of raising a child.    If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely well aware of the cost of college, and you might now be looking for ways to help your son or daughter pay their college debt. Your recent graduate likely has a student loan (and if they’re lucky, parents who offered to make payments toward that loan). Or you might have taken out a parent loan* to fully cover the cost of college for your child. Either way, those loans are staring you in the face, begging to be paid.   Luckily, there are no rules against helping your son or daughter pay off student loan debt. Here are some tips for parents who are paying a child's student loans.  

Set Up Automatic Payments

The easiest way to help manage your child’s student loan debt is by setting up automatic payments from your checking or savings account. We all get busy and forget items on our to-do list. And while one or two missed payments might not make a difference, several can result in late fee charges and dings on your credit, especially if the loan is in your name or if you were a co-signer for the loan.   

Play By the Rules (Tax Rules)

If you help pay your child’s student loan debt, you might need to pay gift tax and file a gift tax return during tax season. A gift tax applies to the giver (that’s you) and to any contributions more than $15,000, as of 2020. Tuition is excluded from gift tax but, unfortunately,  loan payments are not. Double-check current IRS regulations around loan payments before making the decision to help pay your child’s student loan debt. Here is a current FAQ list around gift tax.  

Focus on Loans with High-Interest Rates

Look at all your loans—car loans, mortgage loans, credit card debt—and focus on those with the highest interest rate. If you have a credit card with an 18% interest rate, and the interest on your child’s student loan is just 8%, it would be wiser to focus on paying your card first. Even adding an extra $50 or $100 per paycheck to those higher rate loans can help in the long run.  

Prepay the Loan

If you receive a bonus or a cushy tax return, allocate those extra funds toward the student loan debt. By paying down your child’s student loan faster, you can reduce the total amount of interest paid over the life of the loan by paying less monthly interest.    You can also allocate extra funds toward paying your child’s student loans by rearranging other existing finances. For example, if you have multiple credit cards, consolidate the balances into one loan. A single loan with a fixed interest rate that’s lower than the APR on your credit card will help you simplify and save.   

Refinance Student Loans

Refinancing student loans is another way to simplify payments and readjust finances. Whether the loan is a parent loan or student loan, reducing the interest rate lowers monthly and total loan payments. You can also change the term of the loan to 5, 7, or 10 years to help lower monthly payments, allowing you to reallocate funds to other expenses or debts (refer back to our tip about paying off debts with high-interest rates first).   Related >> Should You Refinance Parent PLUS Loans?   ELFI offers student loan refinancing options for both parents and students, with some of the lowest student loan refinancing rates available and flexible terms. We also have no application fees, no loan origination fees, and no penalty of paying off your student loan early. See how much you could save with ELFI Student Loan Refinancing*.  

Set Up Biweekly vs. Monthly Payments

You might have noticed that some months, you get an extra paycheck. This is because the 52 weeks in a year don’t evenly divide into four weeks for every 12 months. You can take advantage of these extra four weeks by setting up biweekly loan payments. If your monthly payment is $300, and you readjust to paying $150 every other week, you pay the same amount each paycheck, but end up with an extra loan payment paid over the course of a year. This pays your student loan debt faster. Another bonus? This tip works for paying off any loans, not just student loans.   

Fully Understand Your Offer

Paying your child’s student loans, whether partially or in full, is a generous offer. It can help your new graduate get on his or her feet in the working world. It can also help free up money for dealing with other debts or life’s unexpected surprises. Since your offer also impacts your financial situation, be sure you fully understand the pros and cons. Consider how close you are to retirement, and if your 401k or other funds will suffer. Be aware of the balances and interest rates in your other debts.    Whether or not you chose to help your child pay their loan, student loan refinancing (or even refinancing your parent loan) can help avoid the hassle of multiple payments and get a more affordable rate and flexible terms. See if you qualify for student loan refinancing*.   
  *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.
2020-01-28
Helping Your Child Refinance Their Student Loans

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

As a parent, it can be frustrating to watch your child pay so much toward their student loans each month rather than use their money to buy a home or invest for their futures. One strategy your children can use to accelerate their debt repayment and reach their goals faster is student loan refinancing. With this approach, they can get a lower interest rate and save money over the length of their loan.

 

If they don’t know where to start or how to go about refinancing student loans, there are several ways parents can help.

