Tag archive for "Financial Aid"

Pay for College, Resources

Spotlight on Ladder Up

No Comments 17 March 2017

Ladder Up is a community-based organization that provides people with resources and opportunities to move up the economic ladder. This organization provides participants with free programs to help students obtain financial aid to make their college dreams a reality.

This program is based in Chicago and visits local high schools — mainly Chicago public schools and charter schools — to give presentations on financial aid. With its Life-Improving Financial Tools (LIFT), Ladder Up helps participants and their families create a foundation for economic self-sufficiency. The sub-programs, Higher Education Access Initiative (HEAI) and Financial Literacy Program, help participants to secure financial aid for college and gain the appropriate skills to make smart financial choices. Participants learn about FAFSA, award letters, student loans, college finances and personal statements. One-on-one counseling also is offered for parents and students. Ladder Up offers counseling year-round for those who need it.

Students and parents alike can learn about financial aid opportunities through Ladder Up. Participants walk away with follow-up information about award letters, student loans and college finances. They also will learn how to successfully fill out the FAFSA. Keep an eye on Ladder Up’s website to see if they are hosting an event near you.

Ladder Up encourages financial responsibility going into college. Follow their mantra and check out your College Greenlight profile for the newest scholarships you are eligible for. College Greenlight regularly has been a beneficial scholarship resource for Ladder Up students.

Pay for College, Resources

How to Negotiate for More Financial Aid

No Comments 15 March 2017

If you are not happy with the financial aid package you’ve been offered, you do not have to settle for it. You have the option to appeal for more financial aid.

The first thing you need to do is come up with a plan. Study your college’s financial aid appeals process to know how to make your case. A common and effective way to do this is to write a direct letter to your financial aid office. Some colleges have a form to fill out.

These steps will guide you through the appeals process:

  1. Be as specific as possible when describing your financial situation. The financial aid office cannot help you if your appeal is too vague. Instead of saying you do not have enough money to cover tuition, you must explain why. Include facts, dates, figures and any other specifics that might help your case. Although you want to include details, keep the letter short. Do not bog it down with personal stories — write just the facts that affect your ability to pay. Be sure the amount you are asking for is reasonable as well. If a college thinks you are asking for too much, they may reject your appeal.
  2. List evidence and provide third-party documentation to back up your situation. Job loss, salary reduction, death of a wage earner or expenses for a special-needs child are among some of the reasons you could appeal need-based aid. Bills and receipts, letters of termination and bank statements are great examples of documentation. If you are looking to appeal for more merit-based aid, you can include a copy of a higher offer from another college, additional letters of recommendation or grades and awards. When the U.S. Department of Education audits colleges, they look at professional judgement appeals. They want to make sure any increase in financial aid is backed up by documentation.
  3. Mail your letter to the correct office. Contact the college and make sure you have the correct office. If you are sending a letter to appeal for more need-based financial aid, the letter should go to the financial aid office. If you are appealing for merit-based scholarships, contact the enrollment or admissions office. Explain to whoever you speak to that you want to initiate a Professional Judgement Review, which is the official term for an institution’s ability to review a student’s financial aid package and potentially increase it due to special circumstances. Do not try to begin the appeal over the phone – you just need to verify where to send the letter.
  4. Follow up. If you have not received a response to your letter within a week, follow up with the appropriate office. But remember, just because you are appealing your package, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed more money. Some colleges do not negotiate. The decision whether to make an adjustment to your financial aid package is entirely up to the college. But with a well-written letter, you will have a better chance at success.

FAFSA, Grants, Money, Scholarships

FAFSA and Financial Aid Tips for Low-Income Students

No Comments 23 February 2017

If you come from a low-income household, paying for college can be intimidating. Take a look at these tips financial aid and FAFSA tips to receive the most aid you are eligible for.

Apply for the FAFSA early. More than a dozen states award grants on a first-come, first-served basis. That means that the later you apply, the less likely you are to receive grants. Only about 33 percent of low-income students file the FAFSA during the first three months of application season. This is compared to 58 percent of middle-income students and more than 71 percent of high-income students. For this reason, low-income students tend to miss out on billions of dollars in grants by filing the FAFSA too late.

