Tag Archive for: Graduate School Loans

As graduation season approaches, you may notice more and more ads promoting student loan refinance. You may also receive offers from companies offering to lower your rate on your student loans. What does all of this mean to you? Learn what your options are and create the student loan repayment strategy that makes sense for you.

What is Refinancing?

Refinancing means using a new loan with better interest rates and/or terms to pay off an existing loan. Refinancing is commonly used with home mortgages, but can also be a great option for your student loans. Check out When to Consider Refinancing Student Loans for additional insight into potential reasons you might consider refinancing your student loans.

Who Can Benefit from Refinancing Student Loans?

If your goal is to obtain a lower interest rate and ultimately lower the total repayment costs of your loans, then refinancing is worth exploring. This is especially true if you have older private loans that may have a high interest rate, and you feel you may qualify for a lower interest rate now. Some consumers may also want to lower their overall monthly payment. They can achieve this from either a lower interest rate, or by extending the term (i.e., length of repayment) on their loan. Finally, if you have multiple loans with different lenders or servicers, refinancing combines your loans into one. This means you’ll only have to work with one entity for your student loans in the future.

What Types of Loans Can Be Refinanced?

Most companies that offer student loan refinancing allow you to include private loans and federal student loans when refinancing. (Private loans are loans made by a bank or other financial services provider you received to help fund your education. Federal loans (i.e., Direct Loans, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans) are made by the government.) To qualify, your loans may need to be in their grace period or in repayment to be included in a refinance loan. That means you need to be out of school when you refinance those loans. You can include multiple loans from a number of different loan holders in one refinance loan. Make sure you know all of the student loans you have, and which company or organization is responsible for servicing those loans before refinancing.

Considerations and Cautions Before Refinancing

While refinancing might sound good to you, there are some things you need to consider.

  • Don’t just look at the low teaser rates. The lowest advertised rate is usually available to borrowers with the best credit scores who select the shortest repayment term. These options may not work for your situation.
  • Understand who will actually service your new refinance loan. In many instances, the lender you initially work with may not be the organization you make payments to, or rely on for customer service.
  • If you are considering including federal loans in your refinance, ensure the benefits outweigh any loss of protections or benefits only available with federal loans. For instance, if you include federal loans in a new private refinance loan, you lose access to income-driven repayment plans and the possibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness that might be available with your federal loans.

The bottom line is, do your research and understand what course of action is best for you. Each person has unique circumstances and concerns, so refinancing may not always be best. You can learn more about refinance loans and other related articles by visiting U-fi.com.

Interested in student loan refinancing? Take the next step toward lower monthly payments.

Congratulations! You’re graduating soon and will be searching for your first job out of college. It’s an exciting time in your life. However, if you’re like the majority of college students, you’re also graduating with student loan debt. Now is a good time to make sure you’ve got a plan to manage your student loans after you graduate.

Here are some easy steps you can take to set yourself up to successfully manage your student loans.

First, Identify All of Your Student Loans

The best place to start is at the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). You can find information here about all of your federal loans. This will give you all the details you need to understand how much you’ve borrowed on your federal loans. You can also find out who to contact for questions about your federal student loans.

If you used private loans from a bank or other financial entity, check with your lender to make sure you have the correct loan information.

Next, Get an Idea of What Your Monthly Payments Will Look Like

At StudentLoans.gov you can access a repayment estimator for your federal loans that will give you an idea of what your monthly payment would look like under the different repayment plans available. Depending on your individual circumstances, it’s likely there is a plan that will work for you. If you have relatively low debt and a good salary, you may want to pay off your loans ASAP. The standard 10-year repayment term allows you the quickest and lowest cost method to pay off your loans.

If you have a higher debt load or lower income, there are options that base your student loan payment on your income. Income-driven repayment plans are often helpful since they give you a more affordable monthly payment based on your income. You can learn more about these options as well as how to apply them to your student loans at StudentLoans.gov.

