Title: Financial Aid Webinar
Panelist: David Smedley, Associate Director of Compliance and Training, GW Financial Assistance Office
Subject: You will learn about Financial Aid Options for Graduate Students during this webinar hosted by the Office of Student Financial Assistance at The George Washington University. The topics covered include:
- Eligibility criteria for financial aid for graduate students
- Application process for graduate students
- Accessing financial aid information after applying
- Answering audience questions
Hi everyone, and welcome to the George Washington University’s Financial Aid webinar for graduate students. My name is Angela and I will be your moderator for today. Before we begin I would like to go over logistics for this presentation and address some commonly asked questions. All participants are in a listen only mode. To ask questions type your questions into the chat box on the right hand side of your screen and hit enter. We will address your questions throughout the webinar session, and also during your dedicated Q&A at the end of the webinar.
Your panelist today is David Smedley. He is the Associate Director of Compliance and Training in the Office of Student Financial Assistance at the George Washington University. A 20 year veteran of Student Aid administration he has formally served as a Director of Financial Aid at a two year college with a military component and as Director of Financial Aid for a small graduate program in internal relations, national security and intelligence that has just emerged with its own accreditation.
In the past year he has been asked to formulate the first committee on military financing and benefits for the Eastern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and to serve as its first Chair. In his current role he oversees compliance review and serves as a training and professional development advocate for the Office of Student Financial Assistance.
All right, let’s get started. I’m going to hand the presentation over to David; go ahead, David.
Thank you very much, Angela. Good afternoon, everybody. There are several ways to finance graduate education at GW. There is school based student finance assistance, several schools and colleges now offer some sort of financial scholarships, [inaudible 00:01:42] teaching assistance, graduate assistance and things of this nature.
There’s employer based financial assistance – if you have a benefit that’s part of employment. That could be one potential way. There are multiple ways of military based financial assistance. There are various private sources of financial assistance from private organizations, private associations, club’s associations, things of this nature.
There is Federal Student Aid at the graduate level where there’s quite – it is predominately in loans. The university has a monthly payment plan which you can use in combination with any or the above options that I’ve just indicated to help space out the course of payments over the course a semester.
Then finally, if your employer has a contract with the university or has some sort of process for remitting payments directly to the university, that is one potential way of paying as well. Next slide.
School based financial assistance – schools and colleges at the university may offer scholarships or any kind of tuition awards, however, these are mainly not geared towards distance education students so you need to keep that in mind. That being the case, if you have a particular interest in this thing the best place to go is the Office of Graduate Fellowships – this website which is listed on the slide. Next slide.
Employer based assistance – if you have a benefit as part of employment you could potentially receive tuition reimbursement for enrolment or paying it up front. That really depends on who your employer is and what their specific policies are with respect to this, so the best thing to do is to contact your Human Resources and Benefits Office and find out what benefits are available and how they are – and what the procedures are for that. And just note on the last bullet that under Federal law in the United States education benefits are taxable after the first $5,250. That is to say that if you receive a tuition award, a tuition scholarship award, something above 5,250; anything above that would be taxed. Next slide.
Military based assistance is an issue that’s become very big in the past couple of years because of the new GI Bill, but not only does the Department of Veteran’s Affairs offer various forms of education benefits, the Department of Defense also offers various benefits. So if you are a veteran or if you’re an active military or if you are a family member of a veteran or active military, it [inaudible 00:04.19] you to look into what potential options you may have available through either the Department of Defense and/or the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
You may have heard about the tuition assistance program in the news over the course of the past years; there’s been a lot of controversy about this. The tuition assistance program is a program that permits payments for active duty military to attend post secondary education. The Department of Defense has proposed to make changes to that program which have generate controversy, and at the moment George Washington University has not signed onto the Memorandum of Understanding, just so that you know. If you want to get the details on the TA program, see the web link that’s listed there, which is for the Department of Defense’s military and family policy website, for short VOLED, if you go back to the previous slide.
Under the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill [inaudible 00:05.21] broad umbrella terms for education benefits administered by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The biggest thing is the post 911 Veteran’s Education Assistance program which was enacted in 2009 and revised in 2010. This is important because if you’re eligible for this George Washington University participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, part of that particular program, which basically would cover all tuition charges subsequent to enrolment. For complete details see the GI Bill website. Next slide.
Monthly payment plan – the university has a monthly payment plan that they can track with that allows students to spread out costs over the course of the semester and to manage all installments with no interest assessed. And as I said before, it can be used along with other forms of student assistance, and for the complete details see the information that the Student Accounts Office has on the Colonial Central website. Next slide.
Payment by third party sponsors – the Student Accounts Office manages payments if you’re a government – if you work in government, military or certain companies, and they have a direct relationship with the university for remittance of payments. This would be the way in which it is done, and there specific procedures for having – for how to set up doing that, and for the details go to the website that’s listed at the bottom of the slide. Next slide.
