Protecting Americans from Predatory and Poor-Performing Career Training Programs

Students at for-profit colleges represent only about 13 percent of the total higher education population, but about 31 percent of all student loans and nearly half of all loan defaults. Of the for-profit gainful employment programs analyzed by the Department of Education, the majority—72 percent—produced graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts.

Debt Graphic

The Obama Administration announced new steps on Friday to address growing concerns about burdensome student loan debt.

In an effort to reduce the number of American families with enormous debt loads, and to encourage responsible actions by colleges and programs, the Obama Administration announced new steps on Friday to address growing concerns about burdensome student loan debt by requiring career training programs to do a better job of preparing students for gainful employment.

The regulation proposed by the Department will help to strengthen students’ options for higher education by giving all career training programs an opportunity to improve, while stopping the flow of federal funding to the lowest-performing programs where the debt of former students in comparison to their earnings or the rate at which they default on their student loans consistently fail to meet minimum standards. Institutions will also be required to make public disclosures regarding the performance and outcomes of their career training programs.  The disclosures include information on costs, earnings, debt, loan repayment rates, and completion rates.

While this proposal applies equally to public, private and for-profit programs, students at for-profit colleges have had particularly concerning outcomes.

After the proposal released last week publishes in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to comment on the draft regulations. The Department will take that feedback and finalize the rule in the following months.

Read more about the gainful employment announcement.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Financial Aid Shopping Sheet Updated to Provide Students with More Transparency

In the summer of 2012, the Obama Administration introduced the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet so that families could have a clear, concise way to see the cost of a particular school. The Shopping Sheet provides a standardized award letter allowing students to easily compare financial aid packages and make informed decisions on where to attend college.

Shopping Sheet Example

An example of the information on the Shopping Sheet

So far, nearly 2,000 institutions have committed to providing the Shopping Sheet to their prospective students.  Those institutions represent over 43 percent of, or over 8.1 million, undergraduate students across the United States.

Since institutions started adopting the Shopping Sheet, we’ve received input from students, parents, guidance counselors, and financial aid administrators. The feedback suggests that institutions and students are becoming more familiar with the Shopping Sheet, so the newest edition of the Shopping Sheet includes only modest changes. To improve clarity, ED has identified minor language changes and has added a glossary to better explain financial aid terms.  Additionally, data used to populate college outcomes used on the Shopping Sheet (graduation rate, loan default rate, and median borrowing) have also been updated to be one year more current.

Through the release of college search and transparency tools, such as the College Scorecard, Financial Aid Toolkit, and the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, the Obama Administration continues to demonstrate its commitment to improving transparency in the college selection process. Institutions interested in adopting the Shopping Sheet may contact the U.S. Department of Education at ShoppingSheet@ed.gov. For more information on the Shopping Sheet, including a list of participating institutions, visit www.ed.gov/financial-aid-shopping-sheet.

Michael Itzkowitz is a special advisor in the Office of Postsecondary Education

Five Cool Features for Counselors in the New Financial Aid Toolkit

Like a messy bookshelf, the Internet can be a frustrating and overwhelming place to search for information. Developed in response to requests from the counselor and college access communities, the Department of Education launched the Financial Aid Toolkit. Available at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, the website is a “one-stop shop” aimed at guidance counselors and other advisers to help them prepare students for the process of planning and paying for a postsecondary education.

Whether you’ve already visited the Financial Aid Toolkit, or you’re just hearing about it for the first time, here are five helpful tips to get the most from the toolkit:

  1. Get a head start on helping students prepare for college. As you know, it’s never too soon for students to start identifying academic interests, understanding college costs, and planning for higher education. The toolkit’s Learn About Financial Aid section provides tips and resources for working with students through this planning process and includes videos, infographics, and publications such as the College Preparation Checklist, as well as updates on the FAFSA. You can also brush up on the basics of loan repayment. If you work with current student loan borrowers, this tool can serve as a resource to help you review with them the available options and help guide them toward a repayment plan that best meets their needs.
  1. Find resources to help make your event a success. Planning a financial aid night or FAFSA completion event? You can get tips and information on setting up an event, as well as resources to help make it a success. Our Conduct Outreach section also has other resources to help you reach students and spread the word about the availability of financial aid. You can find sample presentations and handouts on various financial aid topics, information on reaching specific audiences, such as parents, adult students, military families, and much more.
  1. Leverage Federal Student Aid’s social media content. Social media can be a great way to reach your students, but it can be challenging to come up with new content. The toolkit’s Social Media section shares content and resources to help meet your needs. We have suggested tweets and Facebook posts for FAFSA completion and loan repayment. We also provide information on how to leverage our content on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as our blog posts.
  1. Locate training online or in your area. If you’re looking for additional training for yourself, check out the Get Training section for information on training options provided by state and regional organizations. You can also explore the National Training for Counselors and Mentors (NT4CM) area to see if there’s a workshop near you, view a training webinar, and access training materials.
  1. Use the Search Resources section to find resources that meet your needs. Short on time or looking for something specific? Head straight to the Financial Aid Toolkit’s search option. We have consolidated Federal Student Aid’s resources into a searchable online database. You can see all our resources or filter the resources based on audience, topic, time of year, and type of resource.

The Department will continue updating the toolkit to include more information and resources. If you have any suggestions, you can use our Contact Us page to provide feedback. Now that you have access to resources covering the entire student financial aid lifecycle from preparing for college and applying for financial aid to repaying student loans, we strongly encourage you to explore this incredibly handy toolkit. Be sure to share and bookmark FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov today.

Dan Griffin is a confidential assistant at the U.S. Department of Education

New Tools to Support Students in Preparing for College and a Call for Innovative Ideas

Last August, President Obama outlined an ambitious plan to increase value and affordability in postsecondary education. There were a number of commitments he made in his proposal, and, today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing further action on the President’s initiatives.

LogoPresident Obama told students and families that helping to ensure their debt is manageable is a priority, and equipping counselors and advisers with the resources they need to help students prepare for higher education and understand college costs is a key component. To meet these goals, the Department has launched a “one-stop shop” for guidance counselors, college advisers, mentors and volunteers to assist students through the process of choosing and financing their higher education.

The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database. That makes it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support students on their path to college, including details on how to apply for financial aid along with presentations, brochures and videos.

By equipping counselors and advisers with financial aid information in an easy-to-use format, we can help to ensure that current and potential students get the assistance they need to successfully navigate the process of planning and paying for a postsecondary education.

Request for input on college ratings

President Obama also directed the Department of Education to develop a ratings system to identify colleges that provide a good value and to increase college affordability information available to students.

This fall, Department officials have been traveling to cities across the country, listening to hundreds of students, parents, college leaders, state officials, education organizations and many others about their ideas on how to best craft a college ratings system that would better inform students and encourage institutions to improve.  This week the Department will submit a Request for Information (RFI) to publish in the Federal Register asking experts and researchers to weigh in.

This RFI will complement the ongoing engagement efforts to inform the development a college ratings system that is useful to students and takes into account the diversity of America’s colleges and universities. The Department will continue to encourage the public to share ideas through collegefeedback@ed.gov.

Call for new ideas and innovations in higher education

Another major component of President Obama’s plan is to encourage innovation. More Americans are looking for college options that offer a good education at an affordable price. Innovation offers the potential to dramatically reshape and improve postsecondary education in ways that increase value by raising quality and decreasing costs.  This is a pivotal moment, and we want to do all that we can to encourage responsible innovations in higher education that build on promising practices and develop an evidence base so that the highest-impact practices can be identified, replicated and eventually brought to scale.

To encourage innovation, the President directed the Department of Education to shine a light on effective, innovative practices and challenged leaders from across the nation to accelerate innovation and build on success. Further, he directed the Administration to encourage these ideas by removing regulatory hurdles, increasing access to federal databases and simplifying pathways to higher education.  To do so, the U.S. Department of Education will launch a limited number of “experimental sites” to test new ideas. This authority under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) allows the Secretary to waive specific Title IV, HEA requirements regarding the federal student financial assistance programs to allow for responsible innovations coupled with evaluations of their effectiveness. Today, we are asking the public, including the higher education community and others with a stake in a more educated workforce and society, to send us ideas for experimental sites.

