Make Sure Your Freshman Gets a Money-Smart College Start

moneysmartDoes your college-bound freshman know how to handle money at school?

Campus life can test even the most disciplined young adults on money matters. In the final weeks before you help your student pack up for the dorm, it’s a good time to pack in some money lessons as well.

Start with what college will cost. On average, the Class of 2015 graduated with a little over $35,000 in student loan debt, according to Edvisors (http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/05/08/congratulations-class-of-2015-youre-the-most-indebted-ever-for-now/). Depending on your financial situation and how you’ve planned for your child’s college education, start with an overview of how your student’s college costs will impact your finances now and after graduation.

If your child will be paying off personal or student loans once they graduate, discuss how that reality should define financial choices throughout college. That doesn’t mean saving every penny and having no fun at all, but such a talk should reinforce how handling money intelligently, setting priorities and getting a jump on savings can position your child for a much stronger financial start upon graduation.

Train them to budget. If your child hasn’t learned budgeting skills (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/budgeting),it’s time for a crash course. Budgeting is the first essential skill in personal finance. Teaching children to budget now gives them a head start on dealing with post-graduation debt or long-term goals like affording a home or car. Because teens often live their lives on smartphones, familiarize yourself with the growing range of budgeting apps (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/04/27/budgeting-apps-affect-spending-habits/26190991/) to keep their money management on course.

Talk through on-campus banking and credit needs. Many parents start their kids with custodial savings and checking accounts at their local bank when they are younger. If your bank has branches in the teen’s college town, that relationship can easily continue. Responsible credit card use is also wise to start in college. Keep in mind that The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (or Credit CARD) Act of 2009 requires that anyone under 21 without independent income have a co-signer to qualify for a card. As such, you’ll be able to keep track of your child’s credit use. However, if they default, you’ll be on the hook – so monitor your child’s bank and credit relationships closely until you agree they’re ready to manage them on their own.

Cover credit monitoring and identity theft. With smarter online thieves emerging every day, your child is at risk of identity theft from the minute he or she is assigned a Social Security number. While most teens generally don’t have a credit report until they start earning a paycheck at age 16, be on the lookout for fraudulent activity earlier (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0040-child-identity-theft) and make sure they get in the habit of ordering the three free credit reports (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) they are entitled to each year. Throughout college, consider sitting down with children so you can review their annual credit reports together.

Bottom line: There’s plenty to do in the final weeks before your kids leave for college. Don’t forget to reinforce important money lessons before they go.

By Nathan Sillin

Financing Your Education

It’s that time of year again and, if you’re a student, you may be preparing to head off to college in a few months. Paying for that education is not for the faint of heart, so read on for tips on how to finance it.

Paying for College 101

The U.S. Department of Education provides information on preparing for and funding education beyond high school with details on the federal aid programs. Another source of information on financial assistance is www.finaid.org. Both sites offer calculators to help you determine how much school will cost, how much you need to pay, and how much aid you will need.

Other helpful college planning tips:

  • Pay close attention to state and federal financial aid deadlines. You’ll want to file well before the deadline though, so you can receive aid before funds run out.
  • Check the Department of Education’s student budget calculator. You can plug in tuition costs, room and board and other expenses along with how much money you have in student loans or grants to get an idea of where you stand financially.
  • Get involved in the process. Visit College.gov to learn about managing money in college and how to avoid common scams that target students.

Student Financial Aid

Student Financial Aid is available from a wide variety of sources including the federal government, individual states, directly from colleges and universities, as well as from numerous other public and private agencies and organizations. Whatever the source, all forms of college aid fall into four basic categories:

  • Grants. Gift aid from grants does not have to be repaid and is generally awarded based at least partially on financial need.
  • Work Study. The Federal Work-Study Program (FWS) is a federally funded source of financial assistance used to offset financial education costs. Students earn money by working and attending school. The money does not have to be repaid.
  • Loans. Funds that are borrowed and must be repaid with interest are loans. As a general rule, educational loans have far more favorable terms and interest rates than traditional consumer loans.
  • Scholarships. Offered by schools, local/community organizations, private institutions and trusts, scholarships do not have to be repaid and are generally awarded based on some specific criteria.

Federal Student Aid Information Center

The Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) can answer your federal student financial aid questions and can give you all the help you need for free. You can also use the FSAIC automated response system to find out whether your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application has been processed and to request a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR).

Federal Loan Program Repayment Information 

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Offers forgiveness for outstanding federal loans for individuals working full time in public service jobs.
  • Income-Based Repayment Plan. Helps to make repaying education loans more affordable for low-income borrowers.
  • Both programs offer generous benefits, but the rules may seem complex, so it is important to get all of the details. For more information on these repayment options:

CU Student Choice Program

The NASA Federal Credit Union CU Student Choice Loan can help you pay for the education expenses not covered by your financial aid package. Get competitive interest rates and generous repayment terms. Plus, with our fast online application, get the money you need to pay for college quickly.