Our Federal Student Aid is broad umbrella term that relates to anything that is offered from the US Department of Education for post secondary attendance. At the graduate and professional levels this is predominately loans; in this case, Federal Stafford loans in which the student is the borrower. Federal Plus loans, which traditionally were only for parents but several years ago was expanded to include graduate and professional students.
Federal Work Study in which you work at a job on a campus or at a non campus non profit entity and you earn funds and you are remitted a pay check for the funds that you earn, and also Teach grants which is only really applicable to students in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, if you’re in certain professions which are classified by law. Next slide.
Okay, can we go back to the previous slide, Angela? Thank you. Just to make a couple of extra notes on Federal Student Aid – Federal Stafford loans are loans in which the student is the borrower. You may have heard a lot in the news lately about interest rates on Federal student loans and we’re going to talk about that later in the slides, but I just want to make a brief point at the current time which is that Stafford loans are different from Plus loans in several ways. One, is the interest rate is different. Two, the timeframe for repayment is different and I’ll talk about that a little later. Next slide.
Federal Student Aid is required to be certified based on what’s called the cost of attendance budget. This is where a lot of confusion comes into play with respect to student financial assistance. The cost of attendance budget is a budget that a Student Aid Office has derived based on allowable expenses that are actually in the law, in the statute, Higher Education Act. They include tuition charges, room and board charges, transportation and allowances for miscellaneous expenses. This is not the same as the actual tuition bill. I need to make this very clear. It is an arbitrary budget in the sense that it is an assumption on what general costs are for various students in different categories, and plus, independent budgets can be very detailed, and is detailed at an institution like George Washington where you have multiple different cohorts of students. And in particular, because at George Washington there are varied tuition rates at the graduate and professional school level. Keep in mind however that our office will create a cost attendance budget that is reflective of the actual tuition charges that you are charged, and miscellaneous expenses. For distance ed students there will not be allowances for room and board and for transportation. For more information on this you can see the cost of attendance website, off of our webpage at the bottom of the slide. Next slide.
Other resources – let’s say you receive… and you’re looking to take Federal Student Aid in the form of a Federal student loan, but you also have some other kind of student assistance coming in, maybe some sort of outside scholarship or grant or something like this, or maybe you’re receiving some sort of military based assistance. Our education act requires that any resources that a student has to help finance their education must be reported to the Student Aid Office so that they can be factored into the certification of a Federal student loan with certain exclusions.
Veterans educational assistance programs are generally excluded as a consideration, as a resource. That was a change that was made about three years ago by statute, and that includes all the various chapters of veteran educational assistance programs and ROTC. But other forms of military based assistance, like the tuition assistance program that I mentioned a minute ago, where the military career spouse advancement program that the Department of Defense has, they have to be considered as resources. Or if you’re working in a branch of the military and they’re just paying for your tuition, that has to be considered as resource as well, so it’s not uniform across the board. It’s extremely confusing and just keep in mind that you are required to report any sort of resources that you have or that you expect to have if you are pursing Federal student loans. Next slide.
The Higher Education Act also requires satisfactory academic progress standards for continued eligibility for Federal Student Aid, and this was recently revised under the new Federal regulator mandates that just went into effect this past July. In general, you must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, first semester and cumulatively, and pass and earn 75% of attempted credits, and you must obtain your degree with 150% of the published length of the program. Our complete satisfactory academic progress policy is noted on the website that is at the top of this slide. Next slide.
Now, you may not be able to see this clearly on the slide, but in the download of all material that you should have had access to when you signed onto the webinar, you will have a copy of not only the complete slide presentation, but all of the embedded graphics, or most of them at least that are in the presentation so that you can see clearly, for one thing, but also that you have the information.
This particular reference sheet is from NASFAA, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, which is the National Association, umbrella organization representing Student Aid administrators throughout the country, in which GW is a member. It lists all the current, in place, Federal Student Aid programs for the 2011, 2012 year which would end on June 30th of this year. This will include Stafford loans, as you see; that Stafford loan interest rate has both subsidized and unsubsidized, and it also has Federal [tele 00:13:38] grants, which are not applicable at the graduate level, Federal Plus loans, Federal Perkins loans, Teach grants and then [CEOG 00:13:48] at the bottom, which is not applicable at the graduate level.
Going through this, Federal Stafford loans again is a loan in which the student is the borrower. It gets – it is offered right now through June 30th in both a subsidized and unsubsidized format. The current interest rates for graduate students are 6.8%. They become repayable six months after the completion of your program or six months after you decide to end your program if you don’t necessarily graduate. So whether you graduate or not, six months after you cease post secondary enrollment repayment would begin.
Federal Plus loans – the interest rate you note is 7.9%, a little higher, then the 6.8% for Stafford loans. The eligibility is, as noted, depends on what your cost of attendance is and any other student aid that you may receive, including a Stafford loan. So basic math – cost of attendance minus other student financial aid received equals your eligibility for the Federal Plus loan.
