Paying for College 2013

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1 Paying for College 2013

2 WHAT S INSIDE Higher Education Pays Off 1 Colleges and Their Costs 2 Financial Aid Hierarchy 4 How To Apply for Financial Aid 6 Applying for Gift Aid 8 Earn and Learn at Reduced Rates 11 Student Loan Types 12 Saving Strategies and Tax Breaks 15

3 GET IN ON THE ACTION: HIGHER EDUCATION PAYS OFF Wondering if investing in a college education will pay off? Yes, college can be expensive and time-consuming, but the rewards are worth it. Consider the charts below. People who graduate from college earn significantly more money than those who have only a high school diploma. Those with a college degree also are less likely to be unemployed than those without one. In addition to the financial rewards, a college degree can enhance your quality of life. According to a study about the value of going to college, conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, when compared with high school graduates, college graduates: >> Have higher self-esteem and more self-direction. >> Enjoy better health. >> Rate themselves as happier and more satisfied with life. There are many more benefits of obtaining a college degree or certificate, but you get the idea higher education pays off. WHO S GETTING PAID MORE? Check out the national average income for full-time workers over age 25 in Master s degree Bachelor s degree Associate degree Some college, no degree High school graduate Less than high school $23,452 $39,936 $37,388 $33,176 $54,756 $65,676 Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 23, WHO S LESS LIKELY TO BE UNEMPLOYED? Check out the national average unemployment percentage rates for full-time workers over age 25 during April Year Degree Associate Degree Some College, No Degree High School Degree Less Than High School Grad Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 23,

4 CONSIDER THE BASICS: COLLEGES AND THEIR COSTS College is the word used to refer to several types of schools you could attend after high school. Depending on your goals, you could choose one or a combination of the following types of schools. TWO-YEAR COLLEGES At two-year colleges, sometimes known as community, junior or technical colleges, you can earn an associate degree or certificate. Upon completion, you can enter the job market or at some schools transfer many, if not all, of your credits to a four-year school. The cost of attendance at these schools is generally lower than at four-year schools. FOUR-YEAR COLLEGES / UNIVERSITIES Four-year schools offer a comprehensive education that typically results in a bachelor s degree. When most people refer to a college degree or an undergraduate degree they mean a bachelor s degree. The size, cost and choice of programs at fouryear schools vary tremendously. Some of the most expensive are private institutions. You won t know how much college will cost you until after you receive your financial aid award package. 2

5 VOCATIONAL/TRADE SCHOOLS/CAREER COLLEGES Some careers don t require a traditional college degree. Instead you might seek specialized training and earn a certificate at one of a variety of schools devoted to specific careers. Upon completion, you can head straight into the work force. You don t get a broad education this way, but you can become well-trained in a specific field. Costs vary depending on the length of the program, reputation and whether the school is public or private. IN-STATE AND OUT-OF-STATE TUITION Typically, private schools charge everyone the same tuition and fees, but most public schools have one cost for state residents and a higher cost for students from outside the state. ACTUAL COSTS FALL BELOW PRICE TAG Published college costs do not accurately represent what students actually pay. Approximately two-thirds of undergraduate students enrolled full time receive grants, scholarships, work-study employment, tax credits and tax deductions that reduce the actual cost of college. FINANCIAL AID MAKES A DIFFERENCE Financial aid helps students and families pay for education expenses. You may receive a combination of grants, scholarships, work-study employment, or loans to help pay for college. Don t rule out a school based solely on the cost of attendance. You won t know if a school is affordable until you receive your financial aid award letter or notification. SCHOOL COSTS AND FINANCIAL NEED Your financial need determines the types and amount of financial aid you may receive. A school s costs are a key factor in determining your level of need. Your need increases along with the cost of attendance. HOW MUCH DOES IT REALLY COST? Here are the average costs during and at two-year and four-year schools for full-time undergraduates, and the percent increase from one school year to the next. TUITION AND FEES ROOM AND BOARD TOTAL CHARGES Sector $ Change % Change $ Change % Change $ Change % Change Public Two-Year $2,963 $2,727 $ % * * * * * * * * Public Four-Year In-State $8,244 $7,613 $ % $8,887 $8,549 $ % $17,131 $16,162 $ % Public Four-Year Out-of-State Private Nonprofit Four-Year $20,770 $19,648 $1, % $8,887 $8,549 $ % $29,657 $28,197 $1, % $28,500 $27,265 $1, % $10,089 $9,706 $ % $38,589 $36,971 $1, % For-Profit $14,487 $14,040 $ % * * * * * * * * Cost of Attendance also includes transportation costs, books and supplies and personal/miscellaneous expenses. * Sample too small to provide meaningful information. Note: Four-year public tuition and fee levels are based on in-state charges only. Source: Average Student Expenses by College Board Region, based on national numbers, 2011 The College Board. Reproduced with permission. 3