For private loans, visit your lender’s website to access repayment calculators. Or, simply contact your private loan provider for additional information on what monthly repayment amount you can expect.

Know When Your First Payment is Due

With federal loans, you have the ability to postpone payments while you’re enrolled in school at least a half-time. This is also true of some private loans. That means you’ve probably not made any payments on your loans, or perhaps you’ve made some small payments to offset accruing interest. You are also given a grace period on your loans. The grace period is typically six months from your last day of school. The last day is usually considered when you graduate or have dropped below half-time enrollment. At the end of that grace period is when your first payment will be due. Make sure you know when that due date is. That will give you plenty of time to prepare and budget for that new payment.

Know Your Options if you Have Difficulty Making Payments and Need Assistance

There are a number of options for borrowers who encounter situations that make it difficult to manage their student loans. Your student loan servicer will work with you to find a solution, but you have to contact your servicer to get assistance. For example, if your income has changed dramatically you might want to change to an income driven repayment plan or adjust the plan you’re on based on your change in income. Additionally, if you return to school, to pursue a graduate degree for example, you can postpone (or defer) your student loans while you’re back in school. Don’t make the mistake of simply ignoring your student loan payments and damaging your credit score.

As you look forward to graduation and starting a new chapter in your life, just remember to do a little planning and research how to best manage your student loans and find the best repayment plan for your situation. And remember, your student loan servicer is there to help you if you have any questions.

The holidays are over and the new year brings a new semester. For many students, that means a new round of bills and education expenses. That means it’s a perfect time to evaluate your finances and make sure your budget is in the right place.

If you attended college in the fall, you may have relied on financial aid to help cover your education expenses. With a new semester about to begin, you may want to reconsider your options. Many students still owe a balance from fall semester. Meanwhile, others just realized they may need additional funding to help pay for the upcoming semester. Use this time to take stock of your financial resources and make a plan to ensure everything is covered.

Do you still owe a balance on outstanding charges from your fall semester?

You may be required to fully satisfy outstanding charges before you can complete your enrollment for the next semester. Make sure you take care of the previous balance as soon as possible. That way, you avoid any potential delays with your upcoming enrollment. If you didn’t have enough financial aid or personal resources to pay your prior semester’s bills in full, consider a private loan to help cover what you still owe. You can find private loan solutions at U-fi.com.

Did you apply for financial aid either before or during the previous semester?

It’s always a good idea to apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify. Not everyone qualifies for grants or other “free” money. But, you may qualify for federal student loans, like unsubsidized loans, which are not based on financial need. You can still complete the FAFSA, even after the school year has started. It’s free and doesn’t take much time, so it’s worthwhile to submit. That way, you’ll know you’re not missing out on any financial aid programs.

What are your education expenses going to be in the upcoming semester?

By January, you should have an idea of your direct college expenses are for the upcoming semester. These education expenses including tuition, books, housing, and other costs. Do you have financial aid that pays for everything, or do you still have a gap where additional money is needed? Make sure you look at your full semester and anticipate all of your expenses. Set a budget so you’ll know exactly what your expenses are. Make sure to keep track of what types of income or financial resources can cover those expenses. Use all the financial aid resources available to you, including federal loans, to help pay your costs of attending college. If you still find yourself in need of additional money, you can explore the possibility of a private education loan at U-fi.com and find a solution to help cover your college expenses.

When should you apply for next school year’s financial aid?

In case you missed it, you can now complete the FAFSA starting on October 1 for the following school year. You may only be halfway through the 2018-2019 school year, but it’s already time to submit your FAFSA for the 2019-2020 year. If you haven’t completed the FAFSA for next year, it’s important to get that taken care of as soon as possible. With the earlier submission date for the FAFSA, it’s critical to get your application in as quickly as possible so you don’t miss any priority deadlines for state grant aid or other types of aid that may not be available if you apply too late.