However, Federal Plus loans have a higher interest rate, for one thing, at 7.9% versus 6.8%. Two, they have become repayable 60 days after the second disbursement. So let’s say you have a Federal Plus loan, that is a fall and spring loan, because the law requires that Federal loans be dispersed in two equal disbursements. After the spring disbursement is dispersed and credited to your account, 60 days thereafter the Plus loan will be become repayable and you will be [inaudible 00:15:36] by a lender.
Federal Plus loans are a flat 5% interest rate and Perkins loans are offered by schools rather than by the US Department of Education as the lender because what happens is that the US Department of Education gives schools an annual appropriation, which has actually been declining over the past ten years because the Federal government has not financed the program. So basically, Perkins loans from year to year are [inaudible 00:16:05] of collections at schools made during the course of previous years.
It is the cheapest Federal student loan out there, as you can see, based on the fact that there’s a 5% interest rate, that’s versus 6.8% for Stafford and 7.9% for Plus. And again, because they are based on the appropriations that a school gives there’s very limited funding that’s available for those schools. They do their best to spread that out as much as possible and in as wide a net as possible for students.
I just want to make another note on interest rates – they are all fixed rates, which is to say they will not change from year to year; through the life of your loan, interest rates are 6.8%. This is a change from recent years. About five years ago their rates changed and they have previously been variable rates, and if you know anything about interest rates you could find out pretty quickly that variable rates would be much cheaper than the fixed rates [inaudible 00:17:07] right now given the economic instability over the past few years.
Teach grants are applicable only for students in Graduate School of Education and Human Development but I don’t really want to go into that in much detail here, and it’s not applicable to graduate students. Next slide.
Here are the actual annual loan and aggregate loan limits for graduate and special students for the 2011/2012 year. This will take you through to June 30th of this year, keeping in mind that through June 30th of this year graduate and professional students can borrow Stafford loans in a subsidized and an unsubsidized format. Subsidized means that the interest rate is paid for by the US Department of Education while you are enrolled on [inaudible 00:18:04] half time basis in a post secondary education enrolled program.
Unsubsidized means that the student must pay only interest or can have the interest capitalized to the loan. However, capitalization of interest is generally not advisable because it makes a loan bigger over the long term of repayment.
There are different levels of annual and aggregate loan limits based on certain specific programs that congress has allowed us. See below students in certain health profession programs have a higher aggregate loan limit than all other students. Next slide.
David, thank you for going over the content for the first section of today’s presentation. We do have a few questions that relate to this particular section. The first one from our audience member is do American citizens living or working abroad still qualify for financial aid in graduate school?
Yes, you do, and there are instances where schools around the world, say, the University of Paris for example, would be a participant in the Federal Student Aid program and you would be able to apply for them. That’s actually true also reciprocally in other countries. If you were, say, a citizen of Canada the Federal government of Canada and the Provincial government of Canada offer student loans for their students to attend schools elsewhere, although recent changes politically they may be changing that in Canada. Generally speaking, yes, you would have the ability to apply for Federal student loans.
Wonderful; thank you. The next question that we have is also from our audience member as well, and the question is, what is the amount that a graduate student would qualify for in financial aid, or more appropriately how would they find out how much they would qualify for, for a graduate program? Go ahead, David.
What would happen is that if you were interested in applying for Federal Student Aid you would file the documents that we require to be filed and then you would be notified as to your eligibility for the loans that you’re asking to be assessed for eligibility for. For instances, when a document that we call a loan questionnaire, which will be referenced in one of the later slides, we will ask you about what your enrollment, about the program that you’re enrolled in, what your general timeframe is, things of this nature. And then also how many credits you’re expecting to register for over the course of the academic year, then also what loans you want to be considered for. If you only want to be considered for a Federal Stafford loan or do you want to be considered also for a Plus loan. Depending on how you answer those questions, and also fill out the questionnaire, we will ask you about any resources that you may have or you are expecting to have as well.
Based on the responses that you give on your loans questionnaire the loan processing staff will be assess your eligibility and notify you through a notice, primarily through our website. We do most of our notifications through the web so that actually you can go into your account and look in your account on a 24/7 basis what your current status is. [Inaudible 00:21:29] not just technique but doing registrations and the whole caboodle.
And the next question that we have is do graduate students who are taking a Master’s degree program online and part time, would they also qualify for financial aid, and if so for how much?
You have to be enrolled on at least a half time basis in order to be eligible to pursue Federal Student Aid.
Those are the questions that we have for this particular section; let’s move onto the next section for the webinar. Go ahead, David.
For the coming year, starting July 1st, there will be statutory changes as a result of the enactment of two sets of laws by Congress in the past couple of months which will make changes to Federal Student Aid programs. For graduate students it’s going to involve two different things. You can go to the next slide, Angela.
