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Latest from FSA: Upcoming Enhancements to the FSA ID

March 22, 2019

FSA recently announced that they will implement a variety of improvements to the FSA ID experience on March 31, 2019. In the announcement, FSA notes, “These enhancements are part of our continuous improvement of Federal Student Aid (FSA) systems and are an important step toward realizing our vision for the Next Generation (Next Gen) Financial Services Environment.”

One major enhancement announced is the ability to log in with a verified mobile phone number. With the prevalence of users who manage their accounts via smartphones, this ability will provide more flexibility for students, parents, and borrowers.

Other enhancements to the FSA ID experience include:

  • Warning users who enter an email address domain type of .edu, .k12, .pvt, .tec, or .cc that they should include an email address to which they will not lose access (after graduation, etc.).
  • Removing the 18-month password update requirement. A password change will be required only after a security event.
  • Removing the requirement for special characters in an FSA ID password.
  • Warning users when their account is about to be locked. The warning will indicate how many log-in attempts remain.

For more details on these upcoming enhancements, check out FSA’s announcement.

A Great Exit Counseling Resource to Help Students Live Life Smart

March 22, 2019

As Spring approaches, the end of the school year is not far behind. With exit counseling on the horizon, we would like to remind you that Nelnet has a variety of resources available to assist you with this very important task.

The best resource you can provide students during exit counseling is our Live Life Smart Guide. The Live Life Smart Guide helps students become financially savvy and includes:

  • Budgeting worksheets
  • An infographic that breaks down the federal student loan process
  • Loan repayment information and tips
  • Default prevention resources
  • A glossary of student loan terms
  • Servicer contact information
  • A checklist of important topics to cover during exit counseling

Our website’s library contains numerous PDFs that provide valuable loan repayment information. This material focuses on default prevention, financial literacy, and loan repayment. Borrowers can learn about deferments, forbearances, delinquency, and the consequences of default.

If your school allows, your students may complete online exit counseling through the FSA website. Online exit counseling provides students with important information to help prepare them for federal student loan repayment. The online exit counseling process typically takes 20-30 minutes and must be completed in a single session.

As another school year draws closer to an end, Nelnet continues to strive to provide resources that are valuable to our school and borrower customers. If you have questions about exit counseling, feel free to contact our School Service Center (ssc@nelnet.net or 888.274.9876).

Latest from FSA: Reminder of Valid Signature Rules for Printed FAFSA Signature Pages

March 21, 2019

FSA recently posted a reminder to financial aid administrators of the rules and requirements for assessing the validity of student and parent signatures on fafsa.gov paper signature pages. This information has been provided to augment the guidance that financial aid administrators provide to applicants and their parents as they complete the FAFSA.

FSA’s reminder notes, “A valid signature requires a minimum of a title, first name or initial, and a last name. Acceptable signature examples for an applicant or parent named “June H. Brown” include Mrs. Brown, June Brown, J.H. Brown, J. Brown, or J.H.A. Brown. The only exception is when the student or parent only has a first name or last name and indicates this in writing on the signature page. “

For more information, including background, details on invalid signatures, and additional signature options, check out FSA’s reminder.

Help Your Students Prepare for Tax Season

January 17, 2019

If your students are like many of the rest of us, the thought of filing income taxes can be daunting. What are the most important tax tips to share with your students? A few basics can help them understand what income counts, whether they need to—or should—file, what forms to use, and how to go about filing with a minimum of stress.

Do your students need to file a tax return?

Whether your students need to file a tax return generally depends on their gross income, filing status, and age. If they’re single, under 65,  and claiming themselves as an exemption for the 2018 tax filing year, they must file if their gross income was at least $12,000. Students must also file a tax return if they had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400. If the student can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, and are single, under 65, and not blind, they must file if they meet one of the following criteria.

  • Their unearned income was over $1,050.
  • Their earned income was over $12,000.
  • Their gross income was more than the larger of $1,050 or their earned income (up to $11,650) + $350.

What counts as income?

