Monthly Archives: December 2014

FAFSA Time Again!

FAFSA – Get In Line Early For College Financial Aid!

Please watch this video and see how nerdwallet.com offers a FAFSA tutorial in it’s education section that is the most complete I’ve seen. There are other good tutorials out there and I’ll link you to one that I think is very user friendly further down in this week’s blog.

As I write this entry, it is just a few days before Christmas 2014. Doesn’t it feel like you haven’t gotten everything done yet? But if you are on the hunt for college financial aid, then you’ll need to keep your mind on just one more thing: January 1st at the stroke of 12:01am you can start filling out the 2015 FAFSA form! WooHoo! Just what you wanted to do on New Year’s Eve, right?

Okay, last FAFSA season I wanted our family to be at the head of the line for financial aid, so I actually started my FAFSA in the early morning of January 1st.  I ran into a whole lot of website trouble, which compared eerily to the healthcare.gov launch. Nothing was working correctly and my progress would simply disappear for no apparent reason. I slogged on for hours, saving after each tiny entry. Eventually, I wrestled the FAFSA to the ground and made it submit, literally! Not very fun.

So, my advice is to wait for January 2nd, which is not a holiday. Government offices will be open and the website elves will have the gears oiled up and running smoothly.

Take a moment in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to study the nerdwallet.com video, and another great tutorial produced by the University of California system. Here’s that link: http://www.finaid.ucsb.edu/fafsasimplification/ and here’s a screenshot of it:

UC FAFSA Tutorial
Very Helpful FAFSA Tutorial!

College student voices guide you through a series of mini-tutorials on each major section of the FAFSA form. You’ll need to launch each part by clicking the tabs at the top of the page. Notice how well my dog can draw a big red arrow pointing to the tabs!

Yes, I know you don’t have your 2014 taxes done yet. Never mind that little concern. Just go right ahead and use your 2013 tax return. If it’s likely to be nearly the same as this years’ return then you will be just fine. It’s important to get in line for college financial aid early. The FAFSA helps you qualify for more than just federal aid. State aid is linked to this form as well, and funds can run out the longer you wait. Not only that, but colleges that also use the CSS Profile form to hand out their institutional funds, will want to see the results of your FAFSA to help guide their decisions. So don’t wait!

When you are eventually able to file your taxes, you can log back into your FAFSA and use the IRS Retrieval Tool. With slightly disturbing ease,  the Retrieval Tool connects the FAFSA directly to the IRS (!), which will kindly merge your new tax return information into the FAFSA form.

Filing out the FAFSA early assures your place in line. Using the IRS Retrieval Tool almost always keeps you out of the verification process. Do this and the schools that you named to receive the results of your FAFSA will not require you to send them your actual tax returns! One less step for beleaguered parents and students.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

FAFSA Time Again!
FAFSA tutorials are featured in this blog entry.

 

 

For-Profit College Companies Running Charter Schools?

Watch my video to refresh your knowledge of for-profit college companies! Then get a load of their newest business venture: charter schools!

A “little trouble” with the feds can’t stop for-profit college companies from continuing to feed at the public trough! Some of the biggest for-profit college chains have come under federal scrutiny recently. They did not fare well. Several have been told to cease operations for defrauding students. Others have been told to adhere to tougher student achievement standards in order to stay open. And still more are being monitored for their higher-than-usual student loan default rates.

So what would you expect of these huge companies whose business model is to enroll low income students in their colleges, just to gain access to federal education funding, like Pell grants and Student Loans? Would you expect them to just pack up their bags and leave quietly? Well…no.

Sure enough, just like Whack-a-Mole, they’re back with a business model that is not brand-new, but is just now ripe for the picking. How about charter schools? Yes, for-profit education companies have crept their way into the public school systems of many states. Their new name is Education Management Organization or EMO.

Sure, I know, we all think of charter schools as being run by well-meaning non-profit 501(c)(3) corporations. Charter schools are supposed to provide alternatives for students in poorly performing schools, courtesy the state and federal taxpayers.

The only trouble is that many of the non-profit corporations that were originally formed to run these charter schools started needing help with the day-to-day operations of the schools. The non-profits started hiring the EMO’s to run the schools. And while the duties started small at first, the EMO’s were later asked to take over just about everything, student education included!

Oh, and guess what? The for-profit EMO’s wanted to MAKE A PROFIT! Can you believe it? Just one little problem: taxpayers who thought they were providing additional school choice for students in failing schools, now find themselves supporting the bottom line of for-profit companies.

Looks like we’ll be needing some stronger oversight regulations pretty soon. What do you think?

For-Profit College Companies stay alive by running charter schools!
Okay, the For-Profit College companies just want to make a profit. What’s the big deal? Read and decide.

College Applications are Outta Control!

Kids binging on filling out college applications is not a pretty sight. Five new completely different essays each night after school, and when that gets old, then out comes the old “cut and paste” routine. Pretty soon a high school senior starts to think his own personal story is a work of fiction.

Exactly why this is happening has an easy answer…because they can!…thanks to the Common Application which is making it possible to crank out college applications in unprecedented numbers.

Now the hard-to-swallow answer: Nobody is helping these high school seniors, as bright as they may be, to sort through their college application lists. So with no help, seniors are not taking any chances of getting shut out of college.

As long as Mom and Dad will allow their credit cards to get filled up with application charges (at $40-90 a pop!), then students will keep applying. With no counselor to help kids understand which schools they are most likely to be accepted by, and most importantly, to help families understand which schools they might be able to afford, the binge fest will continue.

In this video, I use about one minute more than my normal three, to go down those two critical roads: acceptance probability and family affordability. Please watch to see if I nail it. Please give me comments here or email me at TheCollegeMoneyMom@gmail.com.

College Applications Runneth Over!
College Applications need to be pared down. Watch my video!