For more tips and resources on planning and paying for college, visit U-fi.com. Remember, now is the time to make sure you have everything in order for the current semester and for the next school year.

If you have student loan debt, you have most likely heard the terms “student loan consolidation” and “student loan refinancing”. Although they sound similar and are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different programs. Therefore, understanding these programs and their key differences can help you make better student loan repayment decisions.

Student Loan Consolidation

Student loan consolidation lets you combine one or more eligible federal student loans into one new Direct Consolidation Loan. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education becomes the new lender. As the administrator of the program, they use companies such as Nelnet to originate and service the loans.

Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is offered by private (non-federal) lenders to allow student loan borrowers to refinance one or more federal and/or private student loans into a new private student loan. Consequently, the lender of the new private student loan will be a bank, credit union, or other financial institution. Either the lender themselves or entities like Firstmark Services, a division of Nelnet, handles origination and servicing.

Which is Better?

Both programs offer many benefits. These benefits include simplifying your monthly student loan payments, locking in a fixed interest rate, and lowering your monthly payments. However, there may be some drawbacks as well. For example, if you extend your repayment term, you could increase the total cost of your loans. Therefore, you may forfeit current and potential future federal student loan benefits. Also, any incentives attached to your current loans, such as interest rate reductions for automatic payments, are lost.

Comparing Options

The table below provides a side-by-side comparison of several important features of student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing.

Student Loan ConsolidationStudent Loan Refinancing*
LenderU.S. Department of EducationBanks, Credit Unions, and Financial Institutions
Credit Check RequiredNoYes
Upfront FeesNoneMost lenders do not charge any upfront fees
Interest Rate TypeFixedFixed and variable rate options are offered by most lenders
Interest RateWeighted average interest rate of the loans being consolidated, rounded up to nearest one-eighth of 1%Varies. Factors may include the borrower’s and/or cosigner’s credit history; repayment term; interest rate type; highest level of education; and current market conditions
Repayment PlansStandard, Graduated, Extended, and various Income-Driven Repayment plansStandard Repayment
Repayment Term10 to 30 years depending on the amount being consolidated5 to 20 years
Allowable LoansMost federal student loans are eligible. Private loans are not eligibleFederal and private student loans are allowed by most lenders
Interest Rate ReductionRate reduction for automatic paymentsRate reduction for automatic payments. Some lenders offer an additional rate reduction to existing customers with a qualifying account
Ability to consolidate or refinance multiple timesGenerally no, unless additional federal loans are includedYes
Loss of Federal BenefitsSome benefits may be lostYes, including potentially qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness on federal loans
When can you consolidate or refinanceAfter graduation, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollmentAfter graduation, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollment. Some lenders allow refinancing while in school

* Features represent those of the largest and/or most common private student loan refinancing programs. A specific lender’s features may differ, so be sure to read the program details carefully.

Choose the Right Option for You

While there are similarities between student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing, they are different programs with unique features. Firstly, if you are interested in consolidating or refinancing your current student loans,determine what you want to accomplish. Your goal may be to lower your monthly payments, lock in a low fixed interest rate, and/or lower your overall cost of repaying your loans. Next, compare the federal government’s Direct Consolidation Loan program to U-fi and other private lender programs once your goal has been set. Then, decide if consolidation or refinancing is right for you based on your financial goals and circumstances.

Want to reduce your monthly payments? Learn how to make it happen with U-fi.

With the numerous private student loan repayment options available, selecting the right one can seem a bit overwhelming. However, with a little bit of knowledge, you can make a more educated decision. In Part I of this article, we covered repayment plan options. Now, we’ll review interest rate types and repayment terms to find the best student loan option for you.

Interest Rate Type

Borrowers taking out private student loans or refinancing their current student loans have a few interest rate options.

