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by Paulina Mis

To alleviate the affects of the intensifying credit crunch, Sallie Mae has been lobbying for government assistance. In past months, student lenders have been struggling to find buyers for both their loans and their loan securities. Sallie Mae, the largest student lender in the business, has turned to the government for assistance, asking that the US Treasury assuage loan market tensions by purchasing their securities.

In yesterday’s PBS Nightly Business Report, specialty finance analyst Sameer Gokhale and student loan expert Tom Stanton weighed in on the potential effects of such a move. According to Sameer Gokhale, a quick infusion of cash from the Treasury would, “help all of those lenders and ultimately result in a smoother flow of capital back into the student loan system.”

Tom Stanton took a different approach claiming that federal intervention was not yet necessary. “In its last year as a government sponsored enterprise, Sallie Mae made something like 73 percent return on equity, a very generous return. There’s no need at this point to go back to the government and get support,” he stated.  

Even if student lenders continue to drop out of the government’s FFEL program and assistance such as that requested by Sallie Mae is not offered by the Treasury, students will have federal student aid  resources to rely on. A Department of Education lender of last resort measure wherein the government would act as a lender to students denied loans by other lenders would prevent financial catastrophe, but according to the Nightly Business Report Correspondent Stephanie Dhue, resorting to such a plan would be more time consuming than enhancing funds for the one already in place. 

The lender of last resort is yet untested, and, although details are being addressed by Congress, setting up the new program could be painstaking for schools. However, with the Chronicle of Higher Education citing more than fifty FFEL student lender departures, the program may be put into action regardless.


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A College Loan Glossary

April 29, 2008

by Paulina Mis

Financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants is a student’s best bet when searching for college funding. Families who cannot pay for a student’s education without outside assistance should first turn to cost-free resources. When these prove insufficient, students can consider borrowing money for college.

With recent articles detailing the plights of indebted students and their troubled lenders, it’s no surprise that students are intimidated by the borrowing process. If one’s economic situation calls for assistance in the form of student loans, getting comfortable with the lending process is a good way to get rid of the loan jitters. So before you sign on the dotted lines, familiarize yourself with the following terms:

The Basics:

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The Annual Percentage Rate is the total annual cost of a loan, including all fees and interest, expressed as a percentage.
  • Co-Borrower/ Co-Signer: A person, other than the borrower, who signs the loan promissory note. If the borrower does not pay, the co-borrower is responsible for payment of the debt.
  • Consolidation: The process of combining several federal or private loans from multiple lenders into a single loan. Consolidation is done to reduce the monthly payment amount, simplify the repayment process and/or increase the repayment period.
  • Default: A default is a failure to repay a loan in accordance with the terms of the promissory note. Defaults can also occur if students fail to submit requests for deferments or discharges (cancellations) in a timely manner. For Perkins Loans: Failure of a borrower to make a loan-installment payment when due or to meet other terms of a signed promissory note or written repayment agreement. For FFEL and Direct Loans: Failure to make a loan-installment payment on (a) a loan repayable in monthly installments for 180 days or (b) for FFEL, a loan payable in less frequent installments for 240 days.
  • Interest: Interest is an amount charged to the borrower for the privilege of using the lender's money. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal. The percentage rate may be either fixed or variable, depending on the terms of the loan.
  • Lender: A financial institution, agency or school that provides loan money
  • Principal: The amount borrowed (may increase because of interest capitalization). Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal.  

The Rest:

  • Accrued Interest: The accumulated interest on a loan. It may be compounded or simple and is usually paid when the principal becomes due. Depending on the loan, the interest accrued between the disbursement date and the time a payment must first be made may be the responsibility of the borrower or of the government.
  • Average Daily Balance (ADB): The sum of unpaid principal on all qualifying loans. The ADB is based on each day’s current interest rate and the number of days in the quarter.
  • Amortization: The process of gradually repaying a loan through periodic payments of principal and interest.
  • Cancellation/Discharge: A cancellation occurs when a borrower meets the requirements necessary to nullify his/her obligation to repay all or a part of the loan.
  • Capitalized Interest: The interest added to the principal amount of your loan. Future interest will be based upon the higher amount. Capitalizing is a consequence of delaying interest payments; it increases the amount of the principal and, consequently, the total amount that must be repaid.
  • Collateral: Property of a borrower that is pledged as security in case he/she does not repay the loan. It may become property of the lender if the borrower fails to repay the loan.
  • Commercial Bank: An institution whose primary function is to make loans to businesses.
  • Deferment: A period of postponement during which loan repayment is suspended. The borrower must meet deferment requirements as established by law to have his/her payments suspended. For subsidized loans, interest is not accumulated during the deferment. Interest does accrue during the deferment period on an unsubsidized loan.
  • Deferred Interest: Interest payments that are delayed while a borrower is not employed, as, for example, when the borrower is a student. This benefit is generally characteristic of federal and state guaranteed student loans.
  • Delinquency: You are delinquent if your payment is not received by the due date. Delinquencies greater than 30 days are reported to national credit bureaus.
  • Disbursement: The release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. Disbursements are usually made in equal multiple installments co-payable to the borrower and the school.
  • Entrance Counseling: Each institution participating in the Federal Perkins, FFEL, and Federal Direct Loan Programs (excluding PLUS and Direct PLUS Loans) must offer loan entrance counseling to first-time student borrowers. The institution must offer this counseling before the delivery of the first disbursement of any loan to a borrower at the institution. Entrance counseling covers the borrower's rights and responsibilities, the terms and conditions of the loan and the consequences of default.
  • Exit Counseling: Each institution participating in the Federal Perkins, FFEL, and Federal Direct Loan Programs (excluding PLUS and Direct PLUS loans) must offer loan counseling called "exit " counseling to student borrowers. For Federal Perkins borrowers, the interview must take place before the borrower leaves school. In the case of FFEL and Federal Direct Loan student borrowers, the interview must take place shortly before the borrower ceases at least half-time enrollment. During the interview, the borrower's rights and responsibilities are reviewed, details about handling loan repayment are discussed, and the average indebtedness of the school's borrowers must be disclosed. Borrowers are also required to provide updated personal information such as address, telephone number, employer (if known), and driver's license and state of issuance.
  • Fixed Interest: Interest rate that remains the same for the life of the loan.
  • Forbearance: When an FFEL lender (or the U.S. Department of Education for Direct Loans) allows a temporary cessation of payments or reduction of payment amounts for subsidized or unsubsidized Federal Stafford, Federal PLUS, Federal Perkins, or Federal Direct Loans. In doing so, it allows an extended period for making payments or accepts smaller payments than were previously scheduled. Forbearance may be given for circumstances that are not covered by deferment. Interest expenses continue to accrue during forbearance.
  • Grace Period: The period that begins the day after a loan recipient ceases to be enrolled at least half time and ends the day before the loan repayment period starts. Some loans have a grace period so that repayment doesn't begin until several months after graduation. Grace periods are specified in the promissory note.
  • Interest Subsidy: Interest the federal government pays on certain loans while borrowers are in school, during authorized deferment, or during grace periods.
  • Interest-Only Payment: A payment that covers only accrued interest owed on a loan and none of the principal balance. Interest-only payments do not prohibit borrowers from making additional or larger payments at any time if the borrower desires.
  • Loan Disclosure Statement: A statement sent to a loan borrower by the lender before or at the time it disburses a loan, as well as before the start of the repayment period. The purpose of the disclosure is to provide the borrower with thorough and accurate information about the loan terms and the consequences of default. It includes information such as: • amount of the loan, • interest rate, • fee charges,• length of the grace period (if any),• the maximum length of the repayment, the minimum annual repayment, deferment conditions, and the • definition of default.
  • Master Promissory Note (MPN): An agreement a student signs when taking out a Stafford Loan. The Master Promissory Note covers both the Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford loans the student may receive for the same enrollment period. If the student is attending a 4-year or graduate school, the Master Promissory Note also covers Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford loans the student may receive for future enrollment periods.
  • Origination Fee: The origination fee is an upfront charge deducted from the loan to pay part of the loan's administrative costs.
  • Prime Rate: The prime interest rate is the rate charged by commercial financial institutions for short-term loans to corporations or individuals whose credit standing is so high that little risk to the lender is involved in making the loan. This rate fluctuates and serves as a basis for the interest rates charged for other loans.
  • Private Loans: Private loans provide funding when other financial aid does not cover costs. These loans are offered by banks or other financial institutions and schools to parents and students.
  • Promissory Note: A binding legal document that a borrower signs to get a loan. By signing this note, a borrower promises to repay the loan, with interest, in specified installments. The promissory note will also include any information about the grace period, deferment, or cancellation provisions, and a borrower's rights and responsibilities with respect to that loan.
  • Repayment Schedule (A Specific Timetable): The borrower's repayment plan detailing the amount of loan principal and interest due in each repayment installment and the number of payments that will be required to pay off the loan in full. A repayment schedule traditionally lists the loan's interest rate, the due date of the first loan payment, and the frequency of loan payments.
  • Simple Interest: Interest computed only on the original amount of a loan.
  • Subsidized Loan: A subsidized loan is awarded based on financial need. You will not be charged any interest before you begin repayment or during authorized periods of deferment. The federal government "subsidizes" the interest during these periods.
  • Variable Interest: Interest rates that fluctuate periodically (usually annually). The interests rates of federal Stafford and PLUS Loans disbursed between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 2006 are variable. Those disbursed after this date are fixed.

