7 Myths About the FAFSA and Applying for Financial Aid

myths

I’m currently a junior in college, which means the 2014-15 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM) will be the last time I complete the FAFSA. However, my sister is going to be starting college in the fall and will be filling out the FAFSA for the first time. Luckily for her, she’ll have me to help her along the way.

Looking back to the first time I completed the FAFSA, I remember some misconceptions that I had about filling it out —and some of my friends had the same ones. Turns out these myths weren’t true. The FAFSA really is an easy-to-complete, online application that will help you plan for and finance your education.

I wanted to share some of these common myths about the FAFSA and applying for financial aid with you. You can also check out Federal Student Aid’s video that addresses these common myths!

  1. I won’t qualify for financial aid because my parents (or I) make too much money.
    Actually, there isn’t an income cutoff to qualify for financial aid. Your eligibility for financial aid is based on a number of factors and not just your or your parents’ income. Plus, many states and schools use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for their aid. Fill out the application and find out what you can get!
  2. I don’t have good grades, so I won’t be eligible for financial aid.
    Completing the FAFSA isn’t the same as applying to college. Most federal student aid programs don’t take your grades into consideration when you apply. Just remember, once you’re in college, you do need to maintain satisfactory academic progress  in order to continue receiving federal aid.
  3. I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.
    Federal student aid programs don’t take your age into consideration.
  4. The application is too hard to fill out!
    Since it’s available online, the FAFSA is easier than ever to complete. The form uses “skip logic,” so you are only asked the questions that are relevant to you. If you’ve filed your taxes, then you can transfer your tax return data into your FAFSA automatically. And as you go through the application, there will be guided assistance in the margins to help you answer each question. Plus, the FAFSA website has a Help page that addresses most frequently asked questions.
  5.   I have to wait until I (my parents) file taxes.
    Since some colleges have FAFSA deadlines that are before the tax filing deadline, it’s important to complete the FAFSA early. You can use estimates on your FAFSA by basing them off of last year’s taxes. After you file your taxes, you can log back into the FAFSA and input your updated tax information.
  6. I support myself, so I don’t have to include parent info.
    This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. You can determine your dependency status by answering these questions. If you are independent, you don’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA. If you are dependent, you need to provide your parents’ information.
  7. I completed the FAFSA my freshman year, so I don’t have to complete it again.
    As I said, this will be my fourth time completing the FAFSA. You should complete the FAFSA each year you plan to attend college or career school.

What are you waiting for? Start your application now at www.fafsa.gov!

Mark Valdez is a student at Brown University and an intern with the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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

Did you hear? The 2014-15 FAFSA became available on January 1, 2014!


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

If you will be attending college between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, you should complete the FAFSA. Here are some reasons why:

You may need it to apply for state and college financial aid and even private scholarships!

Completing the FAFSA is the first step toward getting financial aid for college, career school, or graduate school. The FAFSA not only gives you access to the $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds that the federal government has available, but many states, schools, and private scholarships require you to submit the FAFSA before they will consider you for any financial aid they offer. That’s why it’s important that every college-bound student complete the FAFSA, even if you haven’t qualified in the past. You’ll never know what you get unless you apply.

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.

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 with just a few simple clicks. This year, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will launch on February 2, so be on the lookout for that. Also, for those who have completed the FAFSA in the past, when you go to renew your FAFSA for the upcoming school year, a lot of your information will automatically roll over, saving you lots of time.

It takes less than 30 minutes to complete.

Did you know that, on average, it takes only 23 minutes to complete the FAFSA? That’s less time than it would take you to watch your favorite TV show! 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…

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.”

These are all 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.

6 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

Don’t go at filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) alone. We’re here to help. You’ve already done the hard part and gathered all of the necessary information, so now it’s time to complete the FAFSA. Let us walk you through it step by step:


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  1. Go to www.fafsa.gov. One thing you don’t need in order to fill out the FAFSA? Money! Remember, the FAFSA is FREE when you use the official .gov site: www.fafsa.gov.
  2. Choose which FAFSA you’d like to complete. The new FAFSA that becomes available on January 1, 2014, is the 2014–15 FAFSA. You should complete the 2014-15 FAFSA if you will be attending college between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. Remember, the FAFSA is not a one-time thing. You must complete or renew your FAFSA each school year.
    Note: The 2013–2014 FAFSA is also available if you will be attending college between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, and you haven’t applied for financial aid yet.
  3. Enter your personal information.* This is information like your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA in the past, a lot of your personal info will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on official government documents. (That’s right, no nicknames.)
  4. Enter your financial information.* All of it. You should use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying. For example, if you are filling out the 2014–15 FAFSA, you will need to use 2013 tax information. If you or your parent(s) haven’t filed your 2013 taxes yet, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2012 tax return; just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2013 taxes. If you have filed your taxes already, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It makes completing the FAFSA super easy!
  5. Choose up to 10 schools in which you wish to apply, and we will send the necessary information over to them so they can calculate the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive. Make sure you include any school you plan to attend so your financial aid awards are not delayed.
  6. Sign the document with your PIN.* The PIN serves as your electronic signature, or e-signature. You’ll use it to electronically sign and submit your FAFSA. If you don’t have a PIN, you’ll need to get one. If you’ve completed the FAFSA in the past, you probably already have a PIN. You can use the same PIN you used in the past to renew your FAFSA each school year, so keep it in a safe place. If you have forgotten your PIN, you can retrieve it. If you’re considered a dependent student, at least one of your parents will need a PIN as well. If you or one of your siblings have completed the FAFSA within the last 18 months, your parent(s) will use the same PIN they used before. If not, your parent(s) may need to apply for a new PIN.

*If you are considered a dependent student, your parent(s) will also need to do this. 

I’m finished. What’s next?

That’s it. You’ve filled it out. We told you it wasn’t so bad. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn who you will hear from and when.

Still have questions?

We’re here to help. Connect with us: StudentAid.gov/social.

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

7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the FAFSA

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, it’s important that you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The good news? The FAFSA is simpler than ever! Did you know that, on average, it only takes 23 minutes complete? That equates to roughly one episode of your favorite TV program, so no excuses about not having the time. Record that TV show and watch it later.


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

The 2014­­–15 FAFSA becomes available on January 1, 2014, at 12 a.m. Central Time. You can fill it out for FREE on the official government site, www.fafsa.gov. To speed up the FAFSA process, get prepared early. Here is what you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA:

  1. Your Federal Student Aid PIN* — In order to sign your FAFSA electronically, you’ll need a Federal Student Aid PIN. You can help to prevent processing delays by getting a PIN before you begin the FAFSA. Find out how to get a PIN and what to do if you forgot your PIN. It only takes a minute.
  2. Your social security number* — If you don’t know it, it can be found on your social security card. If you don’t have access to that, it may be on your birth certificate or permanent resident card. If you don’t have one of those, or don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll need their help with portions of the FAFSA anyway. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you’ll also need your Alien Registration Number.
  3. Your driver’s license number — If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.
  4. Your tax records* — Use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying: so if you are filling out the 2014–15 FAFSA, you will need 2013 tax information. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2012 tax return, just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2013 taxes. If you have filed your taxes already, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
  5. Records of your untaxed income* — This includes a whole bunch of variables that may or may not apply to you, like child support received, interest income and veterans non-education benefits.
  6. Records of all your assets (money)* — This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as investments like stocks and bonds and real estate.
  7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending — The schools you list on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later. Be sure to list any school you’re considering, even if you’re not sure yet.

*If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parent(s) as well.

Still have questions?

We’re here to help. Connect with us: StudentAid.gov/social.

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

4 Things to Do Before You Make Your First Student Loan Payment

Loan Payment ScheduleOne perk of having a federal student loan instead of a private student loan is that you are not required to start making payments right away. In fact, many federal student loans have a grace period*, or a set amount of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your student loans. For most student loans, the grace period is 6 months but in some instances, the grace period could be longer. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan.

If you graduated within the last few months, your grace period may almost be over and you will probably be contacted by your loan servicer, letting you know how the repayment process will work.

Here are four things you should do now, before your first student loan payment is due:

1. Get Organized

Start by tracking down all of your student loans. Did you know that there is a website that allows you to view all your federal student loans in one place?

You can log into http://www.nslds.ed.gov/ using your Federal Student Aid PIN to view your loan balances, information about your loan servicer(s), and more.

Note: Don’t forget to check your personal records to see if you have private student loans. 

2. Contact Your Loan Servicer

Your loan servicer is the company that will be collecting payments on your federal student loan on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. They are also there to provide support. Your loan servicer can help you choose a repayment plan, understand loan consolidation, and complete other tasks related to your federal student loan, so it’s important to maintain contact with your loan servicer. If your circumstances change at any time during your repayment period, your loan servicer will be able to help.