What is going to happen is that graduate and professional students are going to lose the ability to borrow subsidized Stafford loans. Congress is taking away the subsidized Stafford loan eligibility component for graduate and professional students, so that graduate and professional students will only be eligible for unsubsidized loans starting July 1st.
Now, you need to keep in mind that Federal student loans are fixed rates, 6.8%. If you have resources such as home equity, things like this, you may know that interest rates for that are less than that, and may be something that you want to think about relative to working at Federal loan [inaudible 00:23:13]. But keep in mind that they are fixed rates and that starting July 1st Stafford loans are only going to be available in unsubsidized formats.
The other thing is that Congress has made changes to what happens after you conclude a program. Traditionally, what has happened is that once you complete your academic program, whether you graduate or you leave the program, you get what’s called a grace period – six months before you start repayment, and that’s not going to be the case because of changes that have been made as a result, so budget politics mainly in Congress. So you need to keep this in mind, graduate and professional students that the loan rates will be unsubsidized at a fixed rate of 6.8%. Next slide.
Here this slide just gives you the annual and aggregate loan limits, again, effective July 1st of this year, given the fact that there will not be subsidized Stafford loans available for graduate and professional students. Next slide.
Disbursement examples – the Higher Education Act requires that Federal student loans be disbursed in two equal disbursements. There are two different ways in which loans can be disbursed; it just depends on what your enrollment intentions are going to be for an academic year. An academic year is comprised of a fall semester, a spring semester and could also include a summer semester as well.
So one – I’m just lost my train of thought – one thing you need to think about is how you would want your loans to be disbursed, given what your enrolment intentions are going to be. So what we have in the next few slides are basically some examples of disbursement based on either a two semester example, fall and spring, or a three semester example, fall, spring and summer. Then certain health professional programs, because they have higher eligibility rates, it’s the same thing, two and three semester options. Next slide.
So in the case of an unsubsidized Stafford loan on two semesters you would be disbursing – if you took the maximum eligible, 12,000, it would be disbursed 6,000 and 6,000, fall and spring. And then for three semesters, if you were going to be enrolled fall, spring and summer, assuming full time enrolment, assuming that you’re applying for the maximum, 4,000, 4,000, 4,000. Keep in mind that Federal student loans are certified as a function of, A, how much you apply for, B, what your enrolment status is going to be, so you must be enrolled at least on a half time basis to be eligible to apply for Federal student loans. Next slide.
For eligible health professional programs as noted in the asterisks, here are examples of a two semester and a three semester disbursement. Now, with respect to disbursements you have to keep in mind that these are not the actual amounts that will be applied to your account once funds come into your account because Federal law requires that a 1% origination fee be taken out of the loan, so it would be this minus 1%. Basically, if you were applying for the maximum it would be actually something as net proceeds to your account. Next slide.
This is what I just said – I’m going to go to the actual net disbursement – it will be less than the processed amount because of the 1% origination fee that is required by law, and we found that most graduates prefer to apply for Stafford loans to disburse over fall and spring, frankly because you get a higher disbursement and you don’t have to worry about getting the summer disbursement. And you know, especially if you think you know you’re not going to be enrolled over the summer term full time, and you’ve got to be enrolled full time, fall and spring, and you want to get the maximum, that’s one way of strategizing about how you want to do a prospective Federal student loan. But keep in mind that 1% of the origination fee is going to come out of your loan regardless of the amount that you applied for. Next slide.
Yes, now here are the actual application procedures. The first thing you need to do is to file the Free application for Federal Student Aid, which is done on the web. It is free. Please keep in mind this is the website you need to use. Unfortunately, when the US Department of Education created the free application for Federal Student Aid back in 1992 I think, they did not trademark the name originally or protect the name, and so somebody got the bright idea of creating a website they call fafsa.com, which is a for profit site that helps you complete the form. You do not have to pay anything to complete the free application for Federal Student Aid, hence I need you to keep this in mind.
We find this a lot; we find folks come to us and tell us about this. We need to emphasis that the FAFSA is a free document. It’s actually very easy to fill out on the web. If you have your tax documents in front of you it takes you about 20 minutes to complete. There are new procedures this year that are allowing the US Department of Education to match data with the Internal Revenue Services. It’s going to make life easier in the long run for applying for Federal Student Aid, but just keep in mind that fafsa.ed.gov, that’s the website you want to go to to complete the Federal Student Aid form. The school code you would need is listed below.
You also want to download our loan questionnaire form which I referred to earlier. This is the document in which we’re going to ask you a lot of questions about you, your enrolment intentions, what other resources you may have, things of this nature, which will help us to serve buying a loan [inaudible 00:29:28] in compliance with Federal guidelines.