  • Variable: Variable rate loans have an interest rate that can fluctuate over time as the rate index, such as the Prime Rate or LIBOR, goes up or down. Variable rate loans typically come with lower starting interest rates than comparable fixed rate loans. However, they come with greater risk, since rates may rise in the future. Most variable rate loans have a cap that places a limit on how high the rate can rise.
  • Fixed: With a fixed rate loan, once the rate is set, it does not change for the entire repayment period. Fixed rate loans normally have higher starting rates than variable rate loans. This is because the lender takes on the risk of interest rates fluctuating over time.
  • Hybrid: Another less popular option is a hybrid rate loan. With a hybrid rate loan, the interest rate is usually fixed for a period of time. It then switches to a variable rate for the remainder of the loan period.

Tip: If you intend to pay off your loans in a short period of time, consider a variable rate loan. If you plan to take longer to pay off your loans or prefer stable, predictable payments, a fixed-rate loan may be the best choice. When deciding which type of rate to choose, use the lender’s loan repayment calculator to estimate the savings between a variable rate and a fixed rate loan. Also decide whether the estimated savings is worth the additional risk of a variable rate loan.

Repayment Term

Another important item that determines the interest rate you will be charged is the repayment term you select. Most lenders offer private student loans and refinance loans with repayment terms between 5 and 15 years. Some lenders offer repayment terms as long as 20 years.

When determining interest rates on private student loans, remember that the shorter the repayment term, the lower the interest rate. This is because the lender takes on additional risk by allowing you to repay your loan over a longer term.

Tip: Your monthly payment amount is determined by several factors. These include the principal balance of the loan when you start making payments, the interest rate, and the repayment term. Shorter repayment terms come with lower interest rates, but higher monthly payments. Choose a repayment term with a monthly payment you can afford, especially when you are first starting out.

Choosing Your Best Option

Choosing the repayment option that best fits your current and future needs can be a bit tricky. But, with a little planning and thought, you can zero in on the loan terms that are best for you. If you find your financial situation changes down the road, and your current repayment terms no longer meet your needs, you may be able to work with your lender to modify your repayment terms. If that isn’t an option, then you can look at refinancing your student loans and replace them with a new loan that is a better fit.

Tip: Most private student loans do not have any pre-payment penalties or fees. If down the road you can afford to pay more than the minimum each month, you can pay down your loan faster without being charged any pre-payment fees. This reduces your overall cost of borrowing in the end.

Understanding the nuances of private student loans can make a big difference when deciding which one is right for you. Making the right choices when taking out student loans can have a strong impact on positioning yourself for a bright financial future.

If you graduated from college this year, you may realize just how much student loan debt you have. With the average student loan debt at around $29,000 per student, it can be overwhelming to see that number and you may wonder how you are going to pay it back. Well, take a deep breath: you have several options when it comes to repayment. Don’t hesitate to give your student loan servicer a call because they will help you work through your options. Or, you can also follow these 4 steps to get ready for student loan repayment. It’s important to investigate your options and be prepared. It’s equally important to know a few things you should avoid.

Deferment & Forbearance

Deferment and forbearance allow you to temporarily postpone making payments or can reduce your payment for a period of time. Sounds great, right? So, what’s the problem? Your student loans continue to accrue interest. That interest could cost you thousands of dollars a year, depending on your student loan debt. Don’t delay the inevitable. You will have to pay back your student loans whether you pay them now or pay them later. Deferment and forbearance are great options if you have no financial means when you enter repayment. However, you shouldn’t use them as a way to delay paying your student loans. If you do need to go this route, try to at least make interest payments on your loans. If you don’t, the interest will capitalize leading to higher student loan debt and higher monthly payments once your deferment or forbearance expires.

Don’t Miss Payments

Make your payments every month and on time. If a loan payment is not made by the due date, the loan becomes delinquent until payment is received. Depending on your servicer or lender, this delinquency can affect your credit report as a negative mark, therefore negatively affecting your credit score. In addition, when you miss monthly payments, your payment will double, then triple, and continue to snowball which may put you in a situation that’s difficult to catch up on.