Gross income is generally defined as all income you receive in the form of money, goods, property, and services that isn’t exempt from tax. Some examples include the following:

  • Income reported by employers on W2 forms
  • Income from work-study programs
  • Business income earned through freelance or entrepreneurial work (e.g., selling t-shirts, designing a website for a fee, etc.)
  • Some education grants, especially those used for purposes other than tuition, such as room and board
  • Any interest from financial institutions

What forms should students use when filing their taxes?

W2: A W2 is the United States federal tax form issued by employers that states how much an employee was paid and the amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks in the previous year. The amount of taxes withheld is based on the withholding status determined by the W-4 form that’s filled out when an employee begins a new job. An employee’s withholding status takes into account their marital status, dependents, and whether or not the employee wishes to have more than the standard amount withheld from each paycheck.

1040: For the 2018 tax year, the IRS has redesigned the 1040 form and eliminated the 1040A and 1040 EZ. All individuals will use the 1040 to file their annual income tax returns. The 1040 may need to be supplemented with new numbered schedules to properly report income for 2018.

1098-E: The 1098-E is a form filed with the IRS that details the amount of interest paid on qualified student loans during the previous year. Students may be able to deduct all or part of the interest paid on qualified student loans, which could reduce the amount they pay in income tax.

How should students file their tax return?

Students have a variety of options available to them when filing their tax return.

In Person: In addition to local accounting firms, there are numerous tax preparation companies that advertise during tax season. For a small fee, students have the opportunity to work with a tax professional who will complete their income tax returns and walk through the process with them. This can be useful for first-time filers, or students with complicated financial situations.

Online: The IRS offers free online tax filing. Many tax preparation companies also offer their services online, and in some cases, it may be offered free of charge. This option is great for students who want to file their own taxes quickly and cheaply.

VITA: For students who want to tackle their income tax returns on their own, there are still some safety nets available to them. Many schools work with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a national organization that offers free tax assistance for simple tax questions and has many branches available on college campuses. If your students have questions about their tax returns, find out if VITA is available near you.

More Information

For additional information, refer to irs.gov.

Make your job easier by reaching out to Nelnet’s School Service Center (SSC).

January 14, 2019

The SSC is a simple, cost-free way to receive quick answers to your financial aid questions. When you call or email the SSC, you will reach a member of our highly experienced team. Those that work in our SSC are well-versed in issues that school financial aid offices face and are prepared to answer your questions regarding:

  • Nelnet-serviced loans (such as account status, address to return funds, and default prevention)
  • FFEL and commercial loans (like loan adds and changes, disbursement adjustments, and demographic changes)
  • Nsight Plus
  • NSLDS
  • NelnetSchoolPortal.com
  • Direct Consolidation
  • Total and Permanent Disability
  • ISIR and SAR comment codes
  • Verification process
  • Fraudulent claims
  • Discharge types
  • Title IV process
  • General student assistance
  • And much more

In addition, the SSC provides expedited assistance to school representatives who call with a borrower on the line, helping to quickly resolve issues or questions you may have during a counseling session.

Write down the SSC’s contact information and keeping it visible at your desk.

Phone: 866.463.5638

Email: SSC@Nelnet.net

Hours: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

If you call the SSC after hours, you can leave a message and we will get back to you the next business day.

We look forward to continuing to provide you and your students with excellent customer service and making your job easier!

FAQ: What does “N!!” mean at the start of an email subject line?

January 11, 2019

When you see “N!!” at the start of a subject line, it indicates that the message has gone through our automated encryption process.

We encrypt these emails to protect confidential information contained within. Any attachments contained within these messages are safe to open.

If you ever have any questions about communications you receive, we encourage you to contact the School Service Center (866.463.5638 or SSC@nelnet.net).

Latest from FSA: Changes to 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 Verification Requirements

January 10, 2019

FSA recently announced new flexibilities that can be used as part of institutions’ verification procedures. These changes are being incorporated to reduce burden on students and families that have difficulty in obtaining documentation needed to verify their Free Application for Federal Student Aid/Institutional Student Information Record (FAFSA/ISIR) information.

The flexibilities noted by FSA include details on:

  • Income Tax Return
  • Verification of Nonfiling
  • Nontax Filers
  • Extension Filers
  • Additional Documentation Requirements

These flexibilities, which can be seen in FSA’s announcement, are effective as of FSA’s announcement and apply to both the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 FAFSA processing and verification cycles.