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Preparing to attend school can be an exciting and hectic time. Add “How am I going to pay for it all?” into the equation, and it can seem a bit overwhelming. But have no fear. This crash course in financial aid will give you the low down on all your options – when it comes to paying for school – and show you that the process is not as hard as you may think.
So what do you do first? Before you do anything go to the web site, www.studentloans.gov and fill out three items: You will need what is called a PIN number. If you have one fine, if not, you can apply for one at this web site. Complete the entrance interview form, the FAFSA and complete a Master Prom Note for Stafford Loans and the GRAD PLUS loans if you think you may need both. There is no cost to do any of these and they are required regardless of where you decide to attend school, Richmont or Harvard. Financial Aid Officers use this form to determine the amount of financial aid that you can be awarded. Remember if you have previously completed the FAFSA application last year, you must submit a renewal FAFSA every year with your previous year’s tax return info. If you previously completed a Master Promissory note it will be good for a period of ten years. If you change schools you must include the new school’s Department of Education Code. (I.E.Richmont is located in Tennessee and our code is G33554.)
Know Your Options
Once you’ve completed the FAFSA, you should start researching potential scholarships and grant money (also know as gift aid). One of the great things about scholarships and grants is that you don’t have to pay them back. Unfortunately there are no Department of Education Grants, such as Pell Grants for a Masters Degree Program. So be sure that you exhaust all forms of gift aid before considering any federal or private student loans.
So where do you begin looking? The financial aid office at your current school or your new school is a great place to start your search, as is the library. The Internet also offers a wealth of information about scholarships and other college-related topics. Some web sites to use to find information are: www.wiredscholar.com, www.fastweb.com,www.askjeeves.com, and www.yahoo.com,www.scholarships.com. Also check with your employers, church, civic groups and other community organizations for scholarship opportunities.
If you find that you still need money once you’ve fully exhausted all sources of gift aid, don’t worry! There are several low-cost loan options available, such as the Federal Stafford and Private loans.
To qualify for the Stafford Loans in the Title IV program you must maintain at least 6 credit hours in a Degree Program during each of the fall and spring semesters. Summer does not count, as we do not have summer loans. This means that you have to budget the money you get in the fall or spring to cover cost of summer school.
Effective 07/01/2012 all Federal Stafford loans will become unsubsidized. This means that interest on the loans will be charged to you as you use the money. Principal payments start after you graduate or enroll is less than six credit hours either the fall or spring semester. If you drop below six credit hours your six-month grace period will start running. The interest starts accruing in the unsubsidized loans from the date of disbursement if you do not pay this it will be added to your loan and you will be paying interest on interest.
The financial aid package “SAR” you receive back from the Department of Education based on your FAFSA application will include a figure know as your “EFC” (expected family contribution). This is the amount that the Dept of Ed figures you can pay toward your degree each year. This figure may change from year to year as it is based on each year’s tax return. Currently the maximum amount of Stafford loans that a master’s degree student can receive per school year is: $20,500. These amounts are the same for a Graduate degree regardless of where you decide to attend school. These amounts are split into half’s for the fall and spring semesters. $10,250 Each semester. You have to do your own budgeting for any summer classes.
An important thing to note about the Stafford Loans is that the interest rates for School year 2012/2013 is set at 6.8% So if you are thinking about dipping into retirement funds or charging tuition and other expenses on credit cards, this low rate may make borrowing from the government a better option if you need additional funding for school. Interest rates on Stafford Loans are set each July 1st for the next school year.
The Department of Education in 2006 established an additional loan called the Graduate Plus Loan. This is similar to the loans that have been previously offered to parents to assist students with the cost of an undergraduate degree. This loan is credit based and in some cases may require a co-signer if credit is a problem. It will only cover the shortfall that you might have between your financial aid awarded and the Cost of Attendance at Richmont. The PLUS Loan will have a slightly higher rate of interest (7.9%) but payback is the same as the Stafford loans, the interest due when you get the money and the principal six months after you graduate. For example the total Stafford Loans are $20,500 for 2012/2013 and our cost of attendance is estimated to be $43,880. This new loan would provide you the additional $23,380, if you needed the funds.
If you need money over and above what is available from the Dept of Ed, consider a private lender such as a bank, credit union, State Dept of Ed, all which offer attractive rates. These loans are usually based on credit history and in some cases to get the lower rates you may have to use a co-signer. Remember in most cases other lenders will not lend money over and above the cost of attendance figure that the school uses which in the case of Richmont is $43,880. However if the school you plan to attend has a higher cost of attendance then the GRAD Plus loan can be increased. These private loans can also be set up to become repayable in the same manner as the Stafford Loans.
By planning ahead, knowing your options, and investing a bit of time and organization, finding free aid and any additional funding through student loans is totally within your reach.
Call Moose at 404-835-6122 or Cell 770-316-0316 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org