We invite input from a diverse array of stakeholders on topics to spur responsible innovation that increases college value and affordability.  In August, President Obama identified several promising areas where innovative practices could do so. These include:

  • Enabling students to earn federal student aid based on how much they learn, rather than the amount of time they spend in class, including through competency-based programs that combine traditional credit-hour and direct assessment of student learning.
  • Enabling high school students to access Pell Grants to take college courses early so they can earn a degree in an accelerated time frame.
  • Allowing the use of federal student aid to pay for assessments when students seek academic credit for prior learning as part of a program of study.

These are just some of the many areas where innovative experiments could advance our evidence base about approaches to increasing college value and affordability. We look forward to receiving your additional ideas. For more information on how to submit an idea, please review this Federal Register notice or the Department’s Dear Colleague Letter. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2014.

The U.S. Department of Education seeks to launch experiments that allow innovation to flourish, while also protecting taxpayer resources and building the research base for what works. In all of the Department’s efforts to encourage innovation and enable colleges and universities to increase quality while reducing costs, we value the input and partnerships with the postsecondary education communities and stakeholders so ultimately, millions of Americans can access a high-quality higher education

Martha Kanter is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education and David Soo is the Senior Policy Adviser, Office of the Under Secretary

5 Things You Need To Know About Your Student Loans

info-person at computerIf you’re anything like me, you probably neglected to read all the fine print when you first took out your student loans. Now it’s time to start repaying them, and you have no idea where to begin…

Lucky for people like us, many federal student loans have a grace period, which is a set period of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your student loans. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan. For those of you who have graduated within the last six months, chances are that time is almost up.

So to get you started, here are five things you should know about your student loans:

  1. Loan Types

You may have federal loans, private loans, state loans, loans from your school, or some combination. Different loan types can have very different terms and conditions, so be sure you know what types of loans you’ve got.

To see all of your federal student loan information in one place, you can visit www.nslds.ed.gov. Once you log in, you can access a list of your federal student loans, including the loan type and information for your loan servicer.  A loan servicer is the company that will handle the billing and payments on your federal student loans.

For all other types of loans, consult your records. If you have questions about the type of a loan, you can try contacting the financial aid office at the school you were attending when you took out the loan.

  1. Loan Balance

Once you’ve tracked down all of your loans, you’ll want to find out what your total loan balance is. This will help you determine a plan for repayment.

For your federal student loans, www.nslds.ed.gov will display your loan balance. For private and other student loans, you’ll want to check with your lender.

  1. Loan Interest

Remember, a student loan is just like any other loan—it’s borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest. As interest accrues, it may be added to the total balance of your loan if left unpaid. As a recent graduate, you may want to consider making student loan interest payments during your grace period to save money on the total cost of your loan.

  1. Repayment Options

Depending on the types of loans you have, you will have different repayment options.

Federal student loans offer great benefits, including flexible repayment options. Some options include tying your monthly payment to your income, extending your payments over a longer period of time, or combining multiple loans into one.

Want to compare what your monthly payment would be under each of our repayment plans? Try our Repayment Estimator! Once you figure out which repayment option is right for you, contact your loan servicer to enroll in that plan.

For non-federal loans, you’ll want to check with your lender to see what types of repayment options are offered.

  1. Repayment Terms and Benefits

Familiarize yourself with the repayment terms of all your loans. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:

Ok, that’s a lot to take in, but hey, if you could survive the final exams, the all-nighters and even a crazy roommate or two, figuring out a plan for repaying your student loans should be a walk in the park. If any point you have questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. That’s what they’re there for.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Answers to Your Questions on Student Loan Interest

A college degree is a vital part of helping students have a successful future and a place in the middle class, and making college affordable is a major priority for the Obama Administration.

Federal Aid LogoAs of July 1, 2013, the interest rate on new subsidized Stafford Loans rose to 6.8% from the previous rate of 3.4%. Our Administration is actively working with Congress to bring rates back down for new loans. In addition, the Administration has advocated that any plan passed by Congress apply to all loans first disbursed after June 30, even loans already disbursed.