Then finally, once that’s done we tell you your eligibility for a loan, and you accept that eligibility you will be directed to complete a Master Promissory Note for either the Federal Direct Stafford loan and/or the Federal Plus loan, or both if you’re applying for both, and the website for doing so is listed there at the bottom of the slide. Next slide.
For Federal student loans all first time borrowers at George Washington University are required to complete entrance counselling for Stafford and Plus loans. Furthermore, at the end of your program, usually about two or three months before your program is ending, you’ll be contacted to complete exit counselling. Entrance and exit counselling are statutory requirements for applicants and recipients of Federal Student Aid.
This isn’t something that GW is telling you to do, it’s something that the Federal government is telling you must as a borrower of Federal student loan programs, and then the website for doing so is listed at the bottom of the slide. Next slide.
These are some of the publications that the US Department of Education has on Federal student loans. I really want to highly encourage you to download all of them and read them in their entirety. We are required to tell you that these are available and by statutory requirement, but as somebody who works in training and compliance I really feel very strongly it’s very important to understand rights, responsibilities, terms and conditions for Federal student loans, and these publications do a very, very good job of doing that. They’re free and you can download them at the websites that are listed here; they’re all in PDF format and are ready to engage. Next slide.
Okay, let’s say you’ve gone through your program, you’ve graduated from GW, you have a piece of paper from GW, and we’ll be very proud of you for that too, loans will then enter what is called servicing, okay? This is very important for several reasons. If you have previous loans from undergraduate education you’re going to want to pay particular note to the next couple of slides that I have here.
When you move into repayment the Department of Education, which by the way is the lender under direct loans – if you have previous loans in undergraduate education you may have gotten your Federal student loans through some lender, some bank, some credit union, some other lender. That is not the case as a result of statutory changes in 2010. Federal student loans are now exclusively provided by the US Department of Education through the direct loan program.
However, what happened is that with that change in law the department decided to keep a lot of the folks who were involved in doing student loans, but they used them on the backside to do what is called servicing of the loan. That is to say they service as the collector of payments and things like this, and there are many; there are about a good dozen different organizations that are serving as servicers for the US Department of Education.
My third bullet is really important. If you have previous Federal student loans they may have a different servicer than the one that the Department has found for you for loans that you may take at GW and this is where it can get very confusing, so you want to hope that you get assigned a guarantor – a servicer, pardon me – that is the same as the servicer that services your loan from any previous education, if you have previous educational loans.
A very good discussion on this is in the link that’s on bullet point number four, from mapping your future – actually, just in the past week or so, I want to direct you to that for your information. Making payments on direct loans is done at myedaccount.com as noted in bullet point number two. Next slide.
It is very important that you know who your loan holder and servicer is, especially if you have previous student loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program. The National Student Loan Data System has complete information about your student loans, period, regardless of who the lender is, the US Department of Education or any other lender. That is accessible by lenders and guarantors, services and schools for that matter, so you need to know that and this will be a one stop place you can always go to, to find out where your Federal student loans are at. Next slide.
If you do have multiple loans from previous [inaudible 00:34:34] elsewhere and you take loans here at GW, at some point you may want to consider what’s called a Consolidation Federal Student Loan. That allows you basically to combine all your loans up into one loan and back – I call it backing it up; you bag them all up. Like you go into a grocery store, you see a whole bunch of vegetables on the shelf, you take out some green beans, take out some corn, take out some asparagus, you put them all into a bag. Well, think of them as different loans that you’ve had from different years, [inaudible 00:35:05] post secondary education. Consolidation loans bags them all and pays them all off and creates one new loan. It has the advantage of having one month payments, dealing with only one servicer, it could have other repayment options, it could actually also reduce a month’s payment as well. And for complete information see the loan consolidation website listed at the bottom of the slide. Next slide.
The current administration has a special consolidation loan program running from January this year through to July, which is different from the – quote/unquote – regular consolidation loan program. Only certain borrowers are eligible. If you are eligible you will have been contacted by the department through one of its servicers and complete information on this special consolidation loan program is available on the last bullet point on this slide. I hope that… I’m sounding a little [inaudible 00:36:10] – I’m being told that I’m sounding a little choppy; I’ll do my best to help that way. Next slide.
Federal student loans offer various loan cancellation and forgiveness options, both for Stafford loans and for Perkins loans. Options may include employment in the public sector. There are bunch of different options for elementary and secondary education teaching, so that’s if that’s the profession you’re looking to go into that’s something you need to look into. Here are some of the links for various loan forgiveness and loan cancellation provisions that you want to look into from the US Department of Education. Next slide.
Private/alternative loans – I want to spend a couple of minutes on this because this is very important. Private or alternative loans – they are sometimes called private loans, sometimes called alternative loans, sometimes called private label loans, a bunch of different terms – are education loans that unsecured and credit based consumer loans that are not offered by the Federal government. They are offered by a lending institution.
