Obama orders that the FAFSA be made easier

October 5, 2009
The Obama administration pushes forward with its “Change” agenda which impacts the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid). High income earners tend to not fill out this form based on the Myth that they believe they make to much money to qualify for aid. While it is true that some of these families won’t […]

The Obama administration pushes forward with its “Change” agenda which impacts the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid).

High income earners tend to not fill out this form based on the Myth that they believe they make to much money to qualify for aid. While it is true that some of these families won’t qualify for federal grants which are reserved for the lowest income students and families. These high income families are leaving money on the table. Filling out this form accurately with understanding of all the nuances could result in a surprising financial aid award letter.

The Obama administration hopes that soon it will become simpler to provide tax return information that is requested on financial aid applications.

The IRS plans to set up a new system where you will be able to visit a secure web page, verify your identity and then retrieve the essential info needed—such as your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the prior year—in order to complete college loan applications, scholarship forms and other types of financial arrangements. The IRS hopes to have the system up and running next year.

Because of these new planed changes it is more important than ever to properly plan and have adequate time to implement these strategies so that you can qualify for as much aid as possible.

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Arizona State University Financial Aid

October 4, 2009
ASU's video on financial aid Learn the stratagies that can get you the most financail aid you can qualify for at one of our local workshops. Click the Free Workshop RSVP for dates and locations.    Send article as PDF   

ASU's video on financial aid

Learn the stratagies that can get you the most financail aid you can qualify for at one of our local workshops.

Click the Free Workshop RSVP for dates and locations.

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Obama’s new rules for private student loans

October 4, 2009
Are the new rules for Private Student Loans going to cause more confusion, frustration and chaos? As the Obama administration pushes forward on the “Change” agenda, some are wondering if it will be a positive or negative change. New rules put in place last week for private student loans stem from the Higher Education Act. […]

Are the new rules for Private Student Loans going to cause more confusion, frustration and chaos? As the Obama administration pushes forward on the “Change” agenda, some are wondering if it will be a positive or negative change.

New rules put in place last week for private student loans stem from the Higher Education Act. They have been hailed as good for student borrowers and were largely uncontroversial among lenders. Financial Aid officers and some higher education experts say the changes do not go far enough.

The disclosure rules require lenders to provide information about interest rates, fees, and terms, including the total cost of the loan at the maximum interest rate, when potential borrowers apply.

Lenders must tell applicants about repayment options and the total cost of each scenario. A sample form put together by the Federal Reserve shows that someone who is considering borrowing $10,000 at a maximum initial interest rate of 17.375 percent, for example, would be told that his or her loan would cost a total of $81,084 if payments are deferred while the person is enrolled, $50,707 if the borrower pays interest while enrolled, and $38,180 if the borrower makes payments on both principal and interest while enrolled. * This is why it is so important to understand and maximize all potential financial aid strategies so that your child is not burdened with an exorbitant amount of debt upon graduation.

Lenders also must inform applicants about federal student-loan options, which are often cheaper than private loans, and must refer them to the Department of Education’s web site for more information.

Upon applicant approval of a private loan, the lender must provide information on rates and fees, including estimates of the total repayment amount at the current and maximum interest rates, as well as the monthly payment at the maximum interest rate.

Private student loans carry risks and costs that fixed-rate federal student loans do not. Interest on private student loans can be variable, sometimes reaching 20 percent. The borrowing limits on private loans are also much higher than those on Stafford (Federal student loans). Due to Stafford loans not covering all the expenses college students require, students and parents have turned to private funding to cover the difference.

As college has grown more expensive, more students have turned to private lenders. Almost two-thirds of students who took out private loans had not exhausted cheaper federal financial-aid options. The new rules seek to reduce that proportion by requiring applicants for private loans to fill out a form indicating their knowledge of their college’s cost and other available forms of federal student aid.

Students and their families forgo available federal loans for various reasons. Some people do not fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form required for eligibility to receive federal grants or loans. Some students and their parents may wrongly assume they would not qualify for federal aid. Others may be intimidated by the form, which has been criticized for its complexity and length, drawbacks that federal officials have been working to improve.

