A Guide to Reporting Parent Info on Your FAFSA

If you’re planning to go to college in fall 2016, you will definitely want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Not only does the FAFSA give you access to grants and loans from the federal government, but many states and schools also use information from the FAFSA to award their financial aid.

If you are considered a dependent student for the purposes of the FAFSA, you’re required to provide information about your parent(s) on the application. (Note: The dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are set by Congress and are different from those used on tax returns.) You might be wondering which parent’s information to report or what you should do if your parents are divorced or remarried, or if you live with another family member.

Don’t worry; we can help you figure out whose information to include. For a quick visual reference, check out our infographic, Who’s My Parent When I Fill Out the FAFSA?

Who's My Parent When I Fill Out My FAFSA? Graphic

Click to enlarge

Or, if you want more information, here are some guidelines. Unless noted, “parent” means your legal (biological or adoptive) parent.

  • If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
  • If your parents are living together and are not married, answer the questions about both of them.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent 12 months that you actually received support from a parent. If you have a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting, you must provide information about that stepparent as well.

The following people are not considered your parents on your FAFSA unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

Curious about what information you and your parents will need to provide on the FAFSA? Learn more about the FAFSA and how to fill it out at StudentAid.gov/fafsa.

If you still have questions or are unsure what to do if your parents are unable or unwilling to provide their information for your FAFSA, you can get more information at StudentAid.ed.gov/fafsa-parent.

Tara Marini is a data and communications analyst, and Cindy Forbes Cameron is a lead communications analyst, at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

The FSA ID: Your First Step to Getting Financial Aid for College

Do You Have An FSA ID Yet?

We all know college is super expensive, and I’m sure that you, like me, would welcome any and all help in paying for it. Luckily for us, that’s where the government comes in. “But how do I get them to help pay my tuition?” you may ask. While I (unfortunately) can’t guarantee you any money, I can tell you a good way to go about getting some of that financial help: Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). To do that, you are going to need an FSA ID.

What is the FSA ID?

The FSA ID recently replaced the PIN as the way you log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites, including fafsa.gov. It consists of a username and password and is basically the electronic equivalent of your signature. It’s easy to set up, and you can get one on a variety of ED websites. (I would recommend StudentAid.gov/fsaid because there is also a lot of good information and advice about student aid and the FSA ID there).

Incoming College Students

Everyone who will be in college next year and plans on applying for federal financial aid should get an FSA ID. If next year will be your first year in college, just go ahead and create your FSA ID and use it to sign your FAFSA. What happens next is that ED checks your information with the Social Security Administration to make sure it matches. That takes about one to three days. During that time, you will only be able to use your FSA ID to sign your new FAFSA (that’s the main thing though, so don’t stress). Then, after the Social Security Administration match is done, you should receive an e-mail letting you know that you’ll now be able to use your FSA ID on a number of ED websites.

I know that applying for federal student aid can be a stressful experience, but don’t worry! The FSA ID is easy to figure out. You can go to StudentAid.gov/fsaid and it will provide some super helpful information such as what you should gather beforehand, and a link to create your own FSA ID—plus it will walk you through the entire process.

To get an FSA ID, you’ll need this information:

  • your Social Security number
  • your full and correct name
  • your date of birth

Current College Students

If, like me, you are already in college, you probably filled out your previous FAFSA using a Federal Student Aid PIN. If you’ll be returning to college next year and are applying for more federal student aid, you will need to get an FSA ID—the PIN won’t work anymore. When creating your FSA ID, there will be an option to enter your PIN and link the two. Even if you’ve forgotten your PIN, you can answer the challenge question you created while creating your PIN and still be able to link your PIN to your FSA ID. You can find more information about all this at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Linking your PIN can save you time because your information won’t have to be matched by the Social Security Administration if it was already matched when you created your PIN. If that’s the case, then your FSA ID is ready for full use right away—which means you’ll be able to sign a Master Promissory Note for a student loan, or fill out your Renewal FAFSA, right away.