They generally have higher interest rates that are tiered to what libor rates are and usually are very tiered towards your creditworthiness. They also usually have application fees and other specific requirements associated. It’s very important that if you’re going to consider a private/alternative loan for financing your post secondary education that you look at Federal student loans first because they are generally cheaper, even though they have the fixed rates that I talked about earlier.
They are still generally cheaper than private loans because of the application fees that are involved, repayment schedules and being tiered towards creditworthiness, whereas a Federal Stafford loan is not tiered towards creditworthiness, so you need to keep this in mind. It’s very important.
There is [inaudible 00:38:19] in Congress right now towards mandating some level of specific counselling by schools for private/alternative loans. My guess is that will probably be enacted. I can tell you that if you are considering a private/alternative loan your lender that you deal with is required to tell you about the availability of Federal student loans in the course of the application process. That is required by law under the Truth and Lending Act, and if they don’t tell you about that you need to report it. So keep in mind, generally speaking, private/alternative loans generally are not as generous in terms of repayment options, for payment and deferment options and things of that nature, than Federal student loans are. Next slide.
And as I just indicated lenders of such loans will be required to give you disclosures at several points during the application and confirmation process. You will be required, if you’re going to pursue a private/alternative loan, to submit what’s called a private loan, self certification form and submit that to the lender, and you can download that specific form from our website which is listed in bullet point number three, and it will as you for some basic, general information that you should be able to pull off from your account at the access online. Next slide.
The Higher Education Act requires requires schools to maintain a code of conduct relative to student loans. We don’t maintain a preferred lender list. We will process any private/alternative loan that is presented to us for certification, and as I indicated previously, we will provide counselling as pertinent to the applicant. If you want to see the formal legal document on the code of conduct see bullet point number two, which will take you to that. Next slide.
This next series of slides is to do with financial literacy, which is very important and we have been doing a lot of work on this in the past year for the office. It’s really important in planning for financing graduates and professional education, to know how to budget in terms of [inaudible 00:40:32], but in terms of for repayment of student loans of course, and other forms of consumer credit and lending.
And so we want to really strongly encourage you to engage some formal process of financial literacy education, and there is a tremendous amount of information that’s available from various levels of government, community organizations and professional associations. Next slide.
And to demonstrate that we’ve put together a publications list – actually this is just fresh of the press in the past few weeks – that will list for you resources from the US government, from almost every state government, some non US governments, various community organizations, professional associations, guarantee agencies, various books and publications and things like this, as well as a lot of different accessibility to online content. I believe this publication was included in the download of all material, but if you don’t have it you can access the document in its entirety at the website that’s listed at the bottom of the slide. Next slide.
In addition, if you recall I said earlier that under the old student loan program – quote/unquote – that ceased over the course of the past year, guarantee agencies – quote/unquote – were agencies that basically dealt with guaranteeing Federal student loans that were not offered by the Federal government. They are still in existence because they still are involved in collecting the loans that they were involved with, and they required under the Higher Education Act to develop programs and services on financial literacy and to assist schools, and some of them do some particularly, very fine work in this area, some of which I want to point out to you as I note on the next slide.
These particular four we have looked at really closely and found them to be very, very useful and we want to really, strongly recommend that you look at them because they have some very good programmatic material. In the case of American Student Assistance, their Fine Tune Your Finances program is a series of scheduled webinars that you can register for that deal with various issues on personal finance.
Education Credit Management Corporation, which is the traditional guarantor for Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as some other states around the country. It has a series of fact sheets, downloadable forms and does some podcasts that relate to various subjects. Texas Guaranteed is the guarantee agency out of Texas. It offers a series of online and on demand webinars on these subjects. And finally, Life Skills from USA Funds is a very, very good program specifically because it has a component that does aim specifically at graduate and professional students. That we’d like to recommend; I encourage you to look at one or all of these. They’re all free and specific to the USA Funds the access to their information is listed on the last bullet. It’s fine material, free and you should engage because it’s good information for you. Next slide.
On a related subject there are various tax benefit under the Federal Tax Code for post secondary enrolment. The IRS publication 970 is the main publication but there are several places that have some very good summary information that might be easier to read. One is NASFAA. The chart from ECMC is a very good document; it’s a nice one pager graphically put out that tells you about the various different forms of tax benefits, and then USA funds has a good summary document as well.
I encourage you to look at that because when you do your taxes next year you’ll want to know things like what funds above 5,250 and education benefits were you given because that gets taxed, but then you may be eligible for certain kinds of tax credits that are available under the tax code now. Having said that, some of the education tax credits that are on the tax code right are expected to expire at the end of this year unless congressional action is taken, and given that this is an election year I would expect that action will probably be taken so you’ll want to keep this in mind. Next slide.
` The Source for Graduate Students is a publication that’s done by the Student Affairs division of GW. It’s a fine publication I must say that gives you good contact information for various resources around the university, and you can download this complete PDF in the link that’s in bullet point number two. I would strongly encourage you to download and engage that document. Next slide.
