Why the sudden interest in my interest? (Coronavirus Update 2)

It has been quite a week. I’m sure you feel the same. I’m trying to balance my need to be updated constantly with the latest news with a desire not to be constantly inundated with what’s going on.

Last night I took a break and watched a great old movie. It was just the break I needed; light and comedic, and just fun. What are you doing to try to find time to balance? What tricks are you using if you are working out of the home (in a gas station, restaurant, grocery store) to relax, and if you aren’t able to work right now, what relaxation tip works for you? I’m interested!

Right now it may be hard to find balance. How are you doing it?

Speaking of interest, today’s update focuses on some interesting news: what is happening with student loan interest. As you may be aware, the President has put a temporary hold on interest for all Federally held educational loans (this includes Direct Subsidized Loans (in repayment), Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans (both for parents and for graduate students) and Direct Consolidation Loans.

But what does this really mean for student (and parent) borrowers? And what do you need to do in order to make sure that your loans are taken care of during this crisis? Well, moneyman has you covered.

According to the announcement by Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, interest on education loans held by the Federal government will be set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. This means that for students still in school, interest will not accrue for their Unsubsidized Loans. For students in repayment, their loans will still have the same monthly payment amount, but their regular monthly payment will be applied entirely to their principle.

For borrowers in repayment, there is an ability to suspend repayment by asking for a forbearance. This means that (especially if you are struggling right now or need some relief for payment) you can qualify for a suspension of payments and during the time of that suspension of payment no interest will accrue. You must request a forbearance from your servicer (the company that processes your payments); don’t simply stop making payments (although borrowers who are 31 days late or more will automatically be placed on forbearancee). If you are possibly going to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness you also don’t want to stop making payments since you need to have 10 years of repayment (120 months) to qualify.

Well interest keeps on building in student loan interest so here is some breaking news. As I was working on this post, some details are coming out about the $2 trillion stimulus package passed today by Congress. According to CNN, the law includes a provision suspending student loan payments without payments for 6 month (through September 30). Stay tuned for more details as we know them. Another article specifies a few other financial aid related items which are part of this bill: 0% interest during these 6 months, the ability to keep unspent Pell Grant or student loans due to withdrawals, and the waiver of any penalties for further financial aid due to these withdrawals.

More information will be coming I am sure. For now, though, let me know how you are finding balance in these days. I will be watching some silly old comedies.

This Corona (update) is for you…

Hello all,

What a strange world we are all living in! Just a week and a day ago, I was writing you about credit history and how it impacts loans. I was on Spring Break (as I am assuming some of you were) and I was watching the news about the Coronavirus situation. I was looking forward to being back on campus and I had a few conference trips planned in the next few months

Our strange new world!

How quickly everything changes. I am now working from home, managing moving all our employees home and making sure they have access to work remotely, coordinating financial aid delivery to our students from our individual personal residences, supporting our students who were not prepared to move completely online with their coursework (and their faculty who were also not prepared), and doing it all with grace, patience, and love.

So, you might be wondering what does this all mean for you? Great question. This will be my first Coronavirus update post, but I am sure not my last. This is a time when I really mean it. I know you have lots of questions. Ask them. I want to help you, but I don’t know what your questions are until you ask them.

Here are some of the things I imagine you want to know right now.

  1. What’s happening with my financial aid? All of your financial aid offices are moving their operations off of their campuses and planning on working remotely. This means that there may be a delay for things to get “back to normal”. I know at my campus we had to institute a one-week hold on financial aid refunds because we needed the time to get people set up. If you are expecting a refund and it is delayed, give the office a week (extra) and then if you haven’t heard anything call or email them.
  2. What happens with my Federal Work Study (FWS) job? In situations like this, colleges and universities are given the option to pay their students for the hours they were scheduled to work if the campus is closed and no one can come in to work. This doesn’t mean that every college or university will choose this option, so you want to find out what your school plans to do. If you had a job which was paid for by institutional funds (and not FWS), then the school will decide if they want to pay you; there is no Federal guidance for this.
  3. What happens to my financial aid if I withdraw / if my study abroad trip is cancelled? All good questions. BE careful about withdrawing; if you leave all of your classes too early in the term you may owe some of your financial aid money back. In addition, remember the conversation we had about SAP; one things schools have to measure is the percentage of classes you earn of those you attempt. This means if you withdraw too many times you might put your future financial aid in jeopardy (of course you could appeal if this happens, but be careful!). If your study abroad program is cancelled you want to talk to your school to see if they are planning to refund your costs and not consider you enrolled or if they have some kind of distance learning program they are offering to make up the difference in credit hours for you.
  4. What if I need help with issues like getting Wifi, paying for food and housing, or other emergency situations? Your college or university likely has a list of emergency resources available to students. In central Florida, Valencia College has created a curated list of sources for emergency help.
  5. What if I lost my job / my parent(s) lost their job? If you have an emergency situation and need financial support, talk to your financial aid office. Many schools have emergency aid programs to help with small cash grants to help in urgent situations. Also a college may be able to perform a “professional judgment” and change your FAFSA information if appropriate to grant you more financial aid. Be prepared to document your situation (copies of your “lay off” notice or other information).

