For many students, paying for college is a significant concern, especially at a private school like Puget Sound. The financial ins and outs of attending school are often daunting and difficult to figure out, but there is hope.
The resident community coordinators (RCCs) in Trimble organized an event called “Presidents in Your Pocket” on Feb. 29 to offer students the opportunity to learn more about financial aid, not only for students currently attending college, but also for post-graduate scholars. The RCCs for every residence hall are supposed to create events for their residents in conjunction with other groups on campus. For this event, they joined efforts with Student Financial Services.
“We thought it would be a really great idea since there are a lot of upperclassmen who are going to have to start paying off loans and paying taxes,” RCC Sarah Nordman said.
The program, held in the Murray Boardroom, was very small and informal. This allowed Amy VanZandt, a Student Financial Services Program Assistant, and Susie O’Donnell, the Student Finance Consultant and Loan Manager, to provide information particular to those attending, such as scholarship information.
There are a multitude of scholarships on the Puget Sound website, including both outside scholarships as well as scholarships that can be won through the school based on certain standards. The website presents other scholarships not offered through the school, as well, allowing students to search through a variety of categories to find the applications that best apply to their circumstances or major.
The FAFSA was also discussed, as many students fill out the form in order to apply for financial aid from the government.
“You should never have to pay to fill it out…. Make sure you go to the dot-gov website,” VanZandt pointed out specifically. When filling out the form, students should make sure they put in accurate information, even if they have not yet filled out their taxes.
“Use estimates to the best of your ability,” VanZandt said. Later, after taxes are due, students can modify their FAFSA in order to include more precise financial information.
Along with the FAFSA, VanZandt discussed the 1098-T tax form which claims educational tax credits and can be found electronically on the Educational Computer Systems, Inc. (ECSI) website. If students need help filling out tax forms, they should visit the IRS.gov website for more information.
Student loans were mentioned as another source of financial aid. These were broken up into two groups: federal education loans and private education loans. VanZandt clarified that federal education loans included the Perkins, Stafford and PLUS—three loans, each with different specifications and requirements for application. These loans also acquire interest until they are paid off. Private education loans do not need to be applied for through the FAFSA and are used to cover any financial need that is not included with federal loans. For any kind of loan, VanZandt said, it is better to start paying off interest as soon as possible because it can accumulate considerably.
VanZandt also reminded the group that “any time you borrow a loan, there are terms and conditions that you must agree to before you can receive the funds,” making sure students know exactly what they are getting themselves into. These terms and conditions include a master promissory note, student loan entrance counseling and student exit counseling.
The presentation also discussed the issue of financial aid for study abroad programs for those students who were wondering how to pay for their tuition while away in another country. A common rumor, VanZandt and O’Donnell said, was that many students don’t think that scholarships can be applied to study abroad programs, but that’s not true. Filling out the FAFSA allows students to find out what financial aid is available to them, including scholarships, grants, etc.
Those looking to pay for college in the summer can also have access to the same kind of financial aid. Although they will be charged the cost of the program as well as a five-hundred dollar fee—just as students who would be studying abroad – they need only to be enrolled with two units in order to get federal loans. However, no institutional aid is offered for the summer.
Other helpful tips included the fact that students who have graduated are still able to get the help and information they need from the Student Financial Services Office. They offer help in exploring many options for repaying loans, catering to needs of the individual students, and help with figuring out consolidation.
“The reason to consolidate is to have one point of repayment,” O’Donnell said. This would make it easier for many students in their repayment plans, allowing them to put their money towards a single plan instead of giving money to multiple lenders.
“The loan process sounds complicated,” said O’Donnell, but it certainly helps if you have the right information.