Now finally, there is just some information here I have that tells you about how to navigate the bureaucracy, as it were, in the university in terms of transactional information. This slide and the one that follows basically is an embedding of a flyer that was done that tells students how to access their information online to what we call Gweb. You can access your student aid information, you can access your billing information, your registration information and things like this, and this flyer tells you that. And again, in the full downloadable document you’ll have the flyer in its entirety for you to read. Next slide; and the next slide please.
It’s very important for you, in the course of your enrolment at George Washington, to maintain regularity with respect to engaging the administrative requirements for registering, for dealing with student aid and things like this. The university will primarily communicate with you through your email account. That is to say your university email account not, say, if you have a Hotmail or a Gmail account or something like that, that’s not going to be where your official GW information is going to go. You need to go to your GW assigned email account to do that, or go to that account and set it up to auto forward to whatever email account that you prefer so that you get current information on what’s going on at the university. Next slide. At this point –
Go ahead, David.
At this point we’ll entertain questions, of course.
Great. We’ve had a very interactive audience today and we do have a number of questions for you, David. The first one we’ve actually been asked to repeat a question that you had addressed earlier on in the webinar. The question is, do graduate students taking a Master’s degree part time, online, qualify for financial aid, and if so for how much?
The answer I gave earlier was that if you’re involved in a half time basis in post secondary education you are eligible to apply for Federal Student Aid. This of course, is conditional whether or not your academic program is eligible for Federal Student Aid. There are some certificate programs that are not eligible for Federal Student Aid, but in general, if you are enrolled on at least a half time basis you can pursue Federal Student Aid. I can’t tell you how much because that will depend on your enrollment level and whatever kind of Student Aid you may have, and things of this nature.
Great. The next question we have is around the room and board that you had mentioned, and also transportation through Financial Aid. Do those components… do online distance learning students qualify for room and board and transportation through Financial Aid as well?
As I indicated earlier, when we set up cost of attendance budgets for distance ed students we would not have room and board and transportation costs included in those budgets.
Okay. The next question we have is, are international students eligible for any of the loans that you’ve mentioned today?
International students are not eligible for Federal Student Aid. However, they may have options for post secondary financing from their host countries or through private entities that are for loans for international students. The example I gave earlier from Canada, the Canadian Federal government and the Canadian Provisional governments offer Federal Students loans, other countries do the same in the European Union, but in general international students, non US citizens are not eligible for Federal Student Aid programs from the United States government.
The next question that we have, David, is around the upcoming 2012 summer semester. Many of our audience members wanted to know if it was too late to complete [inaudible 00:49:52] or Financial Aid for the 2012 start date?
The answer to that is, no, it’s never too late to apply for Federal Student Aid. You have until June 30th this year to apply for Student Aid for the current academic year, 2011/2012, and then for 2012/2013, which starts July 1st, you would file the appropriate FAFSA. So for instance, for the academic year ’11/’12, ending this June 30th you would use the 2011/2012 FAFSA, and for next year you would use the 2012/2013 FAFSA, both of which should be available on the FAFSA website. It will give you a dropdown box and ask you which particular year you want to file.
Now, when you do that just keep in mind that you’re going to want to have the appropriate tax forms involved, so for instance, if you’re applying for next year you’re going to want to use the tax forms that you will… you should have filed in the past few days. If you’re filing for the current year, ’11/’12 year you’re going to want to use the tax forms that you filed last April 15th.
The next question that we have, David, is around a loan called the Perkins loan, so one of our students wanted to know if they’re starting a graduate program in May 2012, if the 2011/2012 Financial Aid would also… if they would also be eligible for that as well?
The Perkins loan again is a fixed rate student loan that is awarded from our office based on an annual appropriation that the university gets from the US Department of Education. Primarily, we give them to undergraduate students. There are some cases where we do offer then to graduate students, but because the funding is extremely limited we try to space that out as much as we can to help as many students as possible, mainly because the interest rate is lower than any of the other Federal student loan options.
The next question that we have is just a confirmation from one of our audience members. They just wanted to confirm if graduate students really are eligible to obtain subsidized Stafford loans for 2012/2013.
For 2012/2013 there will be no subsidized Federal student loans, period, under statutory action that was taken earlier this year by Congress and signed into law.
The next question that we have is more of a question around TAships. The question is what is the amount covered for tuition for those attending graduate school at GW?
That’s a very broad question. It would be a function of whether or not you received any kind of assistance from anywhere. From the school, college, Federal Student Aid – I really couldn’t answer that; it would really depend on a individual’s circumstances.
The next question is around timing, David, so many of our audience members today are currently going through the process of applying to graduate school Master’s degrees, for example. When, in an application process, would you recommend that they begin looking into financial aid from a timing perspective?