J.D. says: “Despite what changes the new regime makes, knowing all the numbers for your child’s college education is critical so that parents aren’t guessing and have an understanding of the process so that they can make an intelligent, educated decision. These are the things that parents and students learn in our free workshops.”

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Credit co. must find new ways to leach onto students

September 21, 2009
At college campuses around the country, a fall ritual as familiar as the football tailgate party is about to disappear. The on-campus credit card marketing, characterized by free pizzas and T-shirts for every completed application, is enjoying its last hurrah before a new federal law kicks in next year. Credit card issuers in recent years […]

At college campuses around the country, a fall ritual as familiar as the football tailgate party is about to disappear. The on-campus credit card marketing, characterized by free pizzas and T-shirts for every completed application, is enjoying its last hurrah before a new federal law kicks in next year.

Credit card issuers in recent years routinely awarded cards to students with no income and no co-signer. Many colleges and universities joined the credit card game, allowing school mascots to be emblazoned across cards marketed to students and alumni.

Some colleges provide credit card companies with names and addresses of students and alumni. In exchange they can earn lucrative royalties based on the number of sign-ups and the volume of charges.

Consumer advocates say the reining in of student credit card sales can't come soon enough. In a study by Sallie Mae, the student loan organization, college students who had applied for student loans had an average of 4.6 credit cards in the spring of 2008, with the average senior graduating with $4,100 in credit card debt.

College students have been a key target of the credit card industry.

In February, a host of changes will hit campus. The law will:

Allow consumers under 21 to get credit cards only if a parent or other adult co-signs or if they prove they have the independent means to repay credit card debt.

Require disclosure of agreements that authorize collegiate affinity cards, including the details on royalty payments and mailing lists. Prohibit card issuers from offering freebies like food or trinkets when marketing on campus.

Stop prescreened credit card offers for consumers under 21 and ban credit limit increases without permission of a parent or other co-signer.

While many credit card companies have already scaled back aggressive on-campus marketing, consumer advocates say they will be monitoring colleges this fall.

The new reforms are aimed at keeping students from accumulating more credit card debt than they can handle. The changes are likely to make it more difficult for consumers under 21 to get credit cards.

J.D. says "Beware! Credit Card companies will find new ways to get their bloody talons into the pocket books of these young and innocent college students."

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Top test taking tips

September 17, 2009
You asked, here it is... Proper training, preparation and common sense are all paramount for a successful test day and a successful test score.  That aside, here are few good tips to take with you on your test day.      ·Bring the proper supplies. Bring a bottle of water, a pencil sharpener or extra lead […]

You asked, here it is...

Proper training, preparation and common sense are all paramount for a successful test day and a successful test score.  That aside, here are few good tips to take with you on your test day.

     ·Bring the proper supplies. Bring a bottle of water, a pencil sharpener or extra lead for mechanical pencils and bring an approved calculator. Be sure to shop or find these items early on and have them ready the night before the test day.
     ·Know all of the instructions before stepping foot into the test room. Don’t waste valuable time by reading these instructions on the test day. Your best bet is to familiarize yourself with them very well so that you area ready to go once the clock starts.
     ·Use your test booklet as scratch paper. There is no need to keep this booklet neat and clean as no one will read it afterwards anyway. Use the booklet to help work through a problem or to mark a particular question for review later on.
     ·Be very careful when bubbling in your answers. The answer sheet can do a number on your eyes after a while and it can be easy to bubble in a “D” for number 11 when it was meant for number 12. Be sure you bubble in the correct answer for the given questions. Otherwise one misstep can throw off your whole test.
     ·Be mindful of each question. It’s easy to go too quickly and make careless mistakes. Don’t overlook the heart of a question, or not take in each answer possibility. You must move through the test quickly, but the key is finding a balance between a quick pace and recklessness.
     ·Answer the easier questions first. If you come across a hard one, skip it and come back to it later. Time is of the essence, so be sure to tackle questions you know you can get right first. If you find yourself working on a question for more than 90 seconds, move on to the next. Come back to it at the end.
     ·Don’t rush, but don’t waste time. Though you know that you can’t afford to waste time you also want to be accurate on the SAT. Be sure to focus and read each question thoroughly before attempting to answer. After reading the question, review the multiple-choice questions if applicable, and then make your choice. If you can’t decide what to do on a question, mark it as something to come back to. It’s best to keep moving, you can always return to that question later. If you find yourself skimming through the questions to fast, take a step back and refocus.
     ·Have confidence! Don’t assume a question may be too difficult to answer. Be sure to read each question and think about the answer before determining that you need to guess or skip that question.  Have a “CEO’s” mentality; leave your emotions at the classroom door and go in with focused confidence.
     ·Know when to guess. On more difficult questions, try to eliminate as many wrong answers as possible before making a guess. Remember that you are penalized only ¼ point for an incorrect question. You receive 1 point for a correct answer, and 0 for a skipped answer.
     ·Breathe. Bring a sense of perspective to this test. Yes, the SAT is an important test, and you should concentrate to do well, but keep in mind that this is only a test. Remembering this throughout your test day may even help you to relax, in turn help you do better over all.