6 UNDERSTAND THE VALUE: FINANCIAL AID HIERARCHY When thinking about financial aid, it is important to understand the different types that may be available to you. Some financial aid is free to you but may be difficult to obtain because availability is limited. Other financial aid is easy to get but may cost you more in interest and fees. GET IT IF YOU CAN Gift aid, such as grants, scholarships and work-study employment, are no-cost options and provide a firm foundation for financing your college education. They have limited availability, and not everyone can qualify. Applying early and every year you are in college will help ensure you access all the gift aid for which you qualify. DESIRABLE FUNDING Perkins loans are a low-cost option, but have limited availability. Subsidized Stafford loans are another good choice because the federal government covers your interest payments while you re in school and during deferment periods. These loans are based on your financial need. 4

7 OTHER FUNDING Unsubsidized Stafford loans and PLUS loans are more widely available, but because the government does not subsidize the interest, they cost you slightly more in interest payments over time. IN A PINCH Finally, consider private education loans only as a last resort. They are available, but usually have the highest cost of all options. WHAT TYPES OF AID ARE MOST COMMON? Check out the types of financial aid distributed during % 17% 4% 7% 8% 20% 39% 1% Total Aid Awarded $177.6 Billion 39% Federal Loans 1% Federal Work-Study 20% Federal Pell Grants 7% Federal Grant Programs Other Than Pell 4% Private and Employer Grants 17% Institutional Grants 5% State Grants 8% Federal Education Tax Benefits Note: Total percentage may not sum to 100 because of rounding. Source: Trends in Student Aid 2011 Copyright 2011 The College Board, Reproduced with permission. WHO S GETTING FINANCIAL AID? This chart divides dependent students by income level and shows what percentage of each group received each type of financial aid. Any Aid shows the percentage that received at least one type of financial aid. INCOME LEVEL FOR DEPENDENT STUDENTS ANY AID GRANTS ANY STUDENT LOANS WORK- STUDY VETERANS BENEFITS All Less than $20, $20,000 to $39, $40,000 to $59, $60,000 to $79, $80,000 to $99, $100,000 or more PARENT PLUS LOANS Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Education Statistics Quarterly, Percentage of undergraduates receiving selected types of federal aid:

8 HOW TO APPLY FOR AID: TAKE THE RIGHT STEPS You should apply for financial aid, regardless of whether you think you ll qualify. It doesn t cost anything, and you can do it online. Many colleges and scholarship organizations require you to file the FAFSA before they will award any aid. THE FAFSA To apply for financial aid, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as soon as possible after January 1 of the year you plan to begin college. You must complete a FAFSA for each year you attend college. If you re considered a dependent student, your parent(s) will need to complete the parent section of the FAFSA. For more information or to apply online, go to Although you may complete a paper FAFSA, students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA online. For free help with the FAFSA, look for a College Goal Sunday event near you at THE RESULTS OF YOUR FAFSA The federal government uses the FAFSA to measure your family s income, assets and other factors. Applying a need analysis formula to the information you supply on the FAFSA, the federal government determines your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. You and the schools you list on the form will receive the results of your FAFSA analysis. File in January THE FAFSA PROCESS COMPLETE THE FAFSA EVERY YEAR Accept award Make updates Review award packages PREPARING Apply for a PIN for student and parent (if dependent) Gather tax and other financial documents January, begin FAFSA process FILING Fill out FAFSA online at Submit FAFSA with PIN and send electronically AFTER FILING Federal Processor determines EFC Student receives SAR Results sent to colleges Financial Aid disbursed to selected college 6