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by Paulina Mis

After passing the Senate and the House in varying formats, a compromise was reached on legislation that would help lenders stay afloat in a troublesome student loan market. The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 was sent to the President yesterday, and rapid approval is expected.

If signed into law, the bill would give the Secretary of Education the right to buy loans from struggling lenders, thus providing them the capital needed to offer new student loans. Worried that lenders may continue to depart from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program—as fifty have already done—legislators have been scurrying to provide financial assistance before the school year begins. Though the law would only serve as a backup plan, the hope is that knowledge of a federal cushion would make both lenders and students more willing to engage in business.

To decrease student dependence on private lenders, ones generally offering loans options that are more expensive and less flexible than those offered by FFEL lenders, the maximum sum a student could borrow from the government was also increased. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the caps on unsubsidized loans available to students of any income level would increase by $2,000 for each school year. Dependent students would now be able to borrow up to $31,000 for their undergraduate education.


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Need-Based Financial Aid

June 11, 2008

by Paulina Mis

Affording a college education is becoming increasingly difficult, but help is available. Students who demonstrate financial need can look to numerous sources for assistance in paying for tuition and living expenses. Even those who do not demonstrate exceptional merit can qualify. Below is a list of financial aid resources students may be eligible to receive based on financial need. Additional need-based awards may be found by conducting a free college scholarship search.

Federal Grants The Federal Student Aid office oversees programs that comprise the nation’s largest source of student aid. Each year, billions in aid are awarded to college students across the country. The best of these, federal grants, do not have to be repaid. Students can look to federally-run need-based grants such as the Pell and the FSEOG to help pay for college expenses. Grants that are based on both merit and financial need—the SMART and the Academic Competitiveness Grant—are also a good option.

Federal LoansThough less attractive than grants, federal loans tend to have lower interest rates and better, more flexible, repayment options than private loans. This holds particularly true for need-based subsidized Stafford Loans and need-based Perkins Loans. Students interested in taking out a federal loan will first have to submit a FAFSA.

Sallie Mae Scholarships The Sallie Mae Fund is one of the largest sources of non-federal college aid. All awards offered by the organization have a need-based component. Since 2001, the Sallie Mae Fund has given away $12.7 million in scholarships to more than 5,000 college students.

College Scholarships Students may be  eligible for need-based aid offered by their college or university. Elite colleges such as Harvard, Northwestern and Stanford have been particularly gracious with their awards—Harvard students whose parents make less than $60,00 do not have to pay for tuition, room and board or expenses—but others are following in their footsteps.


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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 created two new grant opportunities for college students—the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART). Though these grants have already been in effect for two years, few students know about them. Below you will find information about the Academic Competitiveness Grant. For details concerning the SMART Grant, you may visit the Scholarships.com Blog or the Federal Student Financial Aid for College Section.

Academic Competitiveness Grant Overview

The Academic Competitiveness Grant is available to undergraduate students who are US citizens and who are enrolled in their first or second academic year at a two or four-year degree-granting institution. This grant is called competitive for a reason. To receive the award, students must have demonstrated their academic potential by having completed, successfully, a difficult program of study during high school. Those who are found to be eligible during their sophomore year of college must also maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

What one considers competitive can be a matter of option, but the Department of Education has set up some guidelines. Students who have completed a minimum of two AP or IB courses and those who have participated in the State Scholars Initiative or a similar program may be eligible for the grant. Students who meet the eligibility requirements can receive up to $750 for their first year of study and up to $1,300 for their second year of study.

Those interested in receiving the grant will have to submit a FAFSA. (Financial need is one component.) The Student Aid Report, a summary of answers reported on the FAFSA, will indicate whether a student is eligible to answer further ACG questions. If an ACG is granted, it will be awarded as a supplement to the Pell Grant money received by the student.