To find out who your loan servicer is, visit nslds.ed.gov. You may have more than one loan servicer, so it is important that you look at each loan individually.

3. Estimate Your Monthly Payments Under Different Repayment Plans

Federal Student Aid recently launched a Repayment Estimator that allows you to compare our different repayment plans side by side. Once you log in, the repayment estimator pulls in information about your federal student loans, such as your loan balance and your interest rates, and allows you to estimate what your monthly payment would be under each of our different repayment plans. It also allows you to compare the total amount you will pay for your loan over time depending on the repayment option you choose. Try it!

4. Select The Repayment Plan That Works For You

Some of the greatest benefits of federal student loans are their flexible repayment options. Take advantage of them! Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can change repayment plans at any time. There are options to tie your monthly payments to your income and even ways you can have your loans forgiven if you are a teacher or employed in certain public service jobs. Once you have determined which repayment plan is right for you, you must contact your loan servicer to officially change your repayment plan.

* Not all federal student loans have a grace period. Note that for many loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.

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

4 Common Student Loan Mistakes

It’s been hard to come to terms with, but I need to face the facts: I’m not in college anymore. In fact, this January marks two years since I started repaying my student loans. I know, not the most exciting thing in the world, but important. So while I don’t claim to be a student loan expert, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, mostly through trial and error. In hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes I did, here are some things I wish I had known before I started repaying my student loans:

  1. Girl with CalculatorI should have kept track of what I was borrowing.

Let’s be real. When you take out student loans to help pay for college, it’s easy to forget that that money will eventually have to be paid back … with interest. The money just doesn’t seem real when you’re in college, and I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of what I was borrowing and how it was building up. When it was time to start repaying my loans, I was quite overwhelmed. I had different types of loans and different interest rates. When I did eventually see my total loan balance, I was pretty shocked.

You can avoid this problem. Had I known there was a super easy way to keep track of how much you’ve borrowed in federal student loans, I would have been much better off. Just go to nslds.ed.gov, select “Financial Aid Review,” log in, and you can view all of your federal student loans in one place! How did I miss that?

  1. I should have made interest payments while I was still in school.

If you’re anything like me, you probably consumed your fair share of instant noodles while trying to survive on a college student’s budget. Trust me, I get it. But one thing I really regret when it comes to my student loans is not paying interest while I was in school or during my grace period. Like I said, I was far from rich, but when I was in college, I did have a work-study job and waited tables on the side. I probably could have spared a few dollars each month to pay down some student loan interest. Remember, student loans are borrowed money that you have to repay with interest and more importantly, that interest may capitalize, or be added to your total balance. My advice: Even though you don’t have to, do yourself a favor and consider paying at least some of your student loan interest while you’re in school. It will save you money in the long run.

     3. I should have kept my loan servicer in the loop

If you’ve recently graduated and haven’t heard from your loan servicer, make sure you check that your loan servicer has up-to-date contact info for you. When I graduated and moved into my first big-girl apartment, I forgot to change my address with my loan servicer. I found out that all of my student loan correspondence was going to my mom’s address. I hadn’t even thought to update my loan servicer with my new contact information. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Keep your servicer informed of address, e-mail, and phone changes.

  1. I should have figured out what my monthly loan payments were going to be BEFORE I went into repayment.

By the time my grace period was over, I had a decent idea of how much I had borrowed in total, but I had no idea what my monthly payments would be. I thought I was fine. I had started my new job and been paying rent and other bills for about six months. Then my grace period ended, and I got my first bill from my loan servicer. It was definitely an expense I hadn’t fully taken into account.

Don’t make the same mistake. Luckily for you, Federal Student Aid recently launched a repayment estimator that allows you to pull your federal student loan information in order to compare your monthly payments under different repayment plans side by side. That way, you know what to expect and can budget accordingly … unlike me.

I’ll be the first to admit that this whole process can seem a little overwhelming, especially when you’re new at it. But just remember, your loan servicer is there to help you. If you have questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to contact them.

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

Which Student Loan Repayment Plan Should You Choose?

If you graduated from college within the last six months, you have probably been contacted by one of the U.S. Department of Education’s loan servicers, reminding you that it’s almost time to begin repaying your student loans.

Your loan servicer will automatically enroll you in our Standard Repayment Plan unless you tell them otherwise. Under a Standard Plan, your payments will be fixed over a 10-year period of time.