9 EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION The expected family contribution is an index used by the school to calculate your eligibility for federal financial aid and is the result of a complex formula. To estimate yours, select the Expected Family Contribution Calculator at YOUR SCHOOL AND YOUR FAFSA ANALYSIS Your prospective schools will review the results of your FAFSA analysis and determine your eligibility for financial aid by subtracting your Expected Family Contribution from the cost of attendance at the school. FINANCIAL AID AWARD To help you cover your education costs, your school will put together a package of federal, state and school aid. This financial aid award, also known as a financial aid package or financial aid award letter, may include grants, scholarships, work-study employment and loans. You may accept all or only a portion of what is offered. NON-NEED-BASED LOANS Your school will try to meet all of your financial need, but sometimes it can t because of limited funding. If you receive your award and you still need more money to pay for your education, private education loan programs can help. The lenders providing non-need-based private loans establish their own qualifying criteria. See page 14 for additional information regarding this resource. CSS/FINANCIAL AID PROFILE In addition to the FAFSA, you may need to complete the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE. Some private schools and scholarship providers use the PROFILE to determine your eligibility for non-federal aid, such as school-based grants, loans and scholarships. To submit the PROFILE, you ll pay a $25 registration fee and $16 for each school or scholarship agency that you want to receive the information. FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION TIPS >> Find out the financial aid application deadlines for your state and your prospective schools and if they require additional forms. These application deadlines are listed on >> Complete the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Some aid is limited, so it pays to apply early. >> Complete your federal income tax return as early as possible. You may estimate tax information on the FAFSA, but keep in mind that you may need to submit a copy of your completed tax form later. If your estimate is off, you ll have to make a correction, which could delay your financial aid award or change an early award offer. >> List each of your prospective schools on your FAFSA, so they receive the analysis results and can determine your eligibility for financial aid. >> Double-check your Social Security number. Wrong or transposed SSNs will delay processing. >> Schools are required to verify FAFSA information for selected applicants. If you re selected for verification, you should be prepared to provide: < Copies of tax transcripts that verify the figures provided on the FAFSA. < Documentation of any nontaxable income listed on the FAFSA. < Copies of W-2 forms for any wage earners who didn t file federal tax returns. >> Once you receive your financial aid package, read all the documents carefully. According to your school s process, you may need to sign and return documents by a specific deadline, indicating whether you re accepting all of the aid offered or just part of it. It is important to remember though, each school has a different process to accept financial aid. You may be asked to sign the award letter and return via mail or log into a school s secure website or portal to view and accept your aid package. Find out more about the PROFILE, including a list of schools and scholarship providers that use the form, by visiting 7

10 THINGS TO DO AFTER YOU COMPLETE THE FAFSA [] Review your Student Aid Report and make corrections, if necessary. [] Complete and submit your college application(s). Check with colleges for application deadlines. [] If selected for verification, submit required documents to the financial aid office of your college(s) by the specified deadline. [] Ensure your admission application, FAFSA and verification documents are complete and submitted by your college s priority deadline. [] Check often for messages from your colleges and the federal processor regarding the status of your FAFSA. [] After taxes are filed, update the FAFSA with your tax information and/or your parents s tax information. If you can, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool within the FAFSA online. [] Review and compare the financial aid packages of the colleges to which you were accepted. [] Accept financial aid package and college admission no later than May 1 or by your college s deadline. [] For questions, contact the financial aid office at your chosen colleges. To learn more about the FAFSA and the steps involved in the financial aid process, be sure to attend one of NELA s Beyond the FAFSA online workshops. Visit events.nela.net to learn more. SEEK OUT SCHOLARSHIPS: APPLY FOR GIFT AID A wide variety of scholarships are available to help you pay for college. You should apply for as many as are available to you. To find opportunities, use a free scholarship search engine, such as: >> >> >> 8