So if you have more questions, ask. I know there is a lot of moving pieces here, so I will try to update as I know more. Together we will get through all of this.

Happy thanksgiving! Now, don’t be a turkey!

Hey friends, here’s hoping that (if you celebrate it), you are looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with lots of time for friends, family and (most of all) turkey…

Me, selfie, tomorrow at the table…

We’ve reached a season of gratitude and as we pause for reflection, I want to take a moment to note how grateful I am to all of you who are reading and responding to the blog. When I started the blog I hoped that I would reach an audience who could benefit from some financial aid tips and advice, and I am so pleased that the blog has been a source of information and inspiration for many of you.

Next month, we will be spending some time focused on making it through the holidays without spending all of your money, and looking at what happens when the unexpected occurs (how to manage emergency expenses). As we prepare for the holiday season, I would love to know if you have tips for managing the Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Winter Solstice present extravaganza. What do you do to live within your means?

More to share in the coming weeks, but here’s a great early read entitled “16 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Christmas”.

And in the meantime, a quick poem for the the Thanksgiving holiday with an important message about Black Friday buried in it:

Twas the night of Thanksgiving,
and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring
not even a mouse.

We all had had more than
our share of good food,
eating turkey and stuffing, and
not to be rude

but our waists had expanded
past one more belt notch,
was it fate that demanded
that last glass of scotch?

Well, now that the eating
is finally done
and all of the “younglings”
are resting their “tums”,

it’s time to start planning
the shopping excursion,
we’ll take in the morning,
some say it’s perversion

the sheer gabs of money
we spend on our gifts
when all the world over
the need is for thrift

but we spend our dough
as though it will never
diminish and so
we think we are clever

when deficits rise
(both our own and the national).
Can you sense the surprise?
We don’t think that it’s rational

when our stomachs and purses
fill up, pop our buttons,
the rest of the nations
know we are just gluttons.

Help me FAFSA, Help, Help me FAFSA!

So this title is really for the parents out there (or the older students, maybe). Anyone remember the Beach Boys classic “Help Me Rhonda”? Maybe we need to write a spoof called “Help me FAFSA”?

I’m not the Beach Boys, but I do have some suggestions on where to get help for your FAFSA.

Help me, Beach Boys!

If you are stuck and don’t know where to begin, the best bet is to begin by completing your FSA (Federal Student Aid) ID. The FSA ID is your electronic signature and for many students (and parents) this can be the hardest part of the process. If you have questions about the FSA ID, this link provides many of the common issues and problems and gives the answers for them.

Once you have your FSA ID (remember, the student needs one and – for dependent students – at least one parent needs one), it is time to complete the FAFSA itself. FAFSA is a free application and you should never pay someone to complete the FAFSA for you! If you do need help, you can get free help in the following ways.

  1. Check with your local high school to see if they offer a high school financial aid night! Many local high schools have college nights (or college financial aid nights) where a local college representative will come to the school and talk about financial aid, answer your questions, and perhaps offer a FAFSA completion lab. You want to make sure that the person presenting at your high school is reputable (and not trying to sell you anything), so ask if they actually work at a college before you attend. Moneyman (that’s me) has presented at more than 300 of these nights, and they are a great way to learn the facts about financial aid and the FAFSA.
  2. Check to see if your state or college is offering a “Form Your Future” event. Many local colleges offer free events, often titled “Form Your Future” or “College Goal Sunday“. The free events allow you to come to campus, get hands on help completing your FAFSA, and hear from practicing financial aid administrators. Valencia College (in Kissimmee and Orlando), as an example, titles their event “FAFSA Frenzy” and it is held this year on October 15, 17, and 24 (check the web page for which day on which campus).
  3. Check out the free Florida Virtual Shines College Week events being offered by Florida’s Department of Education. This three day event (from October 28-30) offers a number of free online sessions each evening on Financial Aid and Admissions topics (and the best part is they are recorded for later playback). You never have to leave your computer to participate!

Of course, there is one more source! Moneyman is here to help!

Have you started your FAFSA? What questions have you run into? How can I help you complete the form?

