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Latest from FSA: Blog Post and Webinar Answer Student Questions About FAFSA Changes

August 29, 2016

082916With the recent changes to the FAFSA process, financial aid administrators can expect plenty of questions from students. To help explain the changes to students, FSA recently posted a Q&A blog at the Department of Education’s website.

The blog covers topics including:

  • New submission dates
  • Income and tax information
  • How the changes benefit students
  • Changes to family financial situations
  • Filling out the FAFSA before applying to college
  • And more

In addition to the blog post, FSA will conduct a free webinar to address common questions on Thursday September 1, from 3-4 p.m. (ET). Interested students should register through FSA’s website

Please share this blog post and webinar information with your students as we near the new October 1 FAFSA submission date.

Latest from FSA: 7 Options to Consider if You Didn’t Receive Enough Financial Aid

August 22, 2016

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FSA recently tweeted a link to a blog post with tips for students who did not receive enough financial aid to cover their college expenses. This helpful post includes information and links to valuable resources on:

  • Scholarships
  • Part-time work
  • Payment plans
  • Special circumstances reevaluation
  • Additional Federal Student Loans
  • Emergency advances or institutional loans
  • Private or alternative loans

Please feel free to share this blog post with your students.

Four Easy Ways for Students to Save Money

August 17, 2016

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As classes begin for the 2016-2017 academic year, college students everywhere are being reminded of one simple fact: Life isn’t cheap. Financial aid is great, but it may only stretch so far. What is a money-minded student to do? Nelnet has you covered. Here are four easy ways for students to save money throughout the year. (For a much larger list, check out our Budget Strategies worksheet.)

1. Watch your thermostat

Okay, don’t literally watch your thermostat. (Although, if you find watching your thermostat entertaining, that probably would be cheaper than a cable subscription.) Instead, think before you crank up the A/C in the summer or the heater in the winter. Is the effort to maintain your paradise-like temperature worth the extra dollars each month? According to energy.gov, you can save as much as 10 percent each year by adjusting your thermostat 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day.

2. Make your own lunch

Eating out is quick. It’s convenient. It’s (arguably) delicious. But, wow, it can add up quickly! HowStuffWorks.com notes that brown-bagging could save you up to $1,500 each year. Ask yourself, is the Baconator really worth it?

3. Buy generic

Brand names are comforting. They’re the printed reassurance that your package of pain relievers will not cause your toes to swell or your eyebrows to shed. Alas, for generic drugs to gain FDA approval, they must meet standards that ensure that they are the same basic products as the name brands. In other words, generics can be just as effective at a lower price. Consumer Reports notes that generic medications can cost up to 95-percent less than name brands.

4. Make a budget

Where does the money go? That’s not a rhetorical question. Literally, where does your money go? If you don’t know, that’s a problem. Budgeting helps you track your expenses and can make you aware of how much you are spending on “wants” rather than “needs.” Sure, beginning a budget may seem like a daunting task, but we have you covered. Check out our Budgeting Worksheet in our Library.

Saving money may sound painful, but – as you can see from the above tips – it doesn’t have to be. For more tips on how to stay financially fit as the school year begins, check out our Live Life Smart Guide.

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Derek Larson, Nelnet

Latest from FSA: How Long Until Students Start Repaying Their Student Loans?

August 11, 2016

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With the variety of loan options available through Federal Student Aid, student borrowers often have a hard time keeping details straight – particularly when repayment begins. FSA recently tweeted the above information to benefit student borrowers who encounter that question.

Please feel free to share this information with your student borrowers, along with FSA’s Twitter account (@FAFSA), which provides valuable, student-focused information all year long.

Ask a Fed: Verification, FISAP, Gainful Employment, and More

August 1, 2016

Federal Training Officer David Bartnicki recently provided these updates:bartnicki

Verification

ED posted an electronic announcement on July 26, 2016 informing schools that the IRS has relaunched its Get Transcript Online tool, which is available at www.irs.gov under the “Tools” tab by clicking “Get a tax transcript” and then “Get Transcript Online.” The Get Transcript Online tool allows the user to immediately receive an online PDF version of their IRS Tax Return Transcript, or, if appropriate, a verification of non-filing.