Important:

In researching colleges (well in advance of test day) your student should know both the minimum and maximum test scores on your child’s list of colleges. For example the test scores that San Diego State likes, are they higher or lower than the test scores at ASU?

Researching a college and knowing what kinds of demographics each college desires could be the tipping point that could get your student admitted and a whole ton of scholarships and or grants.

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SAT or ACT, Arg!?! Hey, which one should I take?

September 2, 2009
This link is AZCollegePlanning's recommended test prep books & stuff SAT & ACT Prep Recommended AZCollegePlanning Most colleges today accept both or either of the standardized tests; the SAT and ACT and state that they don't have a preference. It's not unusual for a student to score significantly higher on one test vs. the other. […]

Most colleges today accept both or either of the standardized tests; the SAT and ACT and state that they don't have a preference. It's not unusual for a student to score significantly higher on one test vs. the other. Many students are asking: "Well, which test should I take?"

First, check to see if the schools you are considering have a test preference or requirement. If not, consider your options. (*Note some more elite college require the SAT Subjects test in addition to the SAT or ACT. Check the college admission requirements.)

Keep in mind the differences in structure and content of the two exams. The tests have distinct qualities - the ACT is curriculum-based (English, math, reading, science and an optional writing section), while the SAT is more of an aptitude test focused on vocabulary, reading comprehension, general reasoning and problem-solving skills.

If you have a hard time staying focused for long periods, the ACT may be the test for you. It's shorter, generally more straightforward and there are more knowledge-based questions. English and math are a part of both tests, but the content and orientation is different.

The SAT focuses more on vocabulary and the ACT concentrates on grammar, punctuation and syntax. The ACT includes science and trigonometry, neither of which is found on the SAT.

Some counselors will tell you that intelligent underachievers will do better on the SAT and diligent overachievers will score better on the ACT. And others say that Athletes do better on the ACT verses the SAT. That may not be true information.

Many experts recommend that you take both tests, as well as both pre-tests (the PSAT and the PLAN) if they are offered in your area.

If you wish to make an educated choice, check out some of the free full-length practice tests for the ACT and SAT online (at The College Board, ACT, Princetonreview.com, Petersons.com), familiarize yourself with the format, content and structure and decide what's best for you.

Here are the official links to sample test:
Free SAT sample tests
Free ACT sample tests

If you don't have a clear preference, many students looking for any edge to improve their chances of admission, are taking both tests and submitting the higher score or both scores.

If you are a high school senior register for the test(s) now.
SAT test date October 10, 2009 registration deadline September 9
Register here for the SAT 
ACT test date October 24, 2009 registration deadline September 18
Register here for the ACT

If you are a high school junior take the test in the late spring
SAT test date March 13, 2010 registration deadline February 4, 2010
ACT test date April 10, 2010 registration deadline March 5, 2010

If you are a more hands on electronic techno-savvy kind of person, there are electronic handheld game type test prep devices. Pocket Prep Interactive Handheld Tutor for the SAT and ACT

 

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Ready, AIMS fire?!?