  • Deferred payments while you’re in school
  • Flexible repayment options
  • Pay no origination fees
  • Get competitive interest rates
  • Apply quickly and easily online or call 1-800-322-8816 to apply by phone

 

Unprepared for College Tuition? You’re Not Alone!

If you are the parent of a college-bound high schooler who’s starting to look at colleges, but find yourself in the difficult position of not having any savings to put toward the cost of education, take a deep breath.  Sending your child to college without having any savings isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to take more research, more writing and more debt. But, this disadvantage isn’t insurmountable. You and your child are both just going to have to work a little harder to make this happen.

Before you begin planning your course of action, get a realistic estimate of costs. The College Board maintains a utility called the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) calculator. Using this tool, enter your income, savings, and the number of people in your household. At the end of this, you’ll get a dollar amount showing how much the federal government expects you to pay. You can use this number as a target for how much you’ll have to come up with each year.

As hard as it might be to have this conversation with your child, you ought to have it. At some point, your student will have to read and sign the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which require your income and savings information. This will also help your child make an informed decision about which school to attend.

Once you have a good understanding of realistic costs, it’s time to start planning. Here are three options to consider as you and your child are planning the next steps:

1.) Choose flexible schools

Encourage your child to apply to and visit a few schools where he or she would likely be among the best students. There’s a dirty little secret in the college admissions world. The quality of instruction at most non-Ivy colleges is the same. What’s different is the environment. What makes your student most comfortable: a small, liberal arts school or a big state school? There are many in both categories at all points on the cost continuum.

Many schools in both categories struggle to attract quality applicants. They will be eager to accept a bright and promising young person who can make their school a better place. These schools may offer extensive grants, scholarships, work-study offers, and other tuition breaks.

If your child is reluctant to consider schools that don’t have an elite price tag, you might want to frame the concern as future debt. Use current examples of people who just graduated and can’t find work in their fields. Encourage them to think about the next five or six years of their life, rather than just the next four.

2.) Take a look at loans

If you have nothing saved for college, the unfortunate reality is that you’ll likely have to borrow at least something. The federal government sets a cap on how much they will lend to students, based on EFC, or estimated family contribution. These loans have quite favorable rates and good repayment terms that will help young people stay out of trouble.

The NASA Federal Credit Union CU Student Choice Loan can help you pay for education expenses. Get competitive interest rates and generous repayment terms. Plus, with our fast online application, get the money you need to pay for college quickly. To learn more about NASA Federal’s education loan options, visit the Credit Union Student Choice Loan Center.

Borrowing for college isn’t the end of the world, but you will need to repay all that money whether there is a degree at the end of the adventure or not. This can be a serious burden for a new graduate, even with income-based repayment programs. Don’t give in to “debt creep,” or the feeling that, since you’re borrowing, there’s no reason to borrow less than the most you can. $19,000 in debt is better than $20,000 in debt. Every dollar not borrowed is compounded by the absence of interest on the other end.

Outside of a mortgage, though, a student loan is the safest investment you can make. The earning potential of college graduates is significantly higher than a high school graduate. There’s no need to be ashamed about borrowing to pay for school. Just use it responsibly.

3.) Consider non-traditional options

There’s no rule that says every 18-year-old has to graduate high school and then immediately enroll in college. In fact, in most other countries, the so-called “gap year” is quite common. Students use this time to work at part-time jobs, volunteer, and build their resumes. The difference between a 23-year-old college graduate and a 22-year-old college graduate is negligible. A student working and saving for a whole year could save $10,000 for college. That’s enough to defer the cost of tuition. Plus, building a resume will make it much easier to find work on the other side.

Community college may also be an attractive option. Most community colleges will offer significantly discounted tuition for exceptional students. These institutions offer the same general education courses for a fraction of the price. It’s not a free alternative: you’ll still have to pay for housing and transportation. Yet, the more flexible schedule makes it easier to work a part-time job while going to school, and it costs half as much or less. No employer or grad school will react badly to  two years of community college. Once your child graduates with a four-year degree, that degree will be the same as a four-year student of that school. Community colleges aren’t free, but they’re certainly not as expensive as a residential college.

Having no college savings does set you behind in the education race, but there are many alternative options. Have a frank, honest conversation with your student, and then do what’s best for you and your family. And don’t forget to celebrate the positive – you raised one smart kid.

 

College Bound? Win up to $7,000!

Announcing the 2015 Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Scholarship Contest

Are you, or do you know, a high school senior gearing up for college next year? NASA FCU has great news! We’re accepting applications for the 2015 Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Scholarship Contest. Through the Contest, we will award scholarships in amounts up to $7,000 to one or more contest winners to assist with the costs of tuition, books and living expenses.

Applicants must be:

  • The primary owner of a NASA FCU account
  • A high school senior with an average grade of C or above
  • Under the age of 21

Scholarships are awarded based on the evaluation of a 1,000 word essay and a personal interview conducted by the Scholarship Committee. For more details and an application, go to nasafcu.com/scholarship or call 1-888-NASA-FCU (627-2328) today. Then, get ready. Get set. Write your essay today! All submissions must be postmarked by February 6, 2015.