 

1. Research different lenders

There are dozens of student loan refinancing companies out there, but they’re very different from one another. Help your child find the best lender for them by considering the following factors:

  • Fixed and variable interest rates: Not all lenders offer refinancing loans with fixed and variable interest rates. If your child wants to pay off their debt as quickly as possible, opting for a variable-rate loan can be a smart idea. Variable-rate loans tend to have lower interest rates at first than fixed-rate loans, helping them save money.
  • Competitive rates: The rate your child can qualify for can vary widely from lender to lender. Get quotes from multiple lenders to get the best rate possible. With Education Loan Finance, your child can get a rate quote without affecting their credit score*.
  • Forbearance options: Most student loan refinancing lenders don’t offer forbearance in cases of financial hardship, but there are a few that do. That perk can be a significant benefit if your child loses their job or becomes ill.
 

2. Look up their student loans

To pay for school, your child likely took out several different student loans. Over time, those loans can be transferred and sold, making it easy to lose track of them. To help your child refinance their student loan debt, help them locate their loans and identify their loan servicers.

  • For federal student loans: Have your child log in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) with their Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Once they’re signed in, they can see what federal loans are under their name and who is currently servicing the debt. Remember, the NSLDS contains sensitive information, so make sure your child never shares their FSA ID or other account details.
  • For private student loans: Private student loans won’t show up on the NSLDS. Instead, your child will have to review their credit report to find their loans. They can do so for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. The credit report will list all active accounts under their name, including student loans.
 

3. Create a monthly budget with your child

Even if your child earns a good salary and has excellent future earning potential, it’s a good idea for them to come up with a budget before moving forward with the student loan refinancing process. By seeing how much they have coming in and how much they spend each month, they can better come up with a plan to repay their loans.

 

You can sit down with your child and make a budget together. While you can use paper and pen, your child may find programs like Mint or You Need a Budget — which automatically sync with their financial accounts — more intuitive.

 

Make sure your child considers all of their expenses, including rent, utilities, student loan payments, and extras for entertainment. A portion of the money left over after covering their set expenses can be put toward additional student loan payments, reducing the interest that accrues over the length of the loan.

 

If your child wants to pay off their debt as quickly as possible, there are a few lifestyle changes you can suggest to help them reach their goals: 

  • Get a roommate: While it may not sound glamorous, getting a roommate can cut your child’s living expenses in half. If your child puts the money saved toward their student loan balances, they can cut months or even years off their loan term.
  • Increase income: Boosting income is key to your child’s financial success. If they’ve been working for a while and have been performing well, encourage them to ask for a raise at their next review. Or, they can work additional overtime hours or freelance on the side to earn extra money.
  • Cut back: Review your child’s bank and credit card statements with them and look for areas where your child may be able to cut back. For example, maybe they can skip dining out so often and cook more at home. Over time, the savings can be substantial.
 

4. Show them how to check their credit report

When your child applies for a refinancing loan, the lenders will review their credit report. Before your child submits an application, help them check their credit.

 

Your child can view their credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Review it alongside your child and look for errors, such as accounts that don’t belong to your child. If there are any issues, help your child dispute them with each credit bureau to improve their credit report.

 

5. Co-sign their student loan refinancing application

If your child recently graduated, they may have insufficient credit to qualify for a student loan refinancing by themselves. If that’s the case, you can help them manage their debt by acting as a co-signer on the loan.

 

As a co-signer, you’re applying for the loan along with your child. If your child can’t keep up with the payments, you’ll be liable for them, instead. Because you share responsibility for the loan, there’s less risk to the lender. Having a co-signer makes it more likely that a lender will approve your child for a loan, and give them a competitive interest rate.

 

Refinancing student loans

Student loan refinancing can be a smart way for your child to tackle their debt. However, recent graduates may not be aware of refinancing or how to proceed. As a parent, you can help your child tackle their debt by walking them through the refinancing process. With your help, they can refinance their education loans and become debt-free years earlier than expected.

 

Looking for more tips as a parent of a college graduate? If you took out student loans in your own name to help pay for your child’s education, parent student loan refinancing can be a smart strategy for you, too. With Education Loan Finance, you can refinance as little as $15,000 in parent loans and have up to 10 years to repay the loan.*

 
 

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.

2020-01-27
FAFSA Deadlines for 2020

Congratulations! You are graduating high school and taking the next step into college. You may have been accepted into different schools and still deciding where you will attend or you have already been admitted into your dream school and are now wondering how you will pay for it. Whether you’re already committed to a school or still planning your future, it’s important to know what the FAFSA is and the deadlines associated with it when you are figuring out how to pay for college.