If the law is changed, the Department and its servicers will adjust rates for all affected borrowers, including those who had already received their first subsidized loan disbursement, without any further action on the part of the borrower or the school.

We know some borrowers and families may have some questions about what the rate change means and we’ve answered some of the most common questions below. If you do have specific questions about your loan please visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/ or contact 1-800-4-FED-AID for more information.

Q: Should I still apply for federal student aid given the interest rate hike?

A: Students and families who wish to obtain financial aid should complete should complete a 2013-2014 FAFSA if they have not already done so. Schools should continue to award and process Direct Subsidized Loans with estimated disbursement dates. The Administration is working with Congress to bring rates back down for new loans.

Q: What is the current rate of federal subsidized loan?

A: Absent further Congressional action, the interest rate for all Direct Subsidized Loans with a first disbursement date on or after July 1, 2013, is 6.8%. This is the same interest rate that applies to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Q: Is the 6.8% rate permanent for the lifetime of my loan?

A: The Obama Administration continues to work with Congress to reach agreement on a plan to reverse the doubling of those interest rates.  Further, the Administration has urged that any plan passed by Congress apply to all loans first disbursed after June 30, even loans already disbursed. If the law is changed, the Department and its servicers will adjust rates for all affected borrowers, including those who had already received their first subsidized loan disbursement, without any further action on the part of the borrower or the school.

What if I already have a loan? Does the interest rate change?

A: No change in interest rates on a loan where the first disbursement was before July 1, 2013

What Is a Student Loan Servicer and Why Should I Care?

repayment plan imageSo you took out a federal student loan and now it’s time to pay it back. I was in your exact position 2 years ago and even though I was working at Federal Student Aid, the student loan repayment process had me overwhelmed.

One of my first questions was: Why am I receiving federal student loan bills from a company rather than the U.S. Department of Education? If you have asked yourself a similar question, this may help:

What is a loan servicer?

A loan servicer is a company that handles the billing and other services on your federal student loans. So those bills you get in the mail? There is a good chance they are coming from a loan servicer on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.

How do I find out who my loan servicer is?

To view information about all of the federal student loans you have received and to find contact information for your loan servicer, visit www.nslds.ed.gov and select “Financial Aid Review.” You will then be prompted to log in using your Federal Student Aid PIN, so make sure you have that handy.

Note: If you have multiple federal student loans, you may have more than one loan servicer, so make sure you click through each loan individually for information specific to that loan.

Why should I care?

There are lots of reasons you should care!  Among many other things, your loan servicer

Moral of the story: Keep in contact with your loan servicer.

The student loan repayment process can be confusing, especially if you’re new at it, but your loan servicer is there to help. Make sure you stay in touch with them and use the resources they have available for you.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Finding the Right College For You – Tools & Resources from ED

If you are a high school senior who has yet to decide where you’re going to college this fall, you are most likely not alone. May 1st marks the National College Decision Day where the vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities require students to notify them of their decision to attend.

As you navigate the college decision process, the U.S. Department of Education provides tools for you and your family to make it easy to compare important information such as college costs, average student loan debt, and graduation rates across different institutions.

If you are a student or the parent of a college-bound teen struggling with this decision, here are a few tools that can help:

Federal Student Aid The College Scorecard

The College Scorecard includes essential information about a particular college’s cost, its graduation rates and the average amount its students borrow, all in an easy-to-read format. It is designed to help you compare colleges and choose one that is well-suited to your individual needs.

Net Price Calculator Center

Federal Student Aid

The Net Price Calculator Center provides an easy tool to explore the net price of any given college- that is, the price after subtracting the scholarships and grants you are likely to receive. Then, you can easily compare estimated net prices across the institutions that you are considering.

Financial Aid Shopping Sheet

Many colleges and universities have adapted a Shopping Sheet which will be included in your financial aid package. The Shopping Sheet provides personalized information on financial aid and net costs as well as general information on institutional outcomes- all in a standardized format. This tool provides an easy way to make clear comparisons among financial aid offers that you may receive.

