#AskFAFSA Office Hours with Secretary Arne Duncan

On October 12th at 4pm ET, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan will join @FAFSA to answer your financial aid questions during the October edition of #AskFAFSA Office Hours. Maybe you have a question about completing the FAFSA or understanding your loan repayment options? Maybe you want to know more about the new resources we just launched? If you have a financial aid question for Secretary Duncan, now’s your chance to ask!

AskArneEvent_PosterHere’s how it works:

  • Have questions for @ArneDuncan You can start submitting your questions on Twitter and Facebook today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA  hashtag in your tweets. We will be monitoring for questions on Facebook and Twitter from now through Friday.
  • On Friday, October 12th, at 4pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. Arne will be answering your questions live. Don’t use Twitter? You can also follow along using the Twitter app on our Facebook page.
  • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify following the event.

September #AskFAFSA Office Hours: What I wish I knew…

When you’re learning to manage your money on your own, there’s a lot of trial and error involved. But at the end of the day, it’s one of the most important lessons you’ll learn while in college. Trust us, as recent college graduates who now work at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, we’ve been through it.

We are firm believers that there is a lot of learning that takes place in college that doesn’t come from a book, a professor or a class. Some of the greatest lessons we learned in college came in the form of life skills.

For many of you, it’s probably the first time you’re truly on your own. No one to do your laundry, cook for you, or check to make sure your homework is done. In college, YOU are responsible for getting yourself to class, maintaining good grades and dare we say it… managing your own finances.

While we don’t claim to be financial experts, there is probably something you can learn about becoming financially independent from our diverse experiences and the mistakes we’ve made along the way. For this month’s #AskFAFSA Office Hours we’re taking your questions & sharing some of the things we wish we knew about managing money when we were in college.

Name: Christal Simms

School: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University ’10

Major: Journalism and Mass Communications

Financial Tip: Research used bookstores and online sites where you can buy your books cheaper or even rent them. Also, consider selling your books back when the class is done. You can get some of your money back and you can avoid having a pile of books you will never read again.

Name: Kevin Suyo

School: Georgetown University ’11

Major: International Economics

Financial Tip: Learn to cook. It’s a good skill to have, it can be easy and fun, and it’s much cheaper than eating out every night. And you’ll get tired of dining hall chicken fingers sooner than you expect.

Name: Nicole Callahan

School: The George Washington University ‘11

Major: Business Administration

Financial Tip: Get a part-time job in college. I had a work-study job throughout my time at GW. Not only are you able to gain professional experience, but it’s always good to have a little extra cash. There are plenty of jobs that only require a few hours a week so it won’t interfere with your school work.

But enough about us! We want to know what your questions are. Maybe you’re trying to figure out whether or not to get a credit card? Or maybe you want tips on how to study abroad on a budget? We’re here to help. On Thursday, September 27th at 6pm ET, the three of us will join @FAFSA on Twitter to help answer your questions and offer tips and advice about smart financial decisions. So start sending in your questions!

Here’s how it works:

  • Have questions for us? You can start submitting your questions on Twitter and Facebook today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA  hashtag in your tweets. We will be monitoring for questions on Facebook and Twitter from now through Thursday.
  • On Thursday, September 23, at 6pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. We‘ll be answering your questions live. Don’t use Twitter? You can also follow along using the Twitter app on our Facebook page.
  • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify  following the event.

Kevin, Christal, and Nicole are former Federal Student Aid (FSA) interns who now work full-time at FSA.

5 Steps for Picking a College

Picking a college can be a daunting task for students and their families. The Obama Administration and the Department of Education are making it easier for students to pick the right school by providing key information on a school’s cost and how much debt the typical graduate has upon leaving a school.

Graduation CapsLast week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out five easy steps students and their families can take to help pick the right college.

1. Research prospective schools and consider the total cost and student success in the job market and other outcomes. Check out ED’s College Affordability and Transparency Center to get started.

2. Apply to several schools. There are a lot of great options, and your job is to find the highest quality education you can get for the best value.

3. Fill out the FAFSA. Make sure you can get the financial aid you need to be successful. Get started at: studentaid.gov

4. Compare financial aid awards from different schools. Understand how much you will have in grants and scholarships, and determine if loans are necessary. ED’s new “Shopping Sheet” makes this process easy and straightforward.

5. Pick the best school for you. Study hard, get involved and keep focused on your end goals.

Stay up to date with Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education by receiving our weekly news update.

ED launches new, mobile-optimized site: StudentAid.gov

If you’re a student thinking about college or career school or a borrower already in repayment, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid has launched some exciting new tools to help you through the financial aid process.

StudentAid.gov is a new website that provides straightforward and easy-to-understand information about planning and paying for college. The site combines content and interactive tools from several ED websites.