If you don’t remember your PIN or didn’t have one, don’t worry. You can still create an FSA ID from scratch.

Video on How to Create an FSA ID:

Some Tips About the FSA ID

  • Keep your FSA ID in a safe place and/or memorize it. It’s your legal signature. Keep it a secret.
  • One of your parents might need an FSA ID as well. If you’re considered a dependent student and need to provide information about your parents on the FAFSA, one of your parents will have to sign the application. He or she can sign electronically with his or her own FSA ID.
  • If you share an e-mail address with someone else, only one of you will be able to use that e-mail address to create an FSA ID. Each FSA ID can be associated with only one e-mail address. So, for instance, if you’re a dependent student, and you and your mom share an e-mail address, one of you should get a new e-mail address before creating an FSA ID.
  • Make your FSA ID early! Don’t leave it until right before your FAFSA is due. That adds a lot of stress (I would know!!!) that you don’t need.

Megan Friebe is a freshman at Michigan State University, where she spends her days studying public affairs and social policy, her evenings studying the same thing, and, if she’s lucky, her nights sleeping. She also manages to find time to intern with the Customer Experience team in the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

#LatinosAchieve When We Believe in Them

Today, a high school education is simply not enough. The global, knowledge-based economy that we live in means that some post-secondary education, whether that be a 2-year degree, a 4-year degree, a certificate or a credential, is essential. Which is why we must invest in the educational future of our Hispanic youth. Hispanic youth are in large part the face of our nation and our next generation of leaders. So we need to invest in them if we want to be serious about our future. Although Hispanic high school dropout rates hit a record low at 13 percent in 2012, they’re still higher than any other demographic. Hispanic youth will represent 70 percent of population growth in our country between 2015 and 2060, and are rapidly growing faster than any other minority group. It is our duty to make sure that our next generation of politicians, teachers, CEOs, engineers and entrepreneurs are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

Progress is being made but not nearly fast enough. And for me, this isn’t simply an intellectual matter. As a Puerto Rican, I’ve seen first-hand how the power of a great education can change lives across the country, as well as back home on the island that gave birth to my mother.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud to lead First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative. We work to inspire young people to take control of their future by exposing students to college and career opportunities, making financial aid and college affordability a reality, supporting academic and summer planning, and investing in school counselors. We want young people, including Hispanics, to know that education after high school has to be part of their plan. That enrolling and completing college is essential to ensuring their achievement and success.

When speaking at the 85th Annual Conference of the League of United Latin American Citizens last year, the First lady spoke about the need for investing in education for Hispanic youth. She said, “As you know, too many young people in the Latino community simply aren’t fulfilling their potential… We have got to … reignite that hunger for opportunity — that hunger for education – across all of our communities. And we all have a role to play in this endeavor. Parents have to be reading to their kids from an early age and making sure they go to school every day and do their homework every night. Our young people, you have a role to play as well. You have to make education your number-one priority and be role models for those around you.”

The efforts led by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, including their nearly $340 million in public and private sector commitments and the U.S. Department of Education’s work to make college accessible and affordable are key to ensuring this population has the tools they need to achieve.

This issue requires all-hands-on-deck approach to make sure students and families are getting access to the resources and information to help make college a reality. That might be filling out the FAFSA, which gives students access to $150 billion in aid for college, or talking to your school counselor, who can help students or families navigate the application process. It also means taking rigorous, college-ready courses like Advanced Placement; and it means thinking about getting internships and mentorship programs that can help young people see the value of a college degree.

We also need to make the process easier. President Obama and the First Lady have been working hard to create and promote tools such as the College Scorecard to help make students find the best college value and fit. They also recently announced that starting in 2016, students can begin filling out the FAFSA three months earlier, so that financial aid can be secured earlier and in time to help make college decisions.

To the young Hispanics who are now in the swing of school, challenge yourselves to take your education seriously. Start talking to your parents about finances, take challenging classes, build strong bonds with your teachers and administration, join clubs and extracurriculars that will expose you to new things, and most importantly believe in yourselves. Believe that you can achieve and do whatever you put your mind to; starting with college. Because we do.