Avoid Scams

We’ve all heard the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” It may seem enticing to pay a company to handle the stress of your student loans and promise you low payments or loan forgiveness, which are why these companies exist, but you’ll be wasting your money. Student loan servicers and lenders will not charge fees for finding a repayment plan that fits your needs. The U.S. Department of Education offers several student loan repayment plans and loan forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge for certain circumstances, but all of their services are free of charge.

Being prepared for repayment and understanding what you should avoid are two big steps to successfully paying off your student loans. Just remember, your student loan servicer is there to help you. If you need to adjust your repayment plan or just have questions about your student loans, give them a call (844.307.3451).

You’ve made your decision. You are going to refinance your student loans. You have done the research. You’ve compared a number of student loan refinance programs. You have completed side-by-side calculations. You know which ones have the lowest interest rates, best repayment options, and the most generous borrower benefit programs. You’ve read the fine print and narrowed your choices down to your top three. But do you know your loan servicer?

Making the Choice

So which one is it going to be? Is it the lender who lists the lowest interest rate? Or perhaps the lender with the repayment plan that allows you to lower your monthly payment the most? How about the lender that offers those tantalizing borrower benefits? The ones that allow you to save hundreds of dollars more when you refinance with them?

Choosing which student loan lender to refinance with can be a difficult decision. While you should definitely consider the overall cost, monthly payment, and borrower benefits offered, there is another very important factor. You need to know who the lender and loan servicer will be after making your new refinance loan; the one you will start making your new monthly payments to.

Who are Loan Servicers?

You may be wondering why this is important. Once you refinance your student loans, many lenders have agreements to sell, or package their loans into financial securities. Thes often go to the highest bidder. The proceeds from the sale then make more refinance loans, which the lender subsequently sells. This happens over and over again. Rinse and repeat.

Lenders Decide

Ok, so the lender sells their loans, but the loan servicer the lender contracts with to manage your account and accept payments has a good reputation, which means you’re good to go, right? Maybe. That’s because the holder of your student loans (either the original lender or the buyer if the loans are sold) gets to decide where the loans are serviced. And once your refinance loan is made, the loan servicer is most important to you, since this is who you will be interacting with. It’s similar to when you buy a TV from a large retailer. The retailer sets the price and sells you the TV, but once you own it, you must contact the manufacturer with any questions or if you need customer support.

Tip: The lender and loan servicer information can usually be found on the lender’s website, in the Application and Solicitation Disclosure every lender is required to present you before you apply for a loan, or on the actual promissory note you must sign. If you don’t recognize the lender or loan servicer, you should call the financial aid office at your school to ask them if they are a reputable organization.

What if the lender doesn’t sell their loans, or package them into financial securities. Everything is fine then, right? If the lender doesn’t sell their loans, or sells them to a buyer that uses the same loan servicer, then you can feel pretty good about things. While there are no guarantees, if the lender uses a reputable loan servicer, then you can feel fairly confident your customer satisfaction is very important to them. The chances that they would jeopardize this by cutting corners with a low-cost, low-quality servicer just to save a few dollars is less likely.

Know Your Lender and Servicer

Knowing who the holder and loan servicer of refinanced student loans are after the loan is made is extremely important. If the lender sells their loans, be sure you know who the buyer is and which loan servicer they use. If you’ve ever had to deal with a company that provides poor customer service, chances are you wouldn’t buy from them again if you didn’t have to. With student loan refinancing it’s even more important, because if you’re unhappy with your loan servicer, the only way to switch is to refinance your loans again.

Don’t let your student loan statement be a surprise in the mail. Be prepared for student loan repayment by asking yourself these three questions:

1. Who are your loan servicers?

When you take out student loans from the federal government, you will be assigned a student loan servicer by the U.S. Department of Education. If you have private student loans, the servicer will be assigned directly by the lender. Your student loan servicer is who you will work with to make payments on your student loans. They can also help you understand your student loan repayment options, and answer any other questions you may have. If you have multiple student loans, you may have multiple loan servicers. Visit nslds.ed.gov to look up your federal student loan servicers if you don’t know them. For private loans, contact your lender.