But, this isn’t your only option. Did you know that the Department offers several different repayment plans? You can read more about that below or you can  try our repayment estimator to find out which repayment plan is best for you. Just log in, and the tool will pull your federal student loan information and allow you to compare our different repayment plans side by side:

Here are the details on each repayment plan we offer:

Repayment Estimator Graphic

Standard Repayment Plan

The most basic type of repayment plan is the Standard Repayment Plan. This is the default plan for most types of student loans. It breaks down your loan balance into monthly payments of at least $50 for up to ten years. In general, this is the plan that will cost you the least amount of money in interest payments.

Graduated Repayment Plan

Under the Graduated Repayment Plan, monthly payments start out low and increase every two years during the 10-year repayment period. This plan is best for borrowers whose income may start out low but is expected to increase. One downside is you will pay more in interest than you would under the Standard Repayment Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

The Extended Repayment Plan allows borrowers with more than $30,000 in debt to extend the repayment period from ten years to up to twenty-five years. Payments under the Extended Repayment Plan can be either standard or graduated. This plan is best for borrowers whose loan burden is too large to bear the standard monthly payments over the course of just ten years.

Income-Based Repayment Plan

The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan allows borrowers with a demonstrated financial hardship to limit their monthly loan payments to 15 percent of their discretionary income (that is, the difference between their adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the poverty guideline for their individual situation). Under this plan, if the balance of the loan has not yet been paid off after 25 years of payments, it can be forgiven. Under IBR, borrowers will pay more in interest over the life of the loan. This plan is best for borrowers who are struggling to afford their monthly payments under other repayment plans.

Pay As You Earn

The Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan allows new borrowers with a demonstrated financial hardship to limit their monthly loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary income. Under this plan, if the balance of the loan has not yet been paid off after 20 years of payments, it can be forgiven. However, borrowers will pay more in interest over the life of the loan than under the Standard Repayment Plan. 

Income-Contingent Repayment Plan

Under the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, a borrower’s monthly payment amount is calculated based on annual income and family size as well as his total loan amount. If a loan balance remains after 25 years of payments, it may be forgiven. Unlike the IBR and Pay As You Earn Repayment Plans, borrowers need not be facing financial hardship to qualify for this plan. However, a borrower will likely pay more in interest than in other repayment plans. This plan is best for borrowers who are not facing demonstrated financial hardship, but whose financial situation is insufficient to bear the monthly payments under other repayment plans.

Remember that these are for federal loans only. If at any point, you need advice or have questions about your federal student loans, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. If you have private loans as well, be sure to check with your lender to see what repayment options they have available.

For more information on student loans and federal financial aid, visit StudentAid.gov.

4 Things You Need to Know About Repaying Your Student Loans


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When it comes to repaying your federal student loans, there’s a lot to consider. But, by taking the time to understand the details of repayment, you can save yourself time and money. This should help you get started.

When do I begin repaying my federal student loans?

You don’t have to begin repaying most federal student loans until after you leave college or drop below half-time enrollment. Many federal student loans have a grace period. The grace period is a set period of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your loan. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan. Note that for most loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.

Your loan servicer or lender will provide you with a loan repayment schedule that states when your first payment is due, the number and frequency of payments, and the amount of each payment.

Whom do I pay?

The U.S. Department of Education uses several loan servicers to handle the billing and other services on federal student loans. Your loan servicer will work with you to choose a repayment plan and will assist you with other tasks related to your federal student loans. It is important to maintain contact with your loan servicer and keep your servicer informed of any changes to your address, e-mail, or phone number.

How much do I need to pay?

Your bill will tell you how much to pay. Your payment (usually made monthly) depends on

    • the type of loan you received,
    • how much money you borrowed,
    • the interest rate on your loan, and
    • the repayment plan you choose.

You can use our repayment estimator to estimate your monthly payments under different repayment plans to determine which option is right for you. Just remember, if you would like to switch repayment plans, then you must contact your loan servicer.

What should I do if I’m having trouble making my student loan payments?

Contact your loan servicer as soon as possible. You may be able to change your repayment plan to one that will allow you to have a longer repayment period or to one that is based on your income. Also, ask your loan servicer about your options for a deferment or forbearance or loan consolidation.

Still have questions?

If you need assistance with your federal student loan, it is best to contact your loan servicer. They can help you choose or change your repayment plan, and learn about other options to make your monthly payments more affordable. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer.