Eric Waldo is the Executive Director for the Reach Higher Initiative

Another Step Forward Under the Student Aid Bill of Rights

Earlier this year, President Obama unveiled a Student Aid Bill of Rights to ensure strong consumer protections for student loan borrowers and issued a Presidential Memorandum to begin making those rights a reality. Last month, as part of that directive, the Department of Education announced a number of new steps we are taking to help Americans manage their student loan debt, including:

  • Protecting Social Security benefits of Borrowers with Disabilities who may qualify for a loan discharge or other repayment options.
  • Changing the debt collection process so that it is fairer, more transparent, and more reasonable.
  • Providing clarity on borrowers seeking a discharge in bankruptcy.

Today, as another step forward in implementing the Student Aid Bill of Rights directives, Federal Student Aid (FSA) released the recommendations from an interagency task force on best practices in performance based contracting to better ensure that servicers help borrowers make affordable monthly payments. As directed by the Presidential memorandum, the task force reviewed input from its members in July. Now that these recommendations (pdf) have been finalized, they will inform the upcoming process of recompeting our servicing contracts prior to the expiration of the existing contracts.

Even ahead of that process, FSA has been taking steps to improve borrower service as it continues the transformation of the nation’s student loan program following the President’s landmark student loan reform.  Many of these steps are in concert with the recommendations of the interagency task force. Key steps include:

  • Ongoing development of an enterprise complaint system to track and support complaint resolution across all aspects of aid delivery, including servicing.
  • Targeted email campaigns to borrowers regarding available repayment options,  including campaigns related to IDR enrollment.
  • Enhanced performance metrics and incentive-based pricing for Federal loan servicers to ensure consistency and accountability while creating additional incentives to focus on reduced delinquency and default, more effective borrower counseling and outreach, and enhanced customer satisfaction.
  • Development and implementation of a robust enterprise data warehouse and analytics capability to support research of the portfolio.
  • Designing and implementing a quarterly delinquency reduction compensation program to provide additional incentives for success in reducing delinquency in payments among our largest servicers’ portfolios with the greatest number of at risk borrowers.
  • Increased focus on military service members, including a match with DOD to proactively provide service members with SCRA benefits,
  • Enhanced loan counseling and the ability for borrowers to select their repayment plan based on their individual circumstances during exit counseling.
  • Enhanced communication with and tools for borrowers including repayment calculators, loan consolidation application, and online application for income-driven repayment.
  • A pilot to test different approaches for curing delinquent loans.

We are also working with our partners at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the CFPB to continually improve the federal student lending program. For example, we are working with Treasury and the CFPB on how to improve credit reporting for student loans. In addition, as highlighted in a recent CFPB blog, Education, Treasury and the CFPB continue to work together to ensure student loan borrowers are aware of and can access affordable monthly payments. For Federal student loans, FSA and its servicing contractors have been certifying and enrolling, on average, over 5,000 borrowers per day into IDR plans over the past year. Enrollment in IDR plans has increased more than 50% over the past year and is at an all-time high.

Helping Americans manage their student loan debt has been a core priority of this Administration. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to carry out the steps the President laid out in March and to take additional action to make college more affordable and ease the burden of student loan debt.

Don’t Pay for Student Loan Debt Relief

Have student loans? You’ve probably seen social media ads, received emails, or even opened a piece of mail from companies promising to reduce your monthly loan payments or cancel your loans.

But here’s the catch. These companies are doing something you can do yourself, but they’ll charge you a fee.

The U.S. Department of Education provides FREE assistance to help you:

  • Lower or cap your monthly loan payment;
  • Consolidate your federal loans;
  • See if you qualify for loan forgiveness;
  • Get advice on getting out of default

Help get the word out, and help protect your friends and family from student loan scams. Watch and share the video below, and visit studentaid.gov/repay to learn more.

