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Latest from FSA: Upcoming Change to Federal Student Aid E-Training Web Address

April 5, 2019

FSA recently announced that the web address for the Federal Student Aid E-Training website will be updated to https://fsatraining.ed.gov on April 16, 2019. The FSA E-Training website provides a variety of training services for the financial aid community, including interactive online courses, learning tracks, and webinar recordings.

This URL change will provide consistency with other FSA web addresses along with improving delivery of email communications from the website.

FSA notes that “Users should save the updated web address (https://fsatraining.ed.gov) as a favorite and bookmark—and revise internal reference materials if needed—after implementation on April 16, 2019. Initially, there will be a temporary redirect in place, and users attempting to access the website with the old web address will be automatically redirected to the new location. However, to prevent receiving error messages in the future, users should access the website using the updated address as soon as possible after implementation.”

For more information, see FSA’s announcement.

3 Things Students Can Learn from Nelnet’s IDR Page

March 27, 2019
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As a financial aid administrator, you know the benefits that Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) can offer. But, for students in the midst of preparing for finals and young professionals still attempting to figure out the fastest route to work, IDR may as well stand for “I don’t remember.”

That’s where we come in. To make sure student borrowers have all the information they need to understand IDR, we offer an IDR page on our website. Student borrowers can review this information to read up on the ins and out of the various plans and gain a better understanding of whether they would benefit from an IDR plan. We recently updated the contents of this page, and further additions will be coming soon.

What can student borrowers learn at our IDR page? Here are three quick items:

  1. What information is needed to apply for IDR?
    • Few things are more frustrating than beginning an online application only to discover that you don’t have all the information you will need to fill it out. We lay out everything needed so that no laptops are thrown in frustration.
  2. What is recertification?
    • You’re enrolled in an IDR plan, but now you have to recertify your information. What? Why? We lay it all out and offer a link to FSA’s recertification page.
  3. How do the four IDR plans differ?
    • So many acronyms, so little time. Our IDR page offers detailed explanations of each of the four IDR plans, including what monthly payment amounts are based on, when remaining balances are eligible for forgiveness, and eligibility requirements.

IDR is a great option for student borrowers in need of payment relief. If your students have questions about IDR, please feel free to direct them to our IDR page.

Financial Literacy Month Resources are Here

March 25, 2019

April is Financial Literacy Month, and Nelnet is committed to providing the resources you need to help your students develop the financial habits necessary for a lifetime of financial wellness.

Our Financial Literacy Library offers an abundance of downloadable resources perfect for printing as handouts for your students, including credit card tips and financial wellness advice.

Also, make sure you check out FSA’s Resources. This webpage gives you access to financial literacy resources including everything from brochures and fact sheets to videos and images. Many resources are also available in Spanish.

At Nelnet, our focus on financial literacy lasts all year long. We look forward to helping your students increase their financial fitness today, tomorrow, and throughout their lives.

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.