StudentAid.gov offers more than just information in an easy-to-read format; it also features videos and infographics to help answer the most frequently asked questions about financial aid.

As a mobile-optimized website, StudentAid.gov is fully accessible on tablets and smartphones. StudentAid.gov’s new look was tested with students, parents and borrowers, and we will continue to make improvements and updates based on your feedback.

Some New Features

Income-Based Repayment Calculator: If your student loan debt is high but your income is modest, you may qualify for the Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR). To find out whether you might be eligible to repay your loan under IBR, use our new IBR calculator.

Videos: We’ve developed videos to help make the financial aid process easier to understand. We’ll continue to roll out new videos and update our playlists on the Federal Student Aid YouTube channel.

Infographics: Our infographics will help you understand what steps you need to take to get money for college or career school.

Social Media: In addition to StudentAid.gov, Federal Student Aid has also launched Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to offer you alternative options to learn about the student aid process.

Learn More at #AskFAFSA Office Hours

If you would like to learn more about these new resources, @usedgov will be interviewing @FAFSA on Twitter on July 25th at 6pm ET to highlight some of the helpful new features that are available. Whether you’re just starting to think about college or career school, currently enrolled or in the repayment process, we encourage you to join the conversation.

Here’s how it works:

- Have suggestions or questions about the new resources that are available? You can start submitting them on Twitter today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA hashtag in your tweets. We’ll continue to take questions throughout the week and during the live event.

- On Wednesday, July 25th, at 6pm ET, follow @usedgov & @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. Suggestions and questions are encouraged!

- Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify and the ED.gov blog following the event.

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/NCGXVY

Explore Your Student Loan Repayment Options at #AskFAFSA Office Hours

“While it’s never been more important to have a degree, a certificate or an industry-recognized credential — it’s also never been more expensive.

About two-thirds of college graduates borrow to go to school, and on average they’re graduating with more than $26,000 in debt. In an economy still recovering from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, getting a job is hard enough, but paying back those loans is daunting.”   -   Arne Duncan

You are not alone. There are millions of student loan borrowers just like you who can almost all agree on one thing: repaying student loans is not easy. Especially in these economic times, making your student loan payments on time each month can be difficult, but there are resources available to help you stay on track.

FAFSATo help you learn about these options, this month’s #AskFAFSA Office Hours will highlight real student loan borrowers in a variety of fields who are using various resources (some more out of the box than others) to repay their student loans. Here’s who you’ll be hearing from:

  • Ian (^I): After graduating law school, Ian decided to make public service a career. But with over $160,000 federal student loan debt, Ian would have had to pay over $1,800 per month on the standard loan repayment plan, over $1,000 on the standard consolidation plan and the extended plan, a bit more still. That’s quite a hefty amount for a public servant. Ian began exploring his options. After consolidating six loans into one payment and enrolling in income-based repayment, Ian’s monthly payment now stands at $375. What’s more, he is participating in public service loan forgiveness.
  • Tiffany(^T): In May 2012, Tiffany graduated from the University of South Carolina (USC) with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. While at USC, Tiffany was able to pay in-state tuition because of a reciprocity agreement between South Carolina and her home state of Maryland. However, she still needed to borrow federal student loans to help fund her education. Upon graduation, she took a job with Teach for America, a national teach corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach and to effect change in under-resourced urban and rural public schools. As a math teacher in New Orleans, Tiffany will have a modest salary, so during her time with Teach for America she plans to receive forbearance, which is a temporary postponement or reduction of payments for a period of time. If she continues to teach, she also plans on taking advantage of some of the loan cancellation options available to teachers.
  • Joe(^J): Did you hear about the Harvard Business School graduate who paid off $90k in student loans in seven months? That’s Joe. After graduating with his MBA and $95k in student loans ($101k including accumulated interest) at the age of 26, Joe decided to do everything in his power– short of lying, cheating, and stealing–to pay down this debt in ten months. His strategy was definitely out of the ordinary, from selling his beloved motorcycle to skipping a trip home for Christmas to only going on cheap dates, Joe managed to pay off his student loan debt 3 months ahead of his already tight schedule. While the route Joe took to repay his student loans is not typical, his experience demonstrates that if you educate yourself about the student loan process and make responsible choices about funding your education, a student loan can be a great investment in your future.

Our guests have learned some valuable lessons throughout the student loan repayment process, but they are not licensed financial advisors and the repayment options they are taking advantage of may not be right for you*.  On Tuesday, June 26,at 6pm ET, join Ian, Tiffany and Joe for #AskFAFSA Office Hours, where they will be taking your questions on borrowing responsibly and repaying student loans.