3 Important Financial Considerations for College Students

budgeting

The U.S. Department of Treasury recently released a report entitled “Opportunities to Improve the Financial Capability and Financial Well-being of Postsecondary Students.”  I read this report because I am an intern in the office of Federal Student Aid at the Department of Education, and I am working on various projects related to financial literacy for college students. I actually found this report to be a worthwhile read as a college student embarking on the daunting journey of funding my college education and managing my money while in school.

Despite the heavy financial burden, most of us understand the necessity of a college degree. Report after report make evident that education is one of the most significant factors in upward economic mobility. Still, college students face not only education loans but also consumer debt. There are so many important decisions that college students have to make in support of the ultimate goal to become financially independent. And, as tuition, books, housing and more only rise, the dream of financial independence has only become more difficult, and stressful.

Although I am no expert in financial literacy and financial aid, learning about responsible borrowing, careful budgeting, and repaying loans on time has helped lower my financial stress. The following are some simple tips I’ve learned that can alleviate financial stress and help college students manage their money.

1. Borrow responsibly. 

Federal Student Aid offers resources to help students understand the borrowing process. 

First, know how to read the financial aid package your school offers you. Be sure you can differentiate among grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study offers. You can do this by talking to the staff at your school’s financial aid office. Next, talk to your parents or those contributing to your education. Review the financial aid offer from your school, and look at your family’s finances, to decide which aid to accept or turn down. This is important in calculating how much you need to borrow in order to afford your education. You do not need to accept the full amount of loan money that’s offered to you; and understanding that concept will leave you with less debt in the future.

2. Budget carefully.

Budgeting is vital to lowering stress. By adopting responsible budgeting habits, you’ll learn planning skills to help manage multiple priorities and prepare for the future. Healthy budgeting practices provide dual opportunities for money-saving and time-management techniques. Budgeting is a great financial foundation and can be a stepping-stone to handling greater financial responsibility, leaving lifelong benefits.

3. Repay on time.

Repayment is the final step of the student loan process and lasts long after you graduate. If you do your research, the repayment process can go a lot more smoothly.

One way to reduce your stress is to understand the different repayment plans. You might find that you meet the criteria for making payments based on your income. Use the Repayment Estimator to help you understand the different repayment plans and decide which one is best for you. Then contact your loan servicer to see how to apply for the plan that best fits your situation.

Another thing to be aware of is that there are certain loan forgiveness options, including one for those who work full-time in public service. Knowing who qualifies and how to apply can ease the stress you feel about your debt as well.

Lastly, know that forbearance and deferment (ways to postpone or reduce your payments) are options if special circumstances arise. Understanding what’s best for your situation and applying in a timely manner is something you need to be aware of and talk to your servicer about.

As the report says, “Postsecondary education is essential to the economic health of our nation and to the economic opportunity of many Americans,” and each of our personal financial decisions contributes to that!

Megan McCusker is a sophomore at Loyola University Maryland studying History and Spanish. She served an intern for U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

8 Things You Should Know About Federal Work-Study

22 1.19 work-studyIf you’re looking for another way to pay for college, Federal Work-Study may be a great option for you. Work-study is a way for students to earn money to pay for school through part-time on (and sometimes off) campus jobs. Work-study gives students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience while pursuing a college degree. However, not every school participates in the Federal Work-Study Program. Schools that do participate have a limited amount of funds they can award to students who are eligible. This is why it is so important for students to fill out the FAFSA as early as possible, as some schools award work-study funds on a first come, first served basis.
Here are 8 things you should know about the Federal Work-Study Program:

1. Being Awarded Federal Work-Study Does Not Guarantee You a Job

Accepting the federal work-study funds you’re offered is just the first step. In order to receive those funds, you need to earn them, which means you need to start by finding a work-study job. Some schools may match students to jobs, but most schools require the student to find, apply and interview for positions on their own, just like any other job. It is important that students who are interested in work-study or who have already been awarded work-study contact the financial aid office at their school to find out what positions are available, how to apply, and how the process works at their school.