 

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You should complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible to receive federal, state financial aid, and aid from your school. The aid can be in the form of grants, scholarships, work study, and federal student loans. The application is easy to complete online or by paper. The application provides the necessary information to calculate your financial need to see what aid you would be eligible for. There are no income limitations so it’s smart to fill out FAFSA regardless of your financial situation. Even if you think you and/or your family may not qualify for financial aid, you will not know for sure until your university’s financial aid office reviews your application.

 

Note: As the name states it is a free application, so be aware of any websites that charge you to fill out the application to avoid any scams!

 

Who Should File the FAFSA?

If you are a senior in high school and will be attending college you should fill out the form. Also, returning college students who previously filled out the FAFSA must fill out the FAFSA every year while in school. The information allows financial aid offices to determine your financial need.
  • Your financial need is determined by taking the Cost of Attendance (COA) and subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  COA - EFC = Financial Need.
  • The COA is different for each school and includes tuition, books, supplies, transportation, and room and board.
  • Your EFC is calculated by a formula established by law based on the information provided on the FAFSA. The formula takes into account your family’s income, assets, and family size, among other factors for a dependent student.
  • If your EFC is low you may be eligible for more financial aid.
  So how does all this work? Here is an example:
  • You plan to attend a school with a COA of $25,000.
  • Your EFC is $10,000.
  • $25,000 - $10,000 = $15,000 is your financial need. This amount could be awarded to you in grants by the school, state or federal grants or by subsidized federal student loans.
 

Preparing to File the FAFSA

Ready to file? Here is the information you will need to complete the application.
  • If you are a dependent student (receiving financial help from parents) you will need the following for both you and your parents:
    • Social Security Number
    • Tax returns
    • Bank statements
  •  You will also need to apply for a FSA ID. This is a username and password that will allow you to access the Federal Student Aid’s system to complete and sign the FAFSA electronically.
 

Important Dates to Know

The earlier you file the FAFSA, the better because you will be eligible for more aid. It is also important to file before the federal deadline because some states set their own deadlines that may be earlier than the federal deadline. Your state may also require an additional form, so be sure to check the Federal Student Aid website to see what your state requires. In addition, some schools have an earlier deadline then the federal deadline so you should check with your school’s financial aid office to ensure that you don’t miss their deadline.

  The important federal dates to know are:
  • October 1 - the application becomes available
  • June 30 - the deadline to file each year
The application becomes available on October 1, the year before you would start school. While you have until June 30 after the school year to submit the application, it’s advantageous for you to apply as early as possible.   This means for the 2019-2020 school year the application became available on October 1, 2018 and the deadline is June 30, 2020. For the 2020-2021 school year the application became available on October 1, 2019 and must be submitted by June 30, 2021. On October 1, 2020 the application for the 2021-2022 school year will become available.  

Other Options: Private Student Loans and Student Loan Refinancing

Maybe you didn’t know about the financial aid process and the deadline passed or didn’t receive enough aid and are looking to cover the gap in education expenses. Luckily, there are other options to help you pay for school.   Private student loans are a great resource to help you pay for higher education. Private student loans are from a private lending company or bank that you can use to pay for your school expenses included in the cost of attendance. You can apply for private student loans at any time. Just like with the FAFSA, you will need to provide some financial information and documents, such as your most recent W-2 and paystub. If you do not have these items you may need a co-signer, such as a parent, who will have these documents.   There are many private lenders so it’s best to do your research and compare. You want a lender that is reputable and offers a good rate on your loan. It’s also important to compare the terms of any loan offers. For example, you should check if there is a prepayment penalty on the loan or any fees associated with the loan.   A private student loan company should make the process easy. At ELFI there are no fees to apply, no origination fees and no prepayment penalties*. There are also flexible repayment options. The online application is a simple process that allows you to see personal rates within minutes and you receive a dedicated Personal Loan Advisor to help you through the loan process.   Private student loan companies can also help if you have already taken out loans. Through student loan refinancing*, you can reduce the interest you are paying on your student loans and as a result, reduce your monthly payments and the amount you pay over the lifetime of the loan. To see how much you could save by refinancing, check out our student loan refinance calculator.  

Bottom Line

Mark the dates in your calendar and be sure to fill out the FAFSA early. Paying for school can be one less worry if you plan ahead!  
 

*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.