Need Advice About Your Student Loans? Your Loan Servicer Can Help!

pay your loan servicerLet’s face it, repaying your student loans can be quite overwhelming, especially if you’re new at it. I may have spent my senior year of college interning at Federal Student Aid, but when my first student loan bill came in the mail, I’ll admit, I had no idea where to begin.

One of my first questions was, “Who do I pay?” I knew I had only federal student loans, but I kept getting letters and e-mails from Sallie Mae.* Why was that? If you asked yourself a similar question, this may help.

*Sallie Mae is my federal student loan servicer, but may not be yours. Here is a complete list of the federal student loan servicers.

Why am I receiving federal student loan bills from a company rather than the U.S. Department of Education?

Those bills you get in the mail are coming from one of the U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan servicers. These loan servicers are companies that work on behalf of the Department of Education to help you understand your student loans and to facilitate payments.

Note: Even though you make your monthly payments to your loan servicer, your loans are still federal student loans and are owned by the Department of Education.

What can a loan servicer help me with?

Loan servicers do more than just collect payments from you. Your loan servicer is there to ensure that you, as a federal student loan borrower, get the customer service and repayment support you need to successfully repay your student loan.

Your loan servicer can help you:

How do I find out how many loans I have and 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.

If you also have private student loans, I recommend getting a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com to identify them.

Not sure what kind of loans you have? It’s best to look at nslds.ed.gov and get a free credit report too. Then you’ll know about all of your loans right away.

Moral of the story: Your loan servicer is here to help.  

Trust me, as a recent college graduate, I know how difficult it can be to make these payments every month. Truthfully, I still get anxious every time that payment comes out of my bank account. But that’s all the more reason to stay in touch with your loan servicer. Whether you’re having trouble making your payments or you just want advice about which repayment option is best for you, they can help.

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

Making College Affordable for Every American

I’m thrilled today that President Obama is moving forward with an ambitious new plan to make college more affordable for every American. We know that higher education is more important than ever, but we also know it’s never been more expensive. We have heard from students and families across the country who are worried about affording college, and we believe that higher education cannot be a luxury that only advantages the wealthy.

Cost of College GraphicsCollege must remain an accessible and affordable opportunity that provides a good value for all Americans. We want college to be a secure investment for every student from every background who is willing to work hard, an investment that prepares our nation’s students for a good job and a bright future.

We believe the cost of college is a shared responsibility among the federal government, states, colleges and universities, and our students and families. Since 2009, the Obama Administration and Congress have worked together to make historic investments in higher education. We  raised the maximum Pell Grant grant award by more than $900, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, now offer additional loan repayment programs that help students manage their debt, and enacted landmark federal student aid reforms that eliminated wasteful bank subsidies and increased by more than 50 percent the number of students attending college from low-income families.

There are remarkable examples of states and institutions across our nation who have taken innovative steps to help American families afford college. New York has committed to restraining tuition growth in its public community colleges and universities over five years, and the University of Maryland system, which operates an Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative, has saved more than $356 million and helped stabilize tuition for four straight academic years.

But we need to see more innovation and initiative to ensure that college remains a good value for students and families, and that’s what the President’s announcement today is all about. Earlier today at the University at Buffalo, the President laid out a plan with three concise steps to make college affordable. The steps are outlined in this White House fact sheet, and include:

  • Linking federal financial aid to college performance, so colleges must demonstrate they provide good value for the investment students make in higher education
  • Sparking innovation and competition by shining a spotlight on college performance, highlighting colleges where innovations are enabling students to achieve good results, and offering colleges regulatory flexibility to innovate
  • And – because we know that too many students are struggling to repay their debt today – President Obama is committed to ensuring that students who need it can have access to the ‘Pay As You Earn’ plan that caps federal student loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, so students can better manage their debt

We need more colleges and universities to keep college affordable while delivering a high quality education, not only for students who are first in line, but for all, especially students who are first in their families to enter college, students from disadvantaged circumstances, students with disabilities and veterans who chose service before completing their education. We need states to increase higher education funding, with proven strategies for student access and success. And we need to make sure that our annual investment of over $150 billion in federal student aid is achieving all that it can to ensure the economic and social prosperity of our nation.

The Obama Administration is going to continue to do everything we can to make college more affordable, and ensure students and families get as much value possible from their investment of effort, time and money in higher education. We’re looking forward to seeing states and institutions do their part, as well.