Financial Planning For College: How To Get The Most Out Of The FAFSA

Q: My oldest child is about to begin her senior year of high school, and her younger brother is about to begin his sophomore year. We’ve already started getting letters from colleges, and I’m worried that her dreams will have a price tag we won’t be able to deal with. We’ve got some savings, but are worried it might not be enough, especially when both kids go to school. What can we do to maximize our chances of getting scholarship funds?

A: If you’re the parent of a college-bound high school student, you’ve probably already started receiving junk mail with pictures of big, impressive stone facades on the outside and big, appalling price tags on the inside. It’s college recruitment season, and college costs are at an all-time high. If your young scholar has his or her sights set on a private school, you can expect to shell out about $120,000 on tuition.

Whether or not you plan to help your children pay these costs, the federal government will use your financial status to assess your child’s financial need in terms of an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Whether you expect to qualify or not, you’ll have to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid – the FAFSA form. This form will be used in determining your child’s eligibility for a variety of scholarships, including subsidized student loans, Pell grants and other need-based financial aid.

The equation the government uses to calculate the EFC based on the FAFSA is publicly available. With this knowledge, you can move assets around to make your financial situation look as unimpressive to the government as possible. By doing so, you can help your child get qualified for more financial aid for college. You can help pay for school without spending any money by taking these steps:

  1. Reduce your cash assets. The FAFSA formula expects that you’ll use a portion of your liquid assets – that is, money in savings accounts, money market accounts, brokerage accounts, CDs and checking accounts – to pay for college. If you’ve got significant savings there, consider using it to pay down your mortgage or save it in a retirement fund. Neither of these accounts are considered “cash” as far as the FAFSA is concerned.
  2. Move investments into real property. The assets of your business are protected by the FAFSA equation. If you’ve been considering a capital upgrade, like new equipment or a bigger office, now might be the time to do so. If you don’t own a small business, consider shifting your savings into rental property or making improvements to your home. Both of these will reduce your cash assets.
  3. Make purchasing decisions with asset reduction in mind. If you are thinking about taking a big vacation before you send your little ones back to school, consider paying for it with a withdrawal from your savings rather than financing it through debt. The debt will accumulate interest, while the reduction in assets will make your EFC smaller.
  4. Review Retirement Account Contributions. If you haven’t already done so, maximize your tax-deductible contributions to retirement accounts. This will lower your income without counting as assets for the FAFSA. You can do the same thing if you’re planning a large, one-time charitable gift or other tax-deductible expense.
  5. Don’t lie on the FAFSA. It seems obvious, but bears stating. Lying on the FAFSA is a federal crime that could put you in serious trouble. Any money you gained with a fraudulent FAFSA would have to be paid back, usually with penalties.
  6. Reduce savings in your child’s name first. Because children have fewer expenses, they’re expected to pay a higher percentage of their assets. You can put the money back into savings on his or her behalf after graduation.
  7. Discuss college planning with gift-giving relatives. If grandparents are thinking of making a significant gift, ask them to hold off until after graduation. Once the FAFSA has been submitted, it’s good for a whole year.
  8. Be wary of firms that promise to reduce your EFC by huge margins. Often, these savings offers are pitched to desperate parents as a way to sell low-return annuities. These annuities can come with their own serious financial repercussions.
  9. Buy needed supplies before you fill out the FAFSA. Your student will need thousands of dollars worth of supplies, from computers to dorm furnishings. You can usually get a better price if you buy early. Also, you can deduct that money from college savings.
  10. Time your return to school. If you or your spouse is considering returning to school to pursue a higher degree, consider enrolling concurrently. Having two members of the family in college simultaneously allows you to divide your EFC by two.
  11. If your child is employed by the family business, it may be time to let them go. Student income is one of the biggest expected sources of contribution, and students who earn significant income will not qualify for financial aid.

These tricks can only affect your EFC so much. Don’t expect miracles. Unless you’re right at one of the significant FAFSA thresholds, you will likely only end up with some deferred interest loans. For help paying the rest of college expenses, get help from a trusted lender like NASA Federal Credit Union.

Our representatives can help you set up college savings plans for younger children, and may be able to offer competitive rates on student loans for children who are ready to leave for school. Call 1-888-NASA-FCU (627-2328), email support@nasafcu.com, or stop by NASA FCU today, to get help financing your educational future.

College Bound? NASA FCU Can Help

College ScholarshipThe NASA FCU Scholarship Committee is now accepting applications for the 2013 Mitchell-Beall-Rosen College Scholarship Contest.

Scholarships up to $7,000 may be awarded to one or more contest winners to assist with the costs of tuition, books and living expenses.

Applicants must be:

  • The primary owner of a NASA FCU account
  • A high school senior with an average grade of C or above
  • Under the age of 21

Scholarships are awarded based on the evaluation of a 1,000 word essay and a personal interview conducted by the Scholarship Committee.