Here’s how it works:

    • Have questions about the student loan repayment process? You can start submitting your questions on Twitter today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA hashtag in your tweets. We’ll continue to take questions throughout the week and during the live event.
    • On Tuesday, June 26, at 6pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. Ian, Tiffany and Joe will be available to answer your questions live.
    • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify and the ED.gov blog following the event.

*Our guests will be speaking about their personal experiences and will be signing their tweets with their respective initial. They are not licensed financial advisors and they do not not claim to be experts. Their opinions are their own and do not reflect the opinion of the U.S. Department of Education or its officers or employees and are not an official or personal endorsement of any views expressed or product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying U.S. Department of Education endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service. Any references to institutions, programs, activities, commercial entities, products, and services that remain on Federal Student Aid social media accounts are those of the individual users.

 

ED Announces FAFSA Completion Project Expansion

If students don’t think they can pay for college, they won’t apply for college. Giving more young people access to the tools they need to apply for federal student aid is a key part of our strategy to make America number one in the world for college graduates by 2020.

–U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

In 2010, the Department of Education piloted a FAFSA Completion Project to assist local educational agencies (LEAs) and secondary school administrators in determining which of their students have completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year.  The pilot currently provides principals, counselors and college access professionals across participating school districts with verifiable and actionable information to use in increasing FAFSA completion among their student population.

FAFSAEarlier today, the Department of Education announced that 92 additional school districts will now have access to individualized data to help their students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Selected school districts, which span 30 states, will be able to track whether high school seniors have completed the FAFSA starting in the 2012-13 school year. Sites announced today were randomly selected from respondents to invitations posted earlier this year and consist of 80 school districts with multiple high schools, and 12 districts with a single high school.  These 92 new sites join 18 other districts that received data for the 2011-12 school year as part of the FAFSA Completion Project’s initial pilot.

Completing the FAFSA – which is used to determine eligibility for federal aid and is the gateway to other student aid – is a critical factor in helping students access higher education.  Key studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.

To learn more about today’s announcement and to review the list of the districts participating in the FAFSA Completion Project, click here.

Todd May
Federal Student Aid

ED Celebrates Public Service Recognition Week with #AskFAFSA Office Hours

Teachers, firefighters, police officers, government employees, military—day in and day out these public servants work tirelessly for citizens across the country. To celebrate Public Service Recognition Week (May 6th-12th) and the positive impact these individuals’ work has on our lives, we are dedicating this month’s #AskFAFSA Office Hours to our nation’s public servants.

Were you aware of these government-sponsored programs that help current and future public servants fund their higher education?

    • Income Based Repayment: Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a repayment plan for the major types of federal student loans that caps your required monthly payment at an amount intended to be affordable based on your income and family size.
      Note: Income-based repayment is not just for public servants. Have federal student loans? Find out if you qualify: http://1.usa.gov/GR2V2X
    • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program encourages individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after they have made 120 payments on those loans under certain repayment plans while employed full-time by certain public service employers.
    • TEACH Grant: The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 per year to students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families.
    • Post 9/11 GI Bill: The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an education benefit program paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs to those who served in the military on or after September 10, 2001. You can receive tuition and fee payments, a monthly housing allowance, and a books and supplies stipend of up to $1000 per year. Visit www.gibill.va.gov to learn more.
    • The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program: The Federal student loan repayment program authorizes agencies to set up their own student loan repayment programs to attract or retain highly qualified employees.

In an effort to help you better understand how to take advantage of these programs, on Friday, May 11th at 1pm ET, the U.S. Department of Education and our special guests, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Partnership for Public Service, will answering your questions live from the @FAFSA Twitter account.

Here’s how it works:

    • Have questions about the above programs? You can start submitting your questions on Twitter today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA hashtag in your tweets. We’ll continue to take questions throughout the week and during the live event.
    • On May 11th at 1pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. The Department of Veterans Affairs, The Partnership for Public Service and the @FAFSA team will be answering your questions live.
    • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify and the ED.gov blog following the event.

Public servants—Thank you for working diligently on our behalf. We hope you will join us on May 11th to learn about some of the programs that are available to help you fund your education.

FAFSA Hosts #AskFAFSA “Twitterview” on Life After College

Graduation season is upon us. In an effort to help students across the country prepare to make the transition from college to career, @FAFSA hosted a Twitter Q&A session with career expert, Lindsey Pollak yesterday. Lindsey provided great advice on researching and applying for jobs and @FAFSA jumped in with information and tips for managing and repaying your student loans after graduation.