Use the IRS data retrieval tool. You must fill out more than 100 questions on the FAFSA – that can be intimidating if you do not understand each question. That is where the IRS data retrieval tool comes in. This tool will pull information from your tax returns and input them directly onto your FAFSA application.

Seek out free money. There is no limit on how many scholarships you can apply to. The more scholarships a student receives, the less their total out-of-pocket cost will be for college. We are always updating the College Greenlight scholarship database, so be sure to always check in on your scholarship matches. You should also look into grant partnerships between colleges you are considering and organizations to maximize how much money you receive.

Consider work-study. The work-study program is based on financial need and provides an opportunity to earn money to that will help cover college expenses. The amount you earn will depend on how much you decide to work. But it is important to keep in mind that this money won’t be available to pay tuition at the beginning of the semester, but will instead help to cover ongoing expenses throughout the year.

Ask for help. There are multiple free sources you can utilize for help with filling out the FAFSA. Your counselor will be a great resource for any questions you or your parents may have. The U.S. Department of Education sponsors a toll-free hotline (1-800-433-3243) that can answer any questions you may have about student aid and the FAFSA.

FAFSA, Federal Loans, Grants, Merit Aid, Money, Private Loans, Scholarships, State Loans

Understanding Your Financial Aid Letter

No Comments 20 February 2017

When you’re accepted to a college, you’ll receive a letter explaining the financial aid package you are awarded.

These letters are sometimes filled with terms you might not be familiar with. You need to make sure you understand what your financial aid letter offers before you accept any part of it.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • You will be told about grants, scholarships, work-study programs and federal student loans. Grants and scholarships are funds that you never have to repay. Work-study is government funding that you earn by working a qualifying job on or off campus. Federal-student loans are borrowed money that’s taken out through the government that you will repay.
  • The cost of attendance (COA), which is what you can expect to pay for tuition, fees and room and board, also will be included. Additional expenses, such as textbooks, transportation and basic necessities, are not included in this cost. Tip: You cannot rely on this estimate beyond your freshman year. The cost of attendance is not fixed and does not take potential tuition increases into account.
  • An important aspect of your financial aid is the expected family contribution (EFC). This number, based on information from your FAFSA, estimates how much you and your family can afford to pay for college out of pocket.
  • It’s important to note that you don’t have to accept all the terms of your financial aid letter. You can decline things such as work-study and loans. Make sure to ask the right questions before you accept your letter and find the average student loan debt for each school you are accepted to. Ask how many graduates find a job in their field within six months because that is when the grace period for student loans typically ends.
  • Check to see if you can expect the same scholarships every year as well. Keep your College Greenlight profile up to date so you can find scholarships to help with college expenses.

Undocumented Students

California DREAM Act Applications Decrease 64 Percent

No Comments 10 February 2017

Applications for the California DREAM Act have plummeted by 64 percent in the 2017-2018 school year.

Concern about immigration reform by the Trump administration could partially be to blame for the decrease of 21,842 applications from the 2016-2017 academic year. So far, California has received 12,299 applications for the 2017-2018 school year. In 2016-2017, it received 34,141.

Applications close on March 2.

The California DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Minors) is a California law that allows some children who immigrated to the U.S. to receive state financial aid. To qualify, a student must have been brought to the U.S. when they were less than 16 years of age and lacked proper immigration paperwork. As long as a student attended high school on a regular basis, is AB540 eligible and meets in-state tuition and GPA requirements, he or she may be eligible for state financial aid.

The California Department of Education responded to the decrease by releasing this statement, which reinforces the fact the department does not reveal a student’s immigration status: “The California Student Aid Commission has not now, or in the past, shared any information which would indicate a student’s immigration status, either documented or undocumented. The California Student Aid Commission also adheres to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99), a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.”

No matter what happens at the federal level, the state of California has ensured students that their state financial aid will remain legal. Losing federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status will not affect most financial aid. The California DREAM Act is separate from the federal government.

If you are eligible for the California DREAM Act and have concerns, contact the California Student Aid Commission at 916-464-8271 or the California Department of Education, College Preparation and Postsecondary Programs Office, Career and College Transition Division at 916-323-6398.

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