11 SCHOLARSHIPS IDAHO: THE IDAHO GOVERNOR S CUP SCHOLARSHIP The Idaho Governor s Cup Scholarship provides approximately 25 awards to Idaho high school seniors planning to attend an Idaho college or university. The number of awards is conditional on the availability of funds. Awards will be available to scholars pursuing academic and professional-technical education. The $3,000 award is renewable for up to four years for academic scholars, and for the term of the chosen program, up to three years, for professional-technical students. For additional criteria and information, go to gov_cup.asp. OREGON: GETCOLLEGEFUNDS.ORG GetCollegeFunds.org is the state of Oregon s official website for student financial aid, grants and scholarship opportunities administered by the Oregon Student Access Commission. Students can apply for up to 20 scholarships at a time with a single application. FORD SCHOLARS PROGRAM Each year, up to 100 students throughout Oregon are selected as recipients of the Ford Scholars Program. The scholarship award is not a set amount, but is calculated to cover 90 percent of each student s college costs ($1,000 minimum/$25,000 maximum per academic year) that are not covered by other resources. Students apply for the Ford Scholars program through the OSAC Common Scholarship Application at WASHINGTON: THE WASHBOARD The Washboard is a free, Web-based scholarship-matching clearinghouse for Washington students to search and apply for scholarships. Students can create a profile to search for scholarships and use their profile information to make completing scholarship applications simpler. COLLEGE BOUND SCHOLARSHIP Low-income seventh and eighth grade students who sign a pledge to graduate from high school, demonstrate good citizenship and seek admission to a college or university are eligible for this program. Family income and college admission are confirmed after the student graduates from high school. The amount of the scholarship will be based on tuition rates at Washington public colleges and universities and will cover the amount of tuition and fees (plus $500 for books) not covered by other state financial aid awards Scholarships and grants are called gift aid. Gift aid is considered free money because you don t have to pay it back. There s no better deal than that. GRANTS FEDERAL PELL GRANT Money for this program is supplied by the federal government and awarded by the school based on significant financial need. >> Complete the FAFSA. >> Awards depend on program funding, your eligibility, enrollment status and the cost of your school. The maximum award for the award year is $5,550. FEDERAL SUPPLEMENTAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY GRANT Money for this program is supplied by the federal government and awarded by the school based on significant financial need. >> Complete the FAFSA. >> A maximum of $4,000 per award year; awards vary by school. 9

12 OREGON OPPORTUNITY GRANT Oregon Opportunity Grants are awarded to eligible Oregon students attending eligible Oregon schools based on financial need. The Oregon Student Acess Commission also administers private scholarships for Oregon high school seniors and graduates. Each scholarship has specific eligibility requirements. >> Complete the FAFSA, listing at least one eligible Oregon college or university. >> The amount of Oregon Opportunity Grant a student will receive varies under the shared responsibility model. For more information, contact: Oregon Student Access Commission WASHINGTON STATE GRANTS Need Grants This program is for financially needy or disadvantaged Washington state residents. >> Washington residents complete the FAFSA and other required forms. >> State Need Grant award amounts vary depending on the type of institution attended and family income. For example, a student from a family of four with income up to $57,500 qualifies. The maximum State Need Grant award for is $10,868. For more information, contact: Washington Student Achievement Council