I would do it right now, quite frankly, because every school is different, but in the case of us, our institution, I know that we tend to start doing loan processing around June for the upcoming year. So if you’re coming to us you’ll want to download the loan questionnaire and submit that to our office right now, and to do the FAFSA for next year right now so that everything is in place. If we need to follow up with you for additional information we can do that and the documentation can be on file expeditiously so that there are no inordinate delays.
The next question is more of a clarification question, David. Are unsubsidized and subsidized loans consolidated separately to avoid higher interest principle?
No. You can consolidate both subsidized and unsubsidized loans together, and in the course of doing so what will happen is that a weighted average of the loans will be assessed and that will become your new interest rate for the one loan that it creates. Again, the logic behind a consolidation is bagging all previous loans up, paying them off and then creating one new loan. There are some economies of scale associated with that but you’ve got to consider a lot of different things involved with that. If you have Perkin’s loans and Stafford loans it may not necessarily be advantageous to consolidate because Perkin’s loans have specific cancellation and forgiveness provisions that are a little different from Stafford loans, which is why it’s very important to look at the information that the US Department of Education has on loan forgiveness and loan cancellation before, if you’re thinking seriously about consolidation.
The next question that we have, David, is around the VA or the Vocational Rehab program. They wanted to know how that would work in conjunction with Financial Aid.
That I can’t honestly answer for you, and my advice is that if you have military based financial assistance, whether it’s VA, any of the chapters of the VA or DOD assistance, contact our Veteran Services Office. In a minute I’m going to give you a slide because there are a lot of different contact office information, and if you contact them they can guide you appropriately.
The next question that we have is around the 21 day deadlines required on signatures for loan documents. They were wondering why GW asks for that 21 day deadline, but there doesn’t seem to be a deadline by the Federal Financial Loan Office.
I’m not sure what that’s referring to.
So I asked the person who asked that question if he could just send in the clarification through the chat box and we’ll be sure to ask for follow up. The next question that we have is, can the total cost of the Financial Aid tuition be broken up into monthly payments when you’re paying that back?
In terms of loans?
Loans, yes. Loans get repaid on a monthly basis according to a schedule that you will set up in the course of… I think when you do your Master Promissory Note, actually it will indicate what kind of repayment plan you want and there are several options that the department will give you. And yes, beyond that there are remitted on a monthly basis. I’ve just lost my train of thought. Oh, there is no penalty for prepayment of the full, entire loan, so let’s say you have $40,000 of loan debt and you have $40,000 hanging around somewhere and you wish to pay it all off, you would not be penalized for paying it all off at once.
The next question that we have is around US legal residents. One of our audience members just wanted clarification – if US legal residents qualify for student loans?
For what student…what did you say?
For student loans.
Oh, for student loans. You must be a United States citizen in order… or an eligible non citizen in order to be eligible for Federal student loans.
And the next question that we have, David, is if a student applies for their VA benefits and Yellow Ribbon program do they still qualify for Financial Aid? And if so how do they find out what the amount eligible is?
Yes, you can apply for Federal Student Aid on top of getting a Chapter 33 and Yellow Ribbon proceeds. However, you need to keep in mind that that’s a lot of money that you’re getting from the VA, and GW for that matter in the Yellow Ribbon programs, so if it becomes a matter of whether or not you really need that funding to do so because student loans must be repaid, of course. But yes, you can apply for Federal student loans on top of receiving Chapter 33 proceeds.
Okay. David, that was the final question that we have for today. I’m wondering if you could just quickly go over some of the contact details that we have on this slide.
This slide just gives you all the various contact information for various offices for which you may have transactional information. For instance, in the question that was asked about veteran services earlier, you’ll see at the bottom… you’ll see the office of veteran services. If you send an email to that email address with the question about vocational rehab they can assist you appropriately. But then there’s our office – if you ask simply questions about follow up on the procedures for completing the loan questionnaire send an email to email@example.com, or if you have information about student accounts, billing, things like that, there’s the student accounts information and registrar information. GWorld is an identification card that the university has, which has some benefits associated with that. Contact them for information if you need a parking if you have to be on campus. We realize a lot of distance ed students are on this call and it might not be applicable. That would be the office if you do.
Colonial Central you’ll see listed here is a general office that the university has which is basically a transactional office that deals with multiple different offices in which you can do transactions in one place. If you happen to be on campus that would be a place to go to do that – it’s on the ground floor of the Marvin Center, for your information. Now, the general website, our own website is listed there, as well as for the registrar and for parking services.
This is all the time that we have for today. I just wanted to send a few notes to the audience that an advisor will be following up with you over the next few days to go over any additional questions that you may have. I wanted to thank David for spending the last hour with us explaining our Financial Aid and answering all of our questions. I also wanted to thank our audience for participating in today’s George Washington University’s Financial Aid webinar for graduate students. This concludes our session and have a great day.