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Preparing for FAFSA: Parent Edition

October 28, 2019

If you plan on sending your child to college, you’ve probably given some thought to financial aid. When you think of financial aid, the FAFSA may come to mind first. 

 

Already know what FAFSA is? Skip ahead to the next paragraph. 

 

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, must be submitted for your child to apply for federal and state financial aid for college, such as federal grants, work-study programs, and student loans. This application must be submitted each year that your child will require financial assistance. College admissions officers recommend that you complete the FAFSA application even if your child may not need financial aid. Some private scholarships at certain colleges even require the submission of the FAFSA application. Each school that you have listed on the FAFSA will receive your financial information after you’ve completed the form. 

 

When it comes to preparing your child for college, it’s important to understand the FAFSA process and the steps you should take when submitting it. Here are the things you should keep in mind when submitting the FAFSA with your child.

 

Submit the FAFSA Early

While this isn’t common knowledge, financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis in some states, specifically when it comes to Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG grants) and federal work-study programs. Because of this, it’s important to find out your prospective or current college’s priority deadline and submit your FAFSA application before it. 

 

While filing after the priority deadline won’t impact your child’s eligibility to receive federal student loans, they may end up taking out more in student loans due to missing out on other federal aid and even money from the institution. You can start the FAFSA application here. Find out some other important reasons why completing the FAFSA early is critical.

 

Create Your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID

The U.S Department of Education replaced the Federal Student Aid PIN with the FSA ID in 2015. Your FSA ID will be the username and password you will use to access certain federal student aid websites, including fafsa.gov, studentloans.gov, and even the myStudentAid mobile app

 

If your child is a dependent student and submits the FAFSA online, both you and your child will need to create an FSA ID. An FSA ID is required to sign the online FAFSA application, and you and your child cannot share an FSA ID since it serves as a signature and must be unique to each person. You can create your FSA ID here.

 

Use the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet

Before your child files the FAFSA online, it’s smart to check out the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. This worksheet consists of the questions you’ll see on the FAFSA so you can know the information your child will need when filling it out. 

 

Keep in mind that the FAFSA on the web worksheet is not part of the FAFSA application and will not be submitted – it’s simply a helpful guide for knowing what to expect on the FAFSA so you can organize your information. The questions are listed in the same order as they appear on the website and the app.

 

Gather Your Documents

When filling out the FAFSA, your child will be asked for basic personal information as well as information about your family’s financial situation. Depending on your situation, you and your child may need the following documents while filling out the application: 

 

  • Your child’s driver’s license and Social Security card
  • Income tax returns from the prior-prior year
  • W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Current bank statements
  • Records and documentation of other untaxed income received such as welfare benefits, Social Security income, veteran’s benefits, AFDC, or military or clergy allowances
  • Records of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments
  • Current mortgage information
  • Business or farm records (if applicable)

 

Most of the above-mentioned steps can be completed before October 1st, which is the earliest your child can submit the FAFSA for the following academic year. By being prepared, you can help ensure that your child’s FAFSA will be filed on time so he can get as much aid as possible for your family’s financial situation. For more information on the FAFSA, check out our blog, “What is FAFSA? And Why You Should Care,” and watch our quick video, “FAFSA 101: What You Need to Know About Paying for College.”

 

While financial aid and grants are certainly helpful methods of paying for college, sometimes they don’t cover the complete cost of school, meaning that additional expenses will need to be covered out-of-pocket or through student loans. When considering applying for federal or private student loans, it’s important to look at the details to determine which type of student loan will be best for you and your child’s future. 

 

If you need assistance in working through your options, contact ELFI. We have years of experience devoted to helping students realize their college dreams, so don’t wait – give us a call today.*

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

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photo representing financial aid options for middle income families
2020-02-10
Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

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.  

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.

parent and child looking at status of student loans
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.
woman helping child refinance student loans
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.