2. Not All Work-Study Jobs are on Campus

The availability of work-study positions includes community service options with non-profit employers, which means some work-study jobs are available for off-campus work. An example might be reading or tutoring for elementary children at local public schools. If you are curious about securing a community service work-study position, contact the financial aid office or the student employment center at your school.

3. Work-Study Funds Are Not Applied Directly to Your Tuition

Unlike other types of financial aid, work-study earnings are not applied directly to your tuition and fees. Students who are awarded work-study receive the funds in a paycheck as they earn them, based on hours worked, just like a normal job. These earnings are meant to help with the day to day expenses that students have and are not meant to cover large costs like tuition and housing.

4. Work-Study Jobs May Be Limited

You may still be able to work on campus without work-study if your school does not have enough work-study funds to cover all on-campus student employees. Many campuses offer jobs for students with or without work-study. Check with the student employment office on your campus to find out what is available.

5. Federal Work-Study is not Guaranteed from Year to Year

There are several factors that can determine whether or not you receive work-study from year to year. These include your family income or financial need, whether you used the work-study funds that were offered to you in a prior year, or how much work-study funding your school receives that year. Contact your school for specific awarding criteria if you are interested in work-study. Typically, students who file the FAFSA early (in January/February prior to the academic year) and answer on the FAFSA that they are interested in Federal Work-Study will have a higher chance of being awarded funds from the program.

6. Pay May Vary

Work-study jobs vary in qualifications and responsibilities, so the pay will depend on the job that you are hired to do. Pay may also depend on your school’s policies and/or the minimum wage requirements in the state.

7. Work-study Earnings Are Removed From Your FAFSA Calculation for the Next Year

One of the benefits of earning income through a federal work-study position is that those earnings do not count against you when you complete the next year’s FAFSA. Be sure to answer the question regarding how much was earned through work-study on your FAFSA accurately. If you do not know the answer, you can contact the financial aid office at your school for help. Some schools will send you a notice in early spring regarding your earnings from the last calendar year to help you file your FAFSA.

8. Hours Worked May Vary

How many hours you work each week will depend on the type of job you get and your employer’s expectations. Most student employment positions, however, will work around your class schedule and only require between 10-20 hours/week, but again – that can vary!

Chandra Owen, Training Coordinator in the Office of Financial Aid at Michigan State University, Justin Chase Brown, Director of Scholarships & Financial Aid at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Karla Weber, Senior Advisor in the Office of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

7 Options to Consider if You Didn’t Receive Enough Financial Aid

The reality of college costs is that many families find themselves struggling to pay the entire college bill, despite having already filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and receiving federal, state, and institutional financial aid resources. If you find yourself in this position, here are some ideas to consider to help fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe the institution.

Federal Student Aid image

 

TIP: The financial aid office at your college is a great resource. If you didn’t receive enough financial aid, contact your school’s financial aid office. They can help you explore your options.

Scholarships

Read: Scholarship Basics and Tips

For those heading to college this fall, most scholarship decisions for the academic year have already been made. However, we recommend you begin a routine of searching and applying for scholarships regularly. You should first consider scholarships local to where you graduated from high school or live; try community, religious, and fraternal organizations. You may also consider businesses in your community or those that employ your parent(s).

Then, look for scholarship resources available statewide, especially from organizations with which you may have been involved or companies in your state that are in the field for which you plan to study.

National scholarships can be very competitive, but don’t let that keep you from applying. Ask your financial aid office or academic unit about institutional or departmental scholarships (decisions may have been made for this year, but ask how to make sure you don’t miss deadlines for next year!). With scholarship opportunities, it’s always important to be careful of fraud. If you are ever concerned about the legitimacy of a scholarship, your school’s financial aid office might be able to help you make the determination.