PLEASE NOTE: The Get Transcript Online tool now uses an enhanced, two-step, multi-factor authentication process that requires the user to register before submitting a transcript request. To use the new Get Transcript Online tool, the user must have:

  1. Access to a valid email address
  2. A text-enabled mobile phone (pay-as-you-go plans cannot be used) in the user’s name
  3. Specific financial account numbers (such as a credit card number or an account number for a home mortgage or auto loan)

In addition, individuals who did not file an IRS tax return for the relevant tax year will receive a PDF page indicating that the IRS has no record of a tax return being filed for the requested year if they successfully register for Get Transcript Online. This printout will satisfy ED’s new requirement for proof of non-filing for non-tax filers if selected for verification in 17/18. Individuals who are not able to successfully register to use the Get Transcript Online tool will need to request a Verification of Non-filing (VONF) letter using IRS Form 4506-T.

I would also like to mention that the 2017-18 Suggested Text electronic announcement was posted July 29, 2016. This announcement contains several appendices to assist a school with their verification process for 2017-18 including Appendix A, which contains text to help a school fulfill their regulatory verification requirements. Please note that except for the “Statement of Educational Purpose” in APPENDIX A for students who are placed in Verification Tracking Groups V4 or V5, schools are not required to use Department suggested text and formats in their verification documents. For more information and a complete listing of all of the suggested text, please see the July 29, 2016 electronic announcement.

FISAP

As mentioned in the July 25, 2016 electronic announcement, the eCampus-Based application for the Fiscal Operations Report for 2015-2016 and Application to Participate for 2017-2018 (FISAP) is now available on the eCampus-Based (eCB) websitehttps://cbfisap.ed.gov/ecb/CBSWebApp/. The deadline for the electronic submission of the FISAP is 11:59 p.m. (ET) on September 30, 2016.

In preparation for the upcoming deadline for submission of the FISAP, we are encouraging schools to utilize the eSignature option for the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) signature on the FISAP, as well as the Lobbying form, Work Colleges Application form, Work Colleges Expenditure Report, and Expenditure Report for Title IV Aid to Students with Intellectual Disabilities, as applicable. The CEO/President/Chancellor at a school using the eSignature process must be enrolled as an eCB website user, have an FSA User ID and password, and receive and register a TFA token.

The eSignature for the FISAP and other forms within the eCB Web site will become available by August 1, 2016. Please review the June 26, 2014 Electronic Announcement for details concerning user registration and Two-Factor Authentication. 

For more information about the FISAP process and contact information please see the July 25, 2016 electronic announcement

G-845 Form Submission

As indicated in our July 19, 2016 electronic announcement, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS-USCIS) has informed ED that the submission of the G-845 Form for students required to undergo additional verification of their eligible non-citizenship status must be submitted to the Los Angeles field office, regardless of the geographic location of the institution submitting the G-845 Form. Effective immediately, institutions must mail these forms and attachments to:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Attn: USCIS SAVE Program Status Verification Office
300 N. Los Angeles Blvd., Room 3204
Los Angeles, CA 90012

The one exception is for Battered Immigrant-Qualified Aliens with a status under VAWA. Students with this status will have their G-845 forms submitted to the USCIS Buffalo office.

Please see the July 19, 2016 electronic announcement for more details and contact information.

Gainful Employment

I hope all of my schools were able to submit any GE completer list corrections by our July 28, 2016 deadline. Thanks for all your efforts to ensure we have the most accurate data possible as we begin to calculate our GE rates.

Speaking of the upcoming draft and final GE Program Debt-to-Earnings (D/E) rates, we recently published several resources to help institutions administer the Recent Graduates Employment and Earnings Survey (RGEES). The RGEES may be used to appeal the average earnings of graduates from programs subject to the gainful employment (GE) regulations. An institution may seek to complete this appeal process to demonstrate that its graduates’ true earnings are greater than those used in the GE Program Debt-to-Earnings (D/E) rates calculation.

To review the various resources, please see the GE Information page Resources section. Detailed information about each of the resources is included in the Alternative Earnings Survey Best Practices Guide.