With apologies to the Beach Boys, maybe you are singing this song:

Well since October first I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout it in my head
I come in late at night and in the mornin’ I just lay in bed
Well, FAFSA you look so fine (look so fine)
And I know it’s gonna take some time
For me to do the FAFSA
Help me get it finished today!
Help me FAFSA
Help, help me FAFSA
Help me FAFSA
Help, help me FAFSA
Help me FAFSA
Help, help me FAFSA
Help me FAFSA
Help, help me FAFSA
Help me FAFSA
Help, help me FAFSA
Help me FAFSA
Help, help me FAFSA
Help me FAFSA yeah
Get it finished today

“Help Me FAFSA” by Moneyman

New beginnings (or beginning news or starting again)…

The school year has begun as all over the country students are back in classrooms, the traffic is backed up with school buses and the temperatures have begun to cool (although, sigh, not really in Florida).

The School Year Begins

Another aspect of the start of the new year is the beginning of the financial aid and admissions application cycles for those of you who are seniors in high school (or adults thinking of going back to school, or students thinking of going to graduate school). Now is the time where you are beginning to think “what’s next?”, when your parents, friends, neighbors and guidance officers ask you for the names of colleges you are thinking about, and when you are faced with the question (that honestly never goes away) of “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

As you think about your college plans, it is natural that one of the areas of concern is money. Money plays an important part in your college decision process, but the good news is that if you follow the plans outlined on this blog, and the advice of your guidance officers and others, money doesn’t have to be the deciding factor for you. If the system works, you should be able to decide upon the best college for you based on fit, not on finances.

Over the past several months, I have been busy helping students at my school get ready to start their school year. Now that their enrollment has begun, I plan to turn my attention to this blog and helping you — whether you are a senior in high school, a parent of a student, a student currently in college, or just an interested adult — learn about college financial aid, about money management, and about how best to make the system work for you.

So here is my question for you. Who are you? I want to make this blog a conversation with you. Sure, I like to talk; I like to write (I am a published poet and I was voted “most talkative” as my high school senior superlative), but I prefer to have a dialogue. A conversation is much more interesting to me than a monologue.

Tell me what you want to know? As I target at least one blog entry each week, what would you like me to focus on? What questions do you have about the college process? How can we best learn together?

Welcome to the Fall… to pumpkin spice and maple frosting… to jack-o-lanterns and apple cider… to crisp nights and color-changing leaves. And welcome to the Moneyman College Financial Aid Blog where we learn about college financial aid together.

Taking Stock

Every January many of us pause to reflect on the year that has been and to make resolutions which will keep us focused on the year to come.  We “take stock” and reflect upon who we have been and set goals for who we intend to be.  This annual process for many of us is a chance to set an agenda, to establish ourselves anew, and to chart a course for our future.

While this blog has been established to be a place to learn about financial aid for all who might be interested, it also has been specifically established for those of you taking stock – Take Stock in Children, that is.

Take Stock in Children Florida

Take Stock in Children is an amazing program based in Florida which was established in 1995. From their web page, their stated purpose is to provide “…a unique opportunity for deserving low-income youth/students, many from minority families, to escape the cycle of poverty through education [by offering] college scholarships, caring volunteer mentors and hope for a better life.”

As I launch this blog, I want to welcome those of you who have found this place because of Take Stock in Children. I hope you will find the posts and information I share here very informative and helpful as you continue your way on your college search. As we each reflect on who we are and what we can become in the year ahead, I hope you too see a bright future ahead for you, and I hope that in some small way, what you learn here can help you on your way to future growth!

Love the Mystery?

I love mysteries. Do you? I love sitting right on the edge of that “I want to know how it ends / I don’t want it to end” moment, where the excitement is real and the tension is high.

But I also love the relief when the answer finally comes. Knowing how the plot works out, how the hero solves the crises, comes as a huge relief.

Mysteries abound where we most seek for answers. — Ray Bradbury

Interesting, since my purpose in keeping this blog (as well as I can) is to dispel the mystery about college financial aid.

I have worked in the field of financial aid for more than 30 years. I have worked at small private not-for-profit colleges, large urban highly selective universities, open access community colleges, lenders, servicers, and technology consulting firms. My job has always been to be a part of the mystery behind helping families pay for the cost of college. I’ve always had a wonderful group of peers and colleagues who work to make sure that we do the best we can to help families afford the expense of college.

But sometimes I wonder if students get lost. If they think of the financial aid process kind of like a deserted island, full of pitfalls and unseen monsters.

So this blog will kind of be a “what do I need to know now” guide along with my rantings and ravings on whatever subject seems to be around and about. Feel free to engage me in dialogue, although if you want your conversation with me to be private, please email me at moneymandtb at gmail dot com (expressed this way to avoid spam).

Looking forward to seeing how this experiment turns out, and hoping that you too will find your way to the answer to your own mystery.

What kinds of mysteries puzzle you about the college financial aid process? What answers are you looking for? Share your thoughts in the comments and I will address them in the coming posts.