Posted Under:

College Grants , FAFSA , Financial Aid


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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

by Scholarships.com Staff

Though it’s a day off from school and work, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year’s resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2011 for the 2012-2013 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

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by Scholarships.com Staff

Complicated student loan legal jargon is an unfortunate component of the borrowing process. Two words  all students should be familiar with before borrowing are "subsidized” and “unsubsidized”. Let's break these down:

Subsidized Loans Students who borrow subsidized loans through the Federal Direct or the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) programs will receive government-backed college money. Because the government agrees to compensate FFEL lenders for loan defaults, student lenders agree to offer low-interest loans. They do not charge students for the interest that accumulates during the college years and post-graduation six-month grace period as the government takes care of these costs. Unfortunately, not all students are eligible for federal subsidized loans because finances are among the eligibility criteria. Students whose FAFSA results suggest financial need and those whose parents applied for but were denied a PLUS Loan may take out subsidized loans.

Unsubsidized Loans While federally unsubsidized loans boast fewer benefits than subsidized ones, their interest rates still tend to be lower than those offered by private lenders.  Students are responsible for all interest that accrues during their years in school, deferment, and grace periods. As long as students don’t exceed their annual loan borrowing limits, they may take out both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Because unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need, students who are not deemed needy by the government may still take out these loans. The borrowing limit on these loans will vary based on year in school and dependency status, but the sum may not exceed the estimated cost of attendance for each school minus other financial aid a student receives. Students may borrow both subsidized and unsubsidized loans during the same period as long as the limits for each are not surpassed.

Posted Under:

FAFSA , Financial Aid , Student Loans


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by Scholarships.com Staff

As expected, President Bush signed into law the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008. After receiving bipartisan support from the House and the Senate, the bill aimed at ensuring student loan availability was approved by the president.

Worried that the departure of student lenders from the FFEL Program could make student loans more difficult to obtain, legislators hurried to secure a backup plan. According to House Representative George Miller, “The bill carries no new cost for taxpayers.”

The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 indicates that:

o The limit on federal loans will soon increase. Students will be able to borrow $2,000 more to cover tuition and other costs.

o Parents will have more time to save for PLUS Loans. Rather than having to pay as soon as money is disbursed, they will have until six months after the child graduates before initial payments are due.

o Families slightly behind on their mortgages or medical bills may still be eligible for PLUS Loans.

o The Secretary of Education has the authority to advance federal funds to student lenders and guaranty agencies acting as lenders of last resort if the lenders run out of capital.

o Shall a lender of last resort plan be put into practice, guaranty agencies acting as lenders will have to abide by rules and restrictions similar to those governing FFEL lenders.

o Congress may call on the Federal Financing Bank to consider injecting money into the student loan market at no cost to the taxpayers.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Following talks of purchasing FFEL loans and using a lender of last resort program to ensure student access to federal college funds, the Department of Education officially agreed on a temporary bail-out plan. For the next year, the Department has agreed to purchase loans federally subsidized student lenders have trouble selling at a profitable rate.

The credit crunch, caused in part by rising default rates and a decrease in federal student aid offered to student lenders, has caused about 80 lenders to leave the student market, reported the Los Angeles Times. Even the most important name in the market, student lender giant Sallie Mae, has threatened to pull out of the FFEL business. Attempting to ease fears that students loans would be difficult to secure, the Department of Education has been working with Congress on a regular basis to establish a quick and effective alternative.

The most recent announcement lays out an number of methods for ameliorating family and lender fears—at least temporarily. In a letter sent to Chief Executive Officers of student loan companies, Margaret Spellings promised that by July 1, 2009, the Department would purchase FFEL loans originated for the 2008-2009 school year. “Many lenders today do not have access to funds at a cost that justifies originating new loans. Our plan is designed to provide viability in the marketplace for lenders who step up and make loans in this difficult environment,” she stated.

To further assure that all students will have access to loans, the Department has agreed to put into play the Lender of Last Resort Program (LLR) which will be used to lend money to students who have trouble securing finances from weary lenders. Schools that choose to opt for the Direct Loan Program, a lesser used school loan program wherein students borrow directly from the government rather than from federally subsidized lenders, will also receive aid through a $15 billion boost in available funds. “This program should ensure that the market works for students needing loans this school year,” said Secretary Paulson of the Treasury.


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