You can see the entire Q&A below:

Read More

Join @FAFSA for #AskFAFSA Office Hours with Career Expert, Lindsey Pollak

In honor of National Financial Literacy Month, @FAFSA will hold a special #AskFAFSA Office Hours with guest host Lindsey Pollak, a bestselling author, keynote speaker and internationally recognized expert on next generation career trends.

We’re excited to have Lindsey join us at such an important time. Not only is it National Financial Literacy Month, but with graduation season a short time away, Federal Student Aid wants to help students think about getting a job, earning a salary, and of course, repaying student loans.

This month, we’re switching things up a bit. Instead of our traditional #AskFAFSA Office Hours, on April 25th at 4pm ET, Lindsey (@LindseyPollak) will join @FAFSA for a “Twitterview”, or an interview on Twitter. We’ll ask Lindsey for advice on researching and applying for jobs and @FAFSA will give you information and tips for managing and repaying your student loans after graduation.

Before the Twitterview, we need your help coming up with questions for Lindsey! Whether you have questions about finding a job you’ll really love or making your student loan payments more affordable, we want to hear about it.

Here’s how it works:

  • Starting today, you can send us your career and loan repayment questions on Twitter. Make sure to include the #AskFAFSA hashtag in your tweet.
  • On April 25th at 4pm ET, tune into the live event by following the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter.
  • At the end of the hour, Lindsey will answer questions from our virtual audience. You can send your questions to @FAFSA starting today.
  • Can’t make the live session? A summary of the “Twitterview”, including the full Q&A, will be posted on the Storify and the ED.gov blog following the event.

We hope you’ll join us on April 25. In the meantime, check out these 40 money management tips every college student should know (pdf).

ED Celebrates National Financial Literacy Month

Financial literacy plays an important role in promoting the financial health and stability of individuals, families, and our national economy. The economic crisis has highlighted how essential it is to have information, education, and tools to help people make informed financial decisions.

Piggy BankIn honor of National Financial Literacy Month, experts from federal and state agencies and nonprofit, educational, and private sector organizations will be providing valuable resources to help Americans improve understanding of their personal finances throughout the month of April.

In support of this effort, The U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid plans to provide daily financial management advice for students and borrowers on Twitter. Over the course of April, you can follow @FAFSA  for information and resources on being financially savvy at all stages of your education.

Here are some topics we’ll discuss:

PREPARING

    • Types of financial aid
    • Comparing financial aid packages

APPLYING FOR AID

    • Completing the FAFSA
    • IRS Data Retrieval Tool

RECEIVING AID

    • Maintaining your financial aid
    • Keeping track of your student loans

REPAYMENT

    • Know what you owe
    • Flexible repayment options

We will close out the month by hosting our April edition of #AskFAFSA Office Hours which will focus on financial literacy topics.

We encourage you to join the conversation. Starting now, if you have advice or tips for ways students and borrowers can be smart about their finances, share them with us using the hashtag #dollarsense. We look forward to hearing from you!

Elizabeth Coogan is the Senior Advisor for Financial Literacy at Federal Student Aid

@RuralED’s John White Answers Questions During #AskFAFSA Office Hours on Twitter

Did you know that completing and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) increases the likelihood that a student will enroll in some form of post-secondary education?

Students in rural communities are least likely to enroll and complete postsecondary education and career training. In an effort to help rural youth and adults with the financial aid process, I hosted #AskFAFSA Office Hours live on Twitter last night. The audience definitely kept us busy! ED’s Rural Outreach Team and the FAFSA Team worked together to get the audience’s toughest financial aid questions answered.

We had some great questions come in on a variety of topics:

Completing the FAFSA

Read More

FAFSA Completion Project Expands: Targets Single High School LEAs and Rural Districts

In 2010, the Department of Education piloted a FAFSA Completion Project to assist local educational agencies (LEAs) and secondary school administrators in determining which of their students have completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year.  The pilot currently provides principals, counselors and college access professionals across 20 participating school districts and high schools with verifiable and actionable information to use in increasing FAFSA completion among their student population.  Key studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.

Since the FAFSA Completion Project’s launch, the Department has received increasing requests from LEAs and secondary schools to expand the program.  Today, the Secretary announced the second phase of an expansion effort to provide additional school districts with student-specific FAFSA completion data.  Today’s announcement invites an additional 12 single-high-school LEAs, including single-high-school, rural LEAs, to participate via random selection in the program and obtain FAFSA completion data for their students for the 2012-2013 FAFSA processing year that began on January 1, 2012.  An invitation for multiple-high school LEAs to participate in the expansion effort was announced in January and closed earlier this month.

The Department will accept requests from single-high-school LEAs to participate in the pilot expansion through May 1, 2012.  For more information on this opportunity, view the invitation letter (pdf) and visit our frequently asked questions portal at www.fsa4counselors.ed.gov.