Lets face it financial aid/student loan information can be intimidating and very complicated for your students. A lot of information is available on the web but it can be hard to decipher what is good advice and what is not. There are a few resources available your students can seek out if they have specific questions they want answered. Student Loan Hero put together this quick list of 5 resources they can tap for information:
Yes, Mom, Dad or someone else inside their household will have pearls of wisdom about paying for college. They might also motivate them to save up money or help them raise more among relatives.
Most importantly, however, their family member is also their ticket to grants and scholarships. If they are a dependent student, they will need a parent’s income tax return and other financial information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA spits out their EFC — or Expected Family Contribution, the amount they and their family could anticipate putting toward the school’s cost of attendance.
They and their parents could estimate their EFC in advance using the College Board’s handy calculator. Going through an exercise like this one allows them to start receiving help from their loved one. Who knows, they might need them to cosign a student loan down the road.
2. High School Counselor
Yep, you can be a great go to resource for your students. It is important you become knowledgeable about financial aid and scholarships so you can answer your students questions. It is also helpful to get some go to resources you can send your students to when you don’t have the answers to their questions.
3. College Financial Aid Representative
Whether your student has applied, been admitted or enrolled, it’s never too early to pester the college’s financial aid office — every college has one.
School aid representatives can walk them through their financial aid options. If they have been offered admission, for example, they can explain the college award letter. They will even hear appeals for a better aid package.
The aid office can also review additional financial aid opportunities on campus, including scholarships, vouchers and emergency loans.
They may also help students plan their next step. For example, the aid office might connect them with a federal financial aid administrator if they have yet to exhaust their funding options.
4. A Certified Financial Professional
If they are still confused after consulting the above resources, they might consider spending a couple hundred dollars or more on a private scholarship consultant. Similarly, they might be tempted to plop down a flat rate for the services of a student loan counselor who can explain the ins and outs of borrowing.
Instead of opening their wallet for help, however, consider these free alternatives:
- Contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency like American Consumer Credit Counseling that offers college financial advice.
- Attend a “Financial Planning Day” hosted by certified financial planners working on a pro-bono basis in their area.
- If they work, ask their employer’s human resources department if they can help, too.
Just ensure they are receiving advice from professionals who are certified and have a background in college financial planning.
5. Student Loan Lender
If scholarships and other gift aid aren’t enough to cover their college costs, they might eventually have to resort to student loans. Before borrowing, it’s worth at least getting a non-automated voice on the other end of the line.
Top-rated private student loan companies typically have dedicated customer service departments. For federal student aid, there are a couple of different ways to find the right person to chat with, including:
- Federal Student Aid Information Center: For questions about the FAFSA or your FSA ID, call 1-800-433-3243.
- Student Loan Support Center: For questions about their loan agreement, PLUS loan applications and entrance counseling, call 1-800-557-7394.
Once they have taken out a federal student loan, meanwhile, they might need to address their questions to one of the nine federal loan servicers that actually manage their loan. Each servicer has a customer service department and, while some of them are the subject of customer complaints, it’s worth phoning them to get on the same page. They can find their servicer via the National Student Loan Data System.
For federal loans, if they are unable to resolve a dispute with their lender or servicer, it’s time to talk to an ombudsman. They could help with a few in-school scenarios, including troubleshooting grant awards and demystifying federal loan intricacies.
Figuring out how to pay for college isn’t a one-person job, so there’s no shame in asking for help. They might start their search online, but it helps to talk it through with someone, too