Additional reading: President Obama Explains His Plan to Combat Rising College Costs.

Martha Kanter is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education 

5 Tips for Saving on College

Let’s face it. College tuition can be expensive. If you think about it in real terms, the annual cost of attending some colleges can equate to purchasing a new car each year. It seems absurd, right? Like many others, you might be wondering “How am I ever going to pay for college” and “Is there anything that I can do to lower my costs?” As a college graduate, current graduate student, and high school teacher, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to save on college:

  • Paying for college graphicConsider attending a community college first and transferring after two years. Some states, such as Virginia and California, offer guaranteed admissions to certain four-year institution of higher education for students who complete two years at a community college. You can get your prerequisite classes out of the way and save yourself quite a lot of money in the process. Additionally, SAT and ACT scores aren’t required to get into community college – another money-saving perk. Taking a path like this is a great way to prevent you from borrowing more money than needed.
  • Just because you are awarded a sum of money doesn’t mean that you have to borrow all of it. Look at your finances, your tuition/school costs, and borrow only what you need. If you want to accept less than what you were offered, let your school know ASAP because borrowing more than you need will cost you extra in the long run.
  • There is a lot of free money out there. That’s right. I said FREE money; so go find it! You can get it in the form of a scholarship – a sum of money awarded to students to help pay for school. Scholarships are different than loans in that they do not need to be paid back; they are completely free. So, look into applying for scholarships before borrowing a loan. There are thousands of scholarships out there. Scholarships come in all forms – large, small, national, local, etc. On top of that, there are scholarships catered for people of certain ethnicities, locations, majors, religions, skills, along with many other classifications. Think of any topic, and there is probably a scholarship for it – the best homemade duct tape prom outfit, a scholarship for being tall, and a candy technology scholarship. So, my advice is: look into applying for scholarships before borrowing money. Check out College Board’s Scholarship Search to find scholarships that fit your individual characteristics.
  • In order to reduce the amount of money that you need to borrow, consider getting a job while you attend school. You might even be able to find a part-time job somewhere – perhaps the school library or IT help desk – that allows you to study while you work. Additionally, there are federal and statewide work study programs that can help you earn money to help pay for college, reducing the amount you need to borrow.
  • When borrowing loans, choose federal student loans over private student loans. If you receive a federal loan, it will have a fixed interest rate , whereas private loans may fluctuate. Moreover, federal loans offer many options for repayment, forbearance, and deferment. Learn more about the differences between federal and private loans.

It’s always a nice feeling to save money. So, make sure to explore all of the money-saving options available to you, and you might be able to alleviate some of your college expenses.  If you have any other questions or concerns about saving on college, visit StudentAid.gov.

Kelly Jubic is a digital engagement intern at Federal Student Aid.

Apply Today for the Virtual Student Foreign Service

VSFS PosterAre you yearning to get some hands-on experience learning about how federal agencies operate, but can’t make it to Washington, D.C., for an internship? Federal Student Aid (FSA), a principal office of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), is teaming up with the Department of State’s Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) to harness technology and to engage students who are interested in careers in postsecondary education but can’t make it to Washington.

VSFS is a virtual e-Internship program housed in the Department of State that matches student interns with federal agencies to complete projects virtually from college and university campuses in the United States and throughout the world.

This year, VSFS has 276 projects available, and student interns are asked to commit 10 hours per week from September through April. Past e-interns have worked on projects focused on research, social media, website design, data visualization, reporting, teaching, and a plethora of other areas.

Check out this introductory video for an overview of the VSFS program or visit the VSFS website for more information.

To Apply

Applications for the 2013-2014 VSFS e-Internship program will be accepted until July 22, 2013 on USAJobs.  Interested U.S. citizen undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate students are encouraged to apply to make a real difference – virtually – during the 2013 – 2014 academic year.  As part of the application package, students must submit an official or unofficial transcript, a statement of interest, and a resume.

ED will screen all applicants who successfully meet the criteria and have selected an ED-posted project as on their top three choices.  Selected interns will be subject to ED’s standard student volunteer and recruitment and onboarding procedures. U.S. citizen students studying abroad or attending foreign universities are welcome to apply.

If you have questions about ED-posted projects, please e-mail VirtualIntern@ed.gov.

Nicholas Owen is a management and program analyst in the Immediate Office of the Chief Operating Office at Federal Student Aid