Part-Time Work

You may have been awarded Federal Work-Study, which at most schools still requires you to find the work-study position yourself. This can help you cover some costs throughout the semester since these funds are paid as you earn them through working. If you were not awarded work-study funds, most schools have other part-time on-campus positions that can help you with some college costs. Working part-time on campus can be beneficial to your educational experience. Be cautious of working too many hours if you can avoid it. Ask your financial aid office or career services office how to apply for on-campus positions.

Payment Plans

Your school’s billing office, sometimes referred to as the bursar’s office or cashier’s office, may have payment plans available to help you spread the remaining costs you owe the school over several payments throughout a semester. The payment plan can help you budget the payments rather than paying in one lump sum, possibly helping you avoid costly late fees.

Special Circumstances Reevaluation

Sometimes a family’s finances are not accurately reflected on the FAFSA because of changes that have occurred recently, such as job loss, divorce or separation, or other special circumstance. Schools are not required to consider special circumstances, but those that do have a process by which you can petition for a reevaluation of the information on the FAFSA. This process may require you to submit documentation, and the financial aid office will recalculate your eligibility, possibly resulting in a change of financial aid awards.

Additional Federal Student Loans

If you’ve exhausted all your free and earned money options and still need additional funds to help you pay for school, contact your school’s financial aid office to find out if you’re eligible for additional federal student loans. For example, you might have reached a level of increased student loan eligibility if you completed coursework after your college awarded your aid.

Federal Direct PLUS Loans: Also, if you are a dependent student and still need assistance, your parent can apply for a Direct PLUS Loan. Some schools use the application on StudentLoans.gov and others have their own application. The PLUS loan application process does include a credit check. If your parent is not approved, he or she may still receive a Direct PLUS Loan by obtaining an endorser (cosigner.) If a parent borrower is unable to secure a PLUS loan, the student may be eligible for additional unsubsidized student loans of up to $4,000 (and sometimes more.)

Emergency Advances or Institutional Loans

Sometimes you may have college-related costs, such as housing costs or other living expenses, before your financial aid is disbursed to you. Your school may offer an option to advance your financial aid early or offer a school-based loan program. Ask your financial aid office if this is an option and always make sure you are aware of the terms and conditions (such as interest rates or repayment terms) of your agreement.

Private or Alternative Loans

Some private institutions offer education loans that do not require the FAFSA. While we recommend federal aid first, we realize it does not always cover the cost, especially for pricier schools. These types of loans will almost always require a cosigner and usually have higher fees or interest rates depending on your credit. We encourage you to first ask your financial aid office if they have a list of lenders for you to consider, but not all schools maintain such a list. If not, you can search for lenders on your own, but compare products before making your choice: look at interest rates, fees, repayment terms, creditworthiness requirements, satisfactory academic progress requirements, etc.

Before making any final decisions on how to fill the gap between your aid and your costs, it is always recommended that you meet with a representative in your financial aid office to determine what campus resources might be available before going out on your own. It might also be possible that you still have the time to change some of your choices before the semester begins: Can you change the type of meal plan you chose? The type of housing? The number of classes in which you are enrolled? Check with campus officials to see if you still have time to select a different, more affordable option.

Justin Chase Brown is Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

3 Options to Consider if You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payment

Frustrated man - 3 Things You Should Do If You Can't Afford Your Student LoansThe U.S. Department of Education offers a number of affordable repayment options for borrowers who are struggling to pay back their student loans. The important thing to remember about all the options below is that it’s completely free to apply! Also, if you ever have questions or need FREE advice about your student loans, you can always contact your Department of Education loan servicer.

1. Switch Your Repayment Plan

You may be able to lower your monthly student loan payment by switching to a different repayment plan. Use this calculator to compare what your monthly payment amount could be if you switched your plan.

If you don’t pick a different plan when entering repayment, you are automatically enrolled in the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. However, many borrowers don’t realize that you can switch your plan at any time by contacting your loan servicer.

One of the most popular options for borrowers who are looking to lower their payments is the income-driven repayment plans.