13 WORKING IT: EARN AND LEARN AT REDUCED RATES Consider programs that can help you pay for college or reduce college costs. Work-study and cooperative education programs allow you to earn money for school and gain work experience. Depending on your major, education exchange programs allow you to enroll in colleges outside your state at reduced rates. FEDERAL AND STATE WORK-STUDY PROGRAMS Work-study employment allows students to earn money to pay for education expenses. Money for federal work-study is supplied by the federal government, and the employer. State programs are funded by the state and your employer. Jobs may be on or off campus, depending on the school. Whenever possible, employment will be related to your academic or vocational interest. >> Complete the FAFSA. >> Awards are based on the availability of funds and your determined financial need. You will earn at least the minimum wage. Your work schedule and hours will be established by your employer and your school. Learn more about WUE through the central coordinating organization, Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, at To apply, contact the certifying office in your state: WICHE Student Exchange Program Idaho Board of Education WICHE Student Exchange Program Oregon University System WICHE Student Exchange Program Washington Student Achievement Council COOPERATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMS Cooperative education programs allow you to continue your studies with an off-campus job related to your major. For more information, contact: The World Association for Cooperative Education UNDERGRADUATE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS Through the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program, students in certain programs of study may enroll in twoand four-year public institutions in participating states at reduced rates. During , participating states are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. 11

14 BORROW SENSIBLY: STUDENT LOAN TYPES There are a variety of student loans that can make it possible for you to afford college. Because loans must be repaid, with interest, be careful to borrow only what you need. PERKINS LOANS Perkins loan funds have been provided to schools by the federal government. Eligibility depends on your determined financial need and the availability of funds. Your school is your lender, and not all schools offer Perkins loans. To apply, complete the FAFSA. Your school will notify you of your eligibility in your financial aid award. Loan Amounts >> Up to $5,500 maximum for each year of undergraduate study. >> Up to $8,000 maximum for each year of graduate study. Interest Rate and Fees >> Fixed at 5 percent. >> No fees. Repayment Repayment begins nine months after you leave school or drop to less than half-time status. DIRECT LOANS The Direct Loan program is run through a partnership between schools and the federal government. Money for the loans comes from the federal government. The program offers Stafford and PLUS loans. Stafford Loans There are two types of Stafford Loans. >> Subsidized. These loans are available only to undergraduate students. The federal government makes the interest payments on your loan while you re in school and during certain other times. To qualify, you must demonstrate financial need. >> Unsubsidized. These loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. You re always responsible for the interest that accrues, even while you re in school. The unsubsidized Stafford loan is a non-need-based program. You can qualify for the program as long as your education costs exceed the amount of financial aid awarded. To apply, complete the FAFSA. Your school will notify you of your eligibility in your financial aid award letter. You also will be required to complete a Master Promissory Note and an entrance counseling session before you receive your loan funds. Loan Amounts How much you can borrow depends on your dependency status and academic level grade level, as well as annual and aggregate maximums. The chart on page 14 provides information regarding undergraduate maximum annual loan limits based on loan type, dependency status and grade level within your program. Interest Rates and Fees For subsidized Stafford loans with first disbursements between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, the interest is fixed at 3.4 percent. The interest rate on unsubsidized Stafford loans is fixed at 6.8 percent. You will be charged federal loan fees for Stafford loans. These fees will be deducted from your loan proceeds at the time the loan is disbursed. Repayment Repayment begins six months after you leave school or drop to less than half-time status. PLUS LOANS PLUS loans are available to two types of borrowers: >> Parents borrowing on behalf of their dependents for undergraduate studies. >> Graduate and professional students borrowing on their own behalf. A completed FAFSA is required before a student or parent may borrow a PLUS loan. Before graduate or professional students may apply for a PLUS loan, they also first must be advised by their school of their Stafford loan eligibility. The parent- or student-borrower s credit history also will be checked to determine if there is any adverse credit history. 12

15 Interest Rates and Fees The PLUS loan interest rate is 7.9 percent. PLUS loan fees of 4 percent will be deducted from each disbursement check. Interest on these loans is never paid by the government and accrues from the date on which the first funds are disbursed. Loan Amounts There is no annual or aggregate loan limit set by the federal government. Loan limits are based on the difference between the cost of attendance and the estimated financial aid received. Borrowers may take out loans to meet this gap. >> Grad PLUS. Payments are deferred for the qualifying in-school period and the six-month period that follows. STATE LOAN PROGRAMS Some states have designated loan programs to help their students with the cost of college. Check with your financial aid office or guidance counselor about programs available in your state. Repayment >> Parent PLUS. Payment of principal and interest may be deferred while the dependent student for whom the loan was borrowed or the parent-borrower is enrolled at least half time, and for the six-month period that follows. 13