FSA2

College Navigator

College Navigator is an interactive website that allows you to explore and compare features of different institutions, including programs and majors, admissions considerations, campus crime statistics and more.

For additional tips visit Federal Student Aid’s Choosing a School resources and follow @USEDGOV & @FAFSA on Twitter.

Now that you have the resources and the tools to pick the right college, you can let out a sigh of relief and show your campus pride with that coveted university sweatshirt. Congratulations!

Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Youth Succeed with Great Educators, Help from ED

Think back to that moment when you decided to pursue your dream. Who influenced your decision? A mentor? A parent? Or maybe a friend? For many people, their moment was sparked by an educator.

Earlier this month, the Department of Education (ED) welcomed four individuals to participate in an ‘ED Youth Voices’ panel discussion that introduced students, teachers, and communities to the policies and programs that the four youth credit with helping them succeed.

Let us introduce you to these inspiring individuals:

Student speaking

Linda Moktoi, senior at Trinity Washington University

Meet Linda Moktoi. As a current senior at Trinity Washington University, Moktoi is proud to say she’ll be achieving her dream of graduating college in just a few short weeks.  “I chose to pursue knowledge over ignorance,” she said. Moktoi did so with the financial support provided by Pell Grants from ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Moktoi’s grace, confidence, and determination shined through and will no doubt lead her to succeeding her next dream of becoming a news broadcaster.

 

 

Student speaking about GEAR UP program

Nicholas Robinson, junior at Potomac High School

Meet Nicholas Robinson. An enthusiastic junior at Potomac High School (Oxon Hill, Md.), spoke of how the early awareness college prep program GEAR UP, changed his “mind & heart” in 8th grade about whether to go to college. “Before I got involved in GEAR UP, I didn’t think I was going to college, but they were always asking me what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be.” That extra support and guidance has helped Nicholas stay on track to graduate and focus on his future goals.

 

Educator speaking about IDEA Act

Scott Wilburn, teacher at Pulley Career Center

Meet Scott Wilbur. As a current teacher and former student that struggled with learning disabilities, Wilbur shed light on how programs funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) helped him as a student and continues to help him serve others with disabilities as a teacher at the Pulley Career Center in Alexandria, Va. “IDEA provided me with access to support, helped me graduate college,” Wilbur said. Each year the IDEA Act helps thousands of students with disabilities receive support to assure success in the classroom and that they have the tools needed for employment and independent living in the future.

Student speaking about School Improvement Grants

Carl Mitchell, senior at Frederick Douglass High School

Meet Carl Mitchell. Carl is just one of the many students that have benefited from the recent changes at Frederick Douglass High School spurred in part by an ED School Improvement Grant (SIG) which has helped turnaround their school and provide a better learning environment for students. Mitchell, a bright college bound senior who also doubles as the school mascot (Go Mighty Ducks!), attested to the sense of community that is fostered at Frederick Douglass. When asked what motivates him, he responded by saying “It’s not just about getting the degree for me, it’s for all the people that helped me. I owe them and don’t want to let them down.” An aspiring graphic designer, Mitchell will be the first in his family to attend college. His support team, including his principal, teachers, and peers joined him at ED as he proudly represented the Douglass community.

Linda, Nicholas, Scott, and Carl are just four of the millions of students and educators that are able to achieve their dreams with the help of great educators and federal programs from the Department of Education. Little do these individuals know though, that by sharing their story they are following in the footsteps of those who inspired them, and are inspiring us.

Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Our next ED Youth Voices Policy Briefing Session will include students reforming education at the local level: teacher evaluations, DREAM act, school safety and more. Watch the session live on June 27th from 10-11:30am at edstream.ed.gov. 

Focus on Financial Empowerment This Month

President Obama has proclaimed April to be Financial Capability Month, and what better time to focus on the range of tools available to students and their families to make smart financial decisions around postsecondary education?