We offer three income-driven repayment plans:

  1. Pay As You Earn
  2. Income-Based
  3. Income-Contingent

Benefits:

  • Your monthly payment will be a percentage of your income. Depending on the plan, that may be 10% or 15% of your discretionary income, or something else. What you ultimately pay depends on the plan you choose and when you borrowed, but in all cases, it should be something you can afford.
  • Your monthly payment amount will be lower than it would be under the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan if you qualify to make payments based on your income. In fact, it could be as low as $0 per month!
  • Any remaining balance on your loans is forgiven if your federal student loans are not fully repaid at the end of the repayment period (20 or 25 years).

Income-driven repayment plans are a great option if you need lower monthly payments. However, like all benefits, there are also costs. All of these benefits will ultimately increase the amount of interest you pay over time. The income-driven repayment plans also have tax consequences for any forgiveness received.

Apply for an income-driven repayment plan now

If one of the income-driven repayment plans is not a good option for you, we offer other options. Your servicer can help you identify the best plan to fit your needs.

2. Consolidate your Student Loans

Loan consolidation can simplify your payments by combining multiple federal student loans into one loan. Consolidation can also lower your monthly payment.

Benefits:

  • Can lower your monthly payment by extending your repayment period (spreading your payment out over more years). The repayment term ranges from 10 to 30 years, depending on the amount of your consolidation loan, your other education loan debt, and the repayment plan you select.
  • Will allow you to qualify for additional repayment options. If you have FFEL or Direct PLUS Loans, consolidating your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan will allow you to qualify for additional repayment plans, such as the Pay As You Earn or Income-Contingent Repayment Plans, that you wouldn’t have qualified for if you hadn’t consolidated.
  • Your variable interest rate loans will switch to a fixed interest rate. It’s important to note that consolidation will lock-in interest rates on variable-rate loans, but will not lower them further. This would be a benefit if, like now, interest rates are low.

The benefits listed could provide relief to some borrowers. However, it’s important that you also weigh the costs before consolidating. For example, because you’re restarting and possibly extending your repayment period, you’ll pay more interest over time. Additionally, you may lose borrower benefits, such as interest rate discounts and loan cancellation benefits, offered with the original loans.

Apply for a direct consolidation loan now

3. Postpone your Payments

Under certain circumstances, you can receive a deferment or forbearance that allows you to temporarily postpone or reduce your federal student loan payments.

Deferment and forbearance may be a good option for you if you are temporarily having a difficult time paying back your student loans. Deferment and forbearance are not good long-term solutions. If you think you’ll have trouble paying back your loans for more than a year or you’re uncertain, you should consider an income-driven repayment plan or consolidation.

Benefits:

  • You do not need to make student loan payments during a deferment or forbearance.
  • The federal government may pay the interest on your loan during a period of deferment. This depends on the type of loans you have.

Again, deferment and forbearance are not good long-term solutions for borrowers who are struggling to pay back their student loans. Some reasons why:

  • With a deferment, interest will continue to be charged on your unsubsidized loans (or on any PLUS loans).
  • With a forbearance, interest will continue to be charged on all loan types, including subsidized loans.
  • The interest you accrue during periods of deferment or forbearance may be capitalized (added to your principal balance), and the amount you pay in the future will be higher.

If you can, you should consider making interest payments on your loans during periods of deferment or forbearance

To request a deferment or forbearance, contact your loan servicer

If you need help deciding which of these options is best for you, contact your loan servicer. They can help you weigh the different options based on your unique situation.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Joseph A Smith, Jr. Appointed Special Master

I am deeply honored to have been appointed by the U.S. Department of Education to be Special Master. Other activities with regards to alleged predatory activity in the offering of education and training, particularly to low and moderate income Americans. I  believe that working with all the stakeholders in this very important issue, the Department of course, students, people who represent them, state attorneys general and others, we can craft a fair efficient means of giving redress to people who have been wronged. I’m very excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with the Department and others to a good end for all Americans.

I’ve learned through my work as monitor under the National Mortgage Settlement about the importance of public trust and confidence. I undertake to do everything I can in this new endeavor to keep the public informed and to justify that trust and confidence.