16 PRIVATE LOANS After you have applied for federal, state and institutional funds, if you still find the need for additional financial assistance to cover education costs, you may consider private education loans through a commercial lender, personal lines of credit or home equity loans. Receiving private education loan funds may affect your eligibility to receive federal and state financial aid. The total of all financial aid resources generally cannot exceed the cost of attendance as determined by the financial aid office at the institution you attend. Interest rates, loan fees and borrowing limits vary with each private loan program. The interest rate and loan fees often differ depending on the creditworthiness of the borrower. Private education loan programs may run a credit check to examine your ability to repay the loan. Generally, these programs require your parent or another creditworthy individual to borrow or co-sign the loan on your behalf. To ensure you are receiving the most beneficial loan terms, contact several private loan lenders and compare minimum and maximum interest rates, fees and borrower benefits. Prior to applying for or accepting private education loan funds, contact the financial aid office and request information regarding the impact on your continued eligibility for federal, state or institutional financial aid. ANNUAL STAFFORD LOAN LIMITS FOR UNDERGRADUATES DEPENDENT STUDENTS INDEPENDENT STUDENT (OR DEPENDENT STUDENT WHOSE PARENT WAS DENIED A PLUS LOAN) FIRST-YEAR UNDERGRADUATES Base Stafford loan eligibility $3,500 $3,500 Additional unsubsidized eligibility $2,000 $6,000 SECOND-YEAR UNDERGRADUATES Base Stafford loan eligibility $4,500 $4,500 Additional unsubsidized eligibility $2,000 $6,000 THIRD- AND SUBSEQUENT-YEARS UNDERGRADUATES Base Stafford loan eligibility $5,500 $5,500 Additional unsubsidized eligibility $2,000 $7,000 * Dependent undergraduate students typically are younger than 24 years of age, unmarried, without dependents, with no previous or current military service, or have met other limited conditions. More information is available at Dependency status affects the maximum amount that a student may borrow in Stafford loans and whether a parent may take out a PLUS loan on behalf of the student. AVERAGE ANNUAL BORROWING FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS FROM STUDENT LOAN PROGRAMS Public Two-Year Public Four-Year $8,710 $9,590 $14,580 $20,610 $17,570 Note: Student loans may be from any source, but exclude PLUS loans. Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 14

17 REAP THE REWARDS: SAVING STRATEGIES AND TAX BREAKS Saving isn t always easy. The good news is that you don t need to save the total cost of a college degree financial aid can help. You also can save money on your federal income taxes by taking advantage of tax benefits for education. IMPACT OF SAVINGS ON AID Your savings will not prevent you from qualifying for financial aid. Although the need analysis process examines both income and assets, it assigns the greatest weight to income. For example, if your parents saved $10,000 for your education, the most that would be assigned to your expected family contribution would be $1,200. You d still have $8,800 more than someone who didn t save at all. PREPAID TUITION PLANS AND STATE- SPONSORED SAVINGS ACCOUNTS Every state has access to a prepaid tuition plan or college savings plan. Prepaid tuition allows parents to lock in today s tuition rates for their children s future education. In addition to prepaid tuition plans, many states also sponsor college savings accounts, known as 529 college saving plans, for families to save specifically for a child s higher education. Earnings from these programs are tax-free, as long as they are used to pay college expenses. For more information on state college savings plans, visit 15

18 IDAHO: IDEAL- IDAHO COLLEGE SAVINGS PROGRAM The Idaho College Savings Program allows families to save for the cost of a college education, and encourages extended family and friends to contribute as well. Idaho residents may deduct up to $8,000 each year from their Idaho Adjusted Gross Income for contributions made to the Ideal program. OREGON: OREGON COLLEGE SAVINGS PLAN Oregon s College Savings Plan emphasizes low fees and easy access to funds and information while helping families save for college. Oregon residents may deduct up to $4,345 from their Oregon taxes; always consult your tax adviser if you have questions about your taxes. WASHINGTON: GUARANTEED EDUCATION TUITION PROGRAM GET is Washington s 529 plan, helping families save for college. With GET, accounts are guaranteed to keep pace with rising tuition and can be used at nearly any public or private college in the country. FINANCIAL EXPERTS If you re not sure how to prepare financially for college, you may consult with a financial professional who can help you develop a savings or investment plan. Besides your local banker, you could contact a certified financial planner, an accountant or a broker for advice. TAX BREAKS AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY TAX CREDIT During your first four years of at least half-time enrollment at an eligible institution, you (or your parents) can claim an American Opportunity Tax Credit of up to $2,500 toward federal income taxes. LIFETIME LEARNING CREDIT The Lifetime Learning Credit is available to you if you re taking one or more classes either in pursuit of a degree or certificate, or to improve your job skills. You (or your parents) can claim a Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2, percent of the first $10,000 paid in qualified tuition and fees toward federal income taxes. There is no limit on the number of years you may claim the Lifetime Learning Credit. COVERDELL EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS Taxpayers can contribute up to $2,000 annually for each beneficiary. The income limit for singles is $110,000 and $220,000 for married couples. IRA WITHDRAWAL Tax laws allow people under the age of 59 1/2 to withdraw money for higher education expenses from a regular IRA or a Roth IRA without paying a penalty. LIMITATIONS PER CALENDAR YEAR The American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning tax credit can be claimed in the same year the beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a Coverdell ESA, as long as the same expenses are not used for both benefits. If there is more than one family member in college, taxpayers may use different tax incentives for different family members. DEDUCTION FOR INTEREST ON EDUCATION LOANS You can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 for interest paid on your education loans if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $75,000 ($150,000 if filing a joint return). You can deduct interest paid on student loans taken out for your own education, your spouse s or your dependent s education. 16

19 TUITION AND FEE DEDUCTION You can reduce your income subject to tax by up to $4,000. Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance up to $4,000 are deductible; other expenses, such as room and board, are not. THE IRS WEBSITE Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, provides more details of these tax credits and deductions. You can download the publication from the Internal Revenue Service website, To determine your eligibility for any of these tax benefits, consult the IRS or a qualified tax adviser. ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID CALENDAR The admissions application process typically starts in September, one year prior to beginning your first year of college. The financial aid application process also starts in the fall with scholarship applications and preparing for the FAFSA in January. SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER JANUARY TO MARCH APRIL Time to apply for admission to the schools you re interested in attending next year. Explore your financial aid and college funding options with your counselor, adviser or mentor. Apply for scholarships and grants. Time to apply for financial aid. Fill out the FAFSA online at For free help with the FAFSA, look for a College Goal Sunday event near you at www. collegegoalsundayusa.org. Find out the financial aid application deadline for each of the schools on your list. Contact each school to see if it requires additional financial aid application forms. Contact a financial aid or admissions counselor at each school to get detailed information about your financial aid award. Compare the offers and decide which school is the best value for you. MAY TO JUNE Notify the school you plan to attend, and let the others know you won t be attending. Accept your award offer with the school you will be attending in the fall. AUGUST TO SEPTEMBER To make sure you remain eligible for your financial aid award, check before you drop classes. Your award may change based on how many credits you carry. Check with a financial aid counselor to be sure you have all financial aid arrangements and paperwork in order for the fall term. Special note: This timing applies to many colleges. Others offer enrollment on a year-round basis, and this calendar may not apply. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ENTIRE FINANCIAL AID PROCESS LOG ON TO NELA S FREE, ONLINE COLLEGE ACCESS AND AFFORDABILITY WORKSHOPS. VISIT EVENTS.NELA.NET TO LEARN MORE OR REGISTER. 17

20 Portland Center for Student Success 1500 NE Irving Street, Suite 135 Portland, OR Seattle Center for Student Success rd Avenue S. Seattle, WA NELA

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