2. How much are your monthly payments and when are they due?

Now that you know who your loan servicers are and where to send payments, you need to know how much to send and when. For federal student loans, there’s generally a six-month grace period after graduation before your first student loan payment is due. By this point, your servicer already put together a student loan repayment schedule. This schedule shows you how much your monthly payments are.

You should receive a statement from your servicer three to four weeks before your payment is due. Make sure your servicer receives your payment by the due date. If you don’t make a loan payment by the due date, the loan is delinquent until you make a payment. Depending on your servicer or lender, this delinquency may be put on your credit report and negatively affect your credit score. Most servicers and lenders offer auto debit, meaning your monthly payment is taken directly from the account you specify on the due date. By doing this you can ensure your payments are never late. Some lenders even offer incentives, like interest rate reduction, for this type of payment.

3. What are my repayment options?

Your federal loans are automatically in a standard, 10-year repayment plan if you have not specified otherwise. If you find that the payments are more than you can afford, there are other options to explore. Federal student loans have several repayment options to help you repay your student loans. Call your student loan servicer and they will help you work through your options.

You can also consider refinancing or consolidating your student loans into one payment. If you have more than one servicer or lender, you will be making multiple payments every month. By consolidating or refinancing, you can make one monthly payment to one servicer. Consolidation will combine your federal student loans into a new loan so you have a single monthly payment. Refinancing can combine both your federal and private student loans into a new loan, with a new interest rate and term. Student loan consolidation and refinancing is not for everyone, so make sure you understand the pros and cons of each.

Following the basic steps outlined above will set you up for successful student loan repayment. Remember that your student loan servicer is there to help, so never hesitate to reach out if you have questions.

If you have received your financial aid award and still need money for college, private loans may be worth considering. Banks, credit unions, and other lending organizations offer private loans.

First Steps for Private Loans

You take out private loans in your own name. They often require you to apply with a qualified cosigner who has an established credit history. Even if you don’t need a cosigner, using one may still help you obtain a better interest rate. Lenders provide the best rates to borrowers and cosigners with the strongest credit qualifications.

As a general rule, private loans should be the last financial aid option. Always file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first, and accept any grants, scholarships, work-study and federal loans offered by your school before taking out a private loan. Federal loans offer more repayment options, income-based programs, and in some cases, loan forgiveness alternatives.

If you decide a private loan is right for you, consider these things when selecting a program.

1. Check to see if your college has a recommended lender list.

Some schools investigate private loan programs and providers on behalf of their students. They provide lists of those they think would best meet their students’ needs. If your school has a list, you can begin there. Your school generally posts school lender lists on their financial aid website. In many cases, the website links you to a third party where your school provided a list of programs. In either case, loan programs are usually listed by feature, so you can compare to see which might best meet your needs. If your school does not have a lender list, you can investigate Credible or other websites which will provide loan program options and help you compare features.

2. Decide which features are the most important to you.

  • Rates – In comparing interest rates, you will see some lenders use an index called London Interbank Offered Rates (LIBOR), and others use the Prime Rate index. Since they aren’t the same, look at the loan programs’ Annual Percentage Rates (APRs). The lowest and highest APR ranges are be displayed. If APRs aren’t listed, be aware that the Prime Rate is typically two to three points higher than LIBOR. The most current rates can be located in the Federal Reserve’s Statistical Release.
  • Fees – Most private loan lenders offer zero application and origination fees. Check all loan programs you are considering to make sure this is true and to determine if there are other fees associated with the loan.
  • Repayment plans and terms – Would you prefer in-school interest payments to keep your costs down? Perhaps multiple repayment period choices like a 5, 10, or a 15 year period are best for you. With private loans, you choose your repayment period at the time you take out your loan. You may also want to check to see if there are deferment or forbearance options if you run into difficulty in repayment.
  • Cosigner release – Your cosigner is responsible for making payments if you do not. The cosigner’s credit report reflects any late or missed payments as well. When investigating options, determine if the program offers a cosigner release, how many payments you will need to make before that is possible, and how involved the release process is.
  • Borrower benefits – Lenders offer a variety of benefits like interest discounts for auto-debit payments, cash back for achieving certain grades, or interest reductions after a specific number of on-time payments. Be sure you determine which are the most important to you and take the required action to meet the requirements.