Helping families navigate their higher education options

From the start of this Administration, President Obama has charged our team to join him in doing everything we can to make college an affordable reality for everyone. As part of that effort, in August 2013, he asked us to develop a system that will help students compare the value offered by colleges and that will hold institutions accountable for preparing their students to be successful.

Today, I want to update you on our progress as part of that effort.

Since the President outlined this initiative, we have seen even more progress toward these broader goals. The higher education conversation has shifted from simply ensuring access to one that focuses on success – supporting students through completion and readiness for careers, citizenship and life. We’ve recognized that there is great value in the colleges and universities who serve students from all backgrounds and provide them with a quality education at an affordable price – and that spending more money and excluding more students are not necessarily signs of quality. We’re seeing important signs of progress. Some States and colleges are taking bold steps toward lowering costs and improving outcomes. And in addition to a higher-than-ever high school graduation rate, more Americans are completing degrees than ever before, including more Latino and African-American students.

Building on this momentum, consistent with the objectives laid out by the President, it is critical to ensure that we are doing all we can to:

  • Help families choose a college that works for them – and that they can afford – and create a user-friendly tool that supports that selection and comparison process
  • Increase transparency and make information about schools’ outcomes free and useful
  • Improve our measurements of college outcomes so that students and taxpayers get the most for their investment
  • Engage students, parents, higher education leaders, researchers, experts, counselors and advocates about how best to meet these objectives

We are pleased to report that we are making progress toward those goals. And as part of this update, as we have over the course of the last two years, we want to share some of what we have heard as we have continued working on this project:

  • Students of all backgrounds, but especially lower-income students and those who counsel them, are eager for additional information that will help them make smart choices among their college options, and they would welcome the federal government lending its credibility and resources to this effort.
  • Colleges have many missions and serve many different kinds of students. Developing meaningful ways to evaluate them through a rating system is an extremely complex and iterative process that appropriately takes time and thoughtfulness.
  • While no single measure is perfect, and many important elements of education cannot be captured by quantitative metrics, cultivating and releasing data about performance drives the conversation forward to make sure colleges are focused on access, affordability and students’ outcomes.

Taking into account that feedback, and to advance the overarching goals set by the President, later this summer we plan to release new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes. This college ratings tool will take a more consumer-driven approach than some have expected, providing information to help students to reach their own conclusions about a college’s value. And as part of this release, we will also provide open data to researchers, institutions and the higher education community to help others benchmark institutional performance.

Through our research and our conversations with the field, we have found that the needs of students are very diverse and the criteria they use to choose a college vary widely. By providing a wealth of data – including many important metrics that have not been published before – students and families can make informed comparisons and choices based on the criteria most important to them. With assistance from the creative U.S. Digital Services team, we are using feedback from students, parents, college advisors and high school guidance counselors to examine how we can make critical information about college cost and outcomes relevant and useful to guide decisions about college search and selection.

At the same time, we will continue our efforts to identify colleges providing the best value and encourage all colleges to improve. We will share this new data and methodological considerations with institutions, researchers, app developers and other interested players to jumpstart and accelerate efforts across the country to develop meaningful metrics for accountability, and – as the President asked – we will continue to improve these measurements and find ways to make sure that student aid investments are directed to colleges that provide meaningful opportunities and deliver a quality, affordable education for their students.

We are looking forward to unveiling the new tools later this summer, and continuing to work with the community to make sure that we all are helping to make affordable, high-quality higher education a reality for everyone.

Jamienne Studley is the Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.

Federal Student Aid PIN (1998 -2015)

Federal Student Aid PIN tombstone

Federal Student Aid PIN, known as PIN to his many friends, died on May 10, 2015, after a long life of public service. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1998, PIN immediately made his presence felt across the country as he helped students complete their FAFSAs electronically on the World Wide Web. For 17 years, PIN reduced the completion time of federal student aid applications by millions of hours. Success with the FAFSA led to an extended career spanning the entire