Piggy Bank ImageIn his proclamation, President Obama noted the new tools released by the Department of Education that give students and families clear, transparent information on college costs so they can make good choices when they invest in higher education. One of these tools—the College Scorecard—is part of President Obama’s continued efforts to hold colleges accountable for cost, value and quality. The Scorecard highlights key indicators about the cost and value of institutions across the country, helping students choose a school that is well-suited to meet their needs, is priced affordably, and is consistent with their educational and career goals.

The Obama administration has also simplified the FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid, which is the first step in determining eligibility for federal grants and loans. In addition, ED is empowering high school counselors and local leaders through the FAFSA Completion Project to help ensure that students get all of the aid for which they qualify by giving them a resource to monitor FAFSA completion rates of their students.

Furthermore, ED recently released a suite of new tools to help students and families make informed and wise decisions around college financial decisions.  The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is an individualized financial aid award letter in a standardized format that helps students understand their costs and compare financial aid packages from different institutions so they can make smart decisions on investing in higher education. ED has also improved the financial education tools available to students, and within the last year we have revamped entrance and exit loan counseling and introduced a financial education tool for students in college.

President Obama has set a goal that the United States will once again lead the world in college completion. We will reach this goal only if we ensure that all students have the opportunity to access and complete postsecondary education—and are equipped to make the important financial decisions that will lead to a strong middle class. The US Department of Education stands committed to providing ladders of opportunity to make this a reality for all students, starting with sound financial knowledge and tools.

Martha Kanter is the Under Secretary of Education

New Tools for Student Loan Borrowers

Federal Student Aid image

Spring is here, college finals are looming, commencement speakers are being announced, and before long, a new group of college graduates will need to start thinking about paying back their student loans. Earlier this week, the Department of Education announced new tools that will help recent college grads better understand their loan debt and stay on track in repayment.

These two new features include a Complete Counseling Web page and a new Repayment Estimator that lets the borrower easily compare monthly payment options under the seven repayment plans available. Both tools are part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to help students and families make informed and sound financial decisions throughout each step as they pursue their higher education goals.

During his State of the Union address in February, President Obama unveiled the new College Scorecard to help empower students and families with more transparent information about college costs and outcomes. The Scorecard provides clear, concise information on cost, graduation rates, loan default rates and the amount families borrowed for every degree-granting institution in the country. The College Scorecard, along with the resources from Federal Student Aid, will help students take the right steps, financially and academically, to achieve their college degree.

As many know, managing loans can often be confusing and overwhelming for college students, and we want to ensure that graduates have access to tools that will help them successfully navigate this process. We encourage federal student loan borrowers to log in at StudentLoans.gov to take advantage of these new resources today!


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

5 Reasons You Should Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA January Free Logo

The new FAFSA for the 2013-14 school year is now available.

1. It’s the only way to gain access to the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid.

Completing the FAFSA is the first step toward getting federal aid for college, career school, or graduate school. Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year, but you have to complete the FAFSA to see if you can get any of that money. Not to mention, many states, schools and scholarships also use the FAFSA to award financial aid, so every college-bound student should complete it.

2. It’s FREE!

The FAFSA is free to complete and there is help provided throughout the application. Several websites offer help filing the FAFSA for a fee. These sites are not endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. We urge you not to pay these sites for assistance that you can get for free at the official FAFSA website: www.fafsa.gov.

3. It’s easier than ever.

We’ve done a lot over the past few years to simplify the FAFSA. One of the most exciting enhancements has been the launch of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. The tool allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS Web site, saving lots of time. This year, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will launch in early February, so be on the lookout for that.

4. It only takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Given all the simplifications we’ve made over the last couple of years, the FAFSA now only takes about 30 minutes to complete. That’s probably less time than you spend watching your favorite TV show each week. And think of the benefits: spend 30 minutes completing the application and you could qualify for thousands of dollars in financial aid. Talk about return on investment.

5. More people qualify than you’d think.

If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid! I’ve heard a number of reasons students think they shouldn’t complete the FAFSA. Here are a few:

    • “I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
    • “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
    • “The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.”
    • “I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.”

If you think any of these statements apply to you, then you should read “Myths About Financial Aid.” The reality is, EVERYONE should fill out the FAFSA! Don’t leave money on the table.

For information and tips on completing the FAFSA, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.