August 28, 2009
The current state of the economy for Arizona is a determining factor if (and it is a big if) if the AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) [A.K.A. Regents High Honors Endorsement Scholarship] scholarship will be available to bright students in the very near future. Here is the latest news regarding the AIMS scholarship. The […]

The current state of the economy for Arizona is a determining factor if (and it is a big if) if the AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) [A.K.A. Regents High Honors Endorsement Scholarship] scholarship will be available to bright students in the very near future.

Here is the latest news regarding the AIMS scholarship.

The official statement is:

The Arizona Board of Regents has decided to retain the "AIMS Scholarship" or "Regents High Honors Tuition" scholarship with the existing eligibility criteria for the graduating classes of 2009 and 2010. All college students currently receiving this scholarship will continue to do so if they meet the renewal criteria set by the universities. The impact on the class of 2011 and subsequent class has yet to be determined. The Arizona Department of Education will keep our website updated (www.ade.az.gov/asd/tuitionwaiver) on any Arizona Board of Regents decisions regarding this scholarship.

So here are a couple AIMS facts

This scholarship applies only to the three Arizona State Universities (ASU, U of A, and NAU). Community colleges have scholarships/grants available to students who graduate in the top 15% of their graduating class or are severely in need.

This link http://www.maricopa.edu/foundation/apply has several community college scholarships for Maricopa county community colleges.

This is an university academic merit-based scholarship; therefore, students do not need to demonstrate financial need in order to qualify. However, all students are encouraged to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) regardless of their financial situation. Students who are offered other scholarships from the university may not receive this ABOR scholarship. Students automatically receive the higher scholarship offered from the university, but not both.

This scholarship is only good at the three Arizona state universities and cannot be used at private colleges or colleges outside of Arizona state boundaries.

The PEG grant can be used at Private colleges or universities in Arizona.

However, there are other merit-based scholarships that can be used at colleges in other states and these vary by state and by college.

Remember AZCollegePlanning.com is Arizona's exclusive and premier college financial planning firm.

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College ranking polls, is there a blatant ‘chad’ error?

August 21, 2009
Pool season is almost over and now it's POLL season. You know the ones. Those polls that rank colleges based on a variety of criteria. Polls that stir up a frenzy and make hopeful college students drool like puppies anticipating their Scooby snack. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asks the questions ‘what […]

Pool season is almost over and now it's POLL season. You know the ones. Those polls that rank colleges based on a variety of criteria. Polls that stir up a frenzy and make hopeful college students drool like puppies anticipating their Scooby snack.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal asks the questions ‘what the heck are those college ranking lists for anyway?'

Understand that a college is a business and its business is education and nothing else. Also understand that a college produces income in a variety of ways. Two of the ways that a college produces income is 1.) through enrolment, somebody pays the tuition and other fees. Mom and dad write a check or loans or federal/state monies pays this section of the college's income and 2.) through application fees.

So the question is how does a college get more kids (and their eager parents) to fill out a application? Through the upward movement in the polls. When polling reports are published through US News and World Report or Princeton Review or a variety of other poll reporting entities; parents, students, teacher and counselors see that, "well last year this school was number 17 now it is number 14 it must be doing better" which results in hopeful students energized and enticed to apply.

Lets look at the numbers of UC Berkeley. The cost to apply to this school is $60. Now grated there are probably a few kids who had the application fee waived. So I am going to just assume that every one of those 48,627 applications sent into UC Berkeley had a check (or credit card) with $60 bucks.

So lets do the math. 48,627 applications multiplied by $60 = $2,917,620.00. Yes folks you read that right $2.9 million dollars. Not bad, not bad at all. (I'm not directly picking on UC Berkeley. It is a fine academic institution. I could have used the numbers for Duke University 23,750 applications or the University of Michigan 29,939 applications or any number of other colleges.)

This is why colleges pay serious attention to the reporting polls. If there is upward movement in the polls, then more than likely more hopeful future college kids will apply resulting in greater income revenue.

Let's ignore these silly numbers and focus more on your kid. Ask these questions. Does the college offer the major and career contacts my child needs? Is it a great fit and will this college help my child thrive so that he/she can get a jumpstart into his/her career as quick as possible. Focus more on the outcome for your child and how the college education and college environment will help than the polls.

AZCollegePlanning.com presents free local workshops that expose the dirty little secrets that colleges don't want you to know. Check the website for locations and dates. AZCollegePlanning.com is dedicated to help make college more affordable.