3. Understand the difference between fixed and variable rates.

As you compare differences between programs, interest rates may be a primary factor. You will need to decide between fixed rates, which may be higher at first but remain the same throughout the life of your loan, or variable rates which may be lower at first but change periodically based on fluctuations in the economy. For more information about the factors to consider before making this decision, go to U-fi’s frequently asked questions.

4. Your rate is the one that matters most.

Lenders may advertise low rates when they share their program’s interest ranges, and many students assume they will receive the lowest rates. See if lenders allow you to use a calculator. If you can enter general information about you and your cosigner, you may be able to obtain a preview of what your interest rate will be before completing the application process and providing authorization for your credit to be pulled.

Private loans can provide a solid financial option for students who need help bridging the gap between financial aid and college costs. Be sure to first research programs fully and understand your responsibilities before taking out any type of education loan. If you have questions, your college financial aid office is the best source of information and guidance about your individual situation.

Like most college students, you’re probably planning to work a summer job to help pay for school next year. If you currently receive college financial aid, you may be wondering how your summer job will affect your aid eligibility. Below is helpful information to help you understand the impact of your student earnings on your college financial aid.

FAFSA and EFC

First, let’s spend a moment refreshing your memory about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) and your Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC). These topics are essential in understanding how your earnings can affect your financial aid. To qualify for financial aid, the FAFSA must be filed each year you attend college. The FAFSA collects information about your family income and assets. This information is part of a formula which calculates your family’s EFC for college. If you are financially dependent, your parents’ information and yours will be used. If you are financially independent or a graduate student, the EFC will be calculated using your information only. You school then deducts the EFC from the total Cost of Attendance to calculate your financial aid eligibility.

How much of your earnings will be included in the EFC? The good news is that there is an earnings threshold before any contribution from student income is considered. For the EFC formula for the 2016-2017 academic year, dependent students can earn up to $6400 and independent students with no dependents can earn up to $9960 before any contribution is expected. After that, a percentage of your income will be used in the EFC calculation.

Income

Is it still worth it to earn more than the income threshold each year? The numbers would indicate that the answer is yes. Since the EFC considers only a percentage of your earnings, you will net more than you contribute toward college.

Here are some important facts you should know:

  1. Federal Work-Study is not included in your EFC. Since work-study is a form of financial aid your school awards, any earnings you receive do not factor into the formula. Read the directions and do not report your Federal Work-Study earnings on your FAFSA.
  2. Each year the FAFSA will be based on income from a previous year. For instance, when you next file the FAFSA, available in October 2016, you will report income information from the 2015 calendar year. You report the income you earn this year on the FASFA available in October 2017 or 2018. That reporting timeframe is important for planning purposes. Bear in mind that the 2017-2018 FAFSA will also introduce some changes to how you report income.
  3. Be cautious about double-reporting earnings. In theory, you use your earnings this year for college, so they will probably not be in a savings account when you file your FAFSA next year. You should be aware that the EFC calculation considers both your savings and earnings when determining student contributions toward college expenses. If you use the money you earned from income to pay upcoming college bills, read the FASFA directions. Only true savings need to be reported.

Although we can provide general guidance, it is always best to check with your college financial aid office to learn the best option for your specific situation. They can tell you more about how your current earnings, including your summer job, may affect your financial aid in future years.