Renewal of Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification form

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved a new Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification form (Self-Certification form) under OMB Control Number 1845-0101 with no changes from the earlier version of the form. The expiration date of the form is July 31, 2019 and replaces the previous version with an expiration date of May 31, 2016. The previous versions of the Self-Certification form with the expiration date of May 31, 2016 may continue to be distributed until August 31, 2016 and may be accepted until October 31, 2016.

For more information about the use of the self-certification form, please review GEN-13-15 and the July 27, 2016 electronic announcement.

Help Your Students Avoid Delinquency and Default

July 28, 2016

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The Atlantic recently published a story with some surprising numbers on student borrowers in default.

In particular, the article (based on a report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers) notes that loan indebtedness of $10,000 or less account for two-third of all defaults. Furthermore, adults with student debt under $5,000 are eight times more likely to default than adults owing more than $40,000.

What does this mean for schools and servicers looking to battle default? It means that default management messages and literature are important for all students, not just those nearing graduation. According to these numbers, it’s students who – for whatever reason – leave school prior to graduation that may struggle most with default.

As the article and the data show, default can be a severe problem, no matter how much debt a student borrower may have.

To help your students avoid default entirely, please consider sharing the following resources:

Avoiding Delinquency and Default – This handout from the Nelnet resource library provides four easy methods that student borrowers who are struggling with loan payments can use to avoid default.

Understanding Default – This section of FSA’s website provides comprehensive details on what default is, the effects it can have, and how students can avoid it.

Celebrating Summer and Volunteering the Nelnet Way

July 22, 2016

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At Nelnet, we love summer not only because it combines baseball games and sunshine, but also because it allows us to pair one of our core values with being active outside. Giving back to the communities in which we live and work is even more rewarding when paired with sunny days.

Associates were able to revel in volunteerism and summer heat in May as they took part in the Heart Walk sponsored by the American Heart Association. Nelnet was named a top walker for the third year in a row, with over 218 associates in attendance. Family members and favorite pets joined associates as they took one Saturday morning to come together and raise money for heart disease prevention.

Wellness Program Coordinator Rick Rautenberg said events like the Heart Walk are important for promoting a healthy lifestyle and raising awareness and education for life-threatening issues, such as heart disease.

“Volunteering in the communities we live in is as equally important to our personal well-being as staying physically active and living a life full of balance,” Rautenberg said. “Citizens that get involved and show pride in their community help create a positive environment for those around us. It can be contagious and go a long way towards making positive change in our communities.”

Along with having top attendance, associates helped to raise funds to go toward research and tools to prevent heart disease. This summer, associates were also able to enjoy being active outside in June at Relay for Life sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

“Getting involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event helps to promote cancer awareness and education,” Casey Carl, a supervisor, said. “It’s encouraging when people from within our community come together to support these types of causes, it shows that there are still a lot of caring people in this world.”

Carl previously coordinated Nelnet’s involvement in the walk when he worked in Colorado. Upon moving to Lincoln, he became part of the team that helped Nelnet begin participating in the event in Nebraska for the first time this year.

Associates embodied the 2016 theme and helped “Paint Your World Purple” by walking, jumping in bounce houses, participating in silent auctions, and eating at food trucks, all to celebrate lives, remember loved ones, and fight back against cancer. Nelnet team captain Mary Hulbert said volunteering has been important all of her life because of the good it does in the community and also because of the connections one makes.

“With so many associates and departments within Nelnet, you get stuck in your own little world,” Hulbert said. “Spreading your passion for volunteering for Relay for Life let me meet new people within Nelnet and form bonds that I wouldn’t have if I had just sat in my chair.”

Over 100 associates joined the team and helped fundraise. Next year, Nelnet hopes to double the money raised and the number of associates who participate.

The reasons to volunteer are countless. Spreading good and helping build a more educated world not only helps the community, but is a key part of Nelnet’s mission. Whether it be attending Nelnet-sponsored sporting events, or teaming up for local giving challenges, summer is perfect for using quality time to stay happy, healthy, and give back.