By J.D. Wyczalek (why-zall-ick)

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Why surf college websites

August 18, 2009
Tips for surfing college websites. Long gone are the days when colleges depended only on the brochures and view books they could fit inside your mailbox. They now devote large chunks of their websites to grabbing your attention. But there's much more to a college website than the Web pages of the admissions office. By […]

Tips for surfing college websites. Long gone are the days when colleges depended only on the brochures and view books they could fit inside your mailbox. They now devote large chunks of their websites to grabbing your attention. But there's much more to a college website than the Web pages of the admissions office. By surfing as though you're already a student, you can start to picture life on campus. Here are some tips that take you far beyond the home page.

Grab a tray. While some campuses offer only school-run cafeterias, others rent space to private businesses selling everything from pizza to garden burgers. Look for a link to dining services and get a taste of what's available. You might even find this week's menu online.

Check up on student health services. You'll be charged a student health fee when you register for classes, so why not find out what you're paying for? Look for a link on the home page that will take you to the student health services website. You'll learn which medical and counseling services are included and which are not.

Go clubbing. Are you an activist? A bird watcher? A master at the chess board? A future marketing exec? A South Asian female? Often funded by student government, clubs come in all shapes and sizes. Look for links like Student Life to find out if there are campus clubs you'd want to join. Get involved, make friends and enjoy college life.

Browse the school newspaper online. More and more colleges are putting their student-run newspapers online. Although it may take some digging to find them, they're well worth looking for. In everything from hard news to editorial cartoons, you'll get a feel for campus life, student concerns, and the caliber of student thinking and writing.

It is important to find if the college you are thinking of spending the next four years at is going to be a good fit. A bad or wrong fit college, can result in transferring to a different college (which is one reason why students spend 6 years earning a 4 year degree.)

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Obama’s new hope & lifetime learning credit changes

August 11, 2009
"HOPE & LIFETIME LEARNING CREDITS---CHANGES 2009 AND 2010" For the years 2009 and 2010, the following changes have been made to the Hope credit. The modified credit is also referred to as the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The maximum amount of the Hope credit increases to $2,500 per student. The credit is phased out (gradually […]

"HOPE & LIFETIME LEARNING CREDITS---CHANGES 2009 AND 2010"

For the years 2009 and 2010, the following changes have been made to
the Hope credit. The modified credit is also referred to as the
American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The maximum amount of the Hope credit increases to $2,500 per
student. The credit is phased out (gradually reduced) if your
modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is between $80,000 and $90,000
($160,000 and $180,000 if you file a joint return).

Exception. For 2009, if you claim a Hope credit for a student who attended a school
in a Midwestern disaster area, you can choose to figure the amount of
the credit using the previous rules. However, you must use the
previous rules in figuring the credit for all students for which you
claim the credit.

The Hope credit can now be claimed for the first four years of
post-secondary education. Previously the credit could be claimed for
only the first two years of post-secondary education.

Generally, 40% of the Hope credit is now a refundable credit, which
means that you can receive up to $1,000 even if you owe no taxes.
However, none of the credit is refundable if the taxpayer claiming
the credit is a child (a) who is under age 18 (or a student who is at
least age 18 and under age 24 and whose earned income does not exceed
one-half of his or her own support), (b) who has at least one living
parent, and (c) who does not file a joint return.

The term "qualified tuition and related expenses" has been expanded
to include expenditures for "course materials." For this purpose, the
term "course materials" means books, supplies, and equipment needed
for a course of study whether or not the materials are purchased from
the educational institution as a condition of enrollment or
attendance.

For 2009, the amount of your lifetime learning credit is phased out
(gradually reduced) if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is
between $50,000 and $60,000 ($100,000 and $120,000 if you file a
joint return). You cannot claim a lifetime learning credit if your
modified AGI is $60,000 or more ($120,000 or more if you file a joint
return).

  • Please consult with your tax professional or CPA before implementing any strategy.

If you need help or have any questions on how you're going to pay the upcoming astronomical costs of college, please contact us, your local AZ College Consulting firm. We can help you through several different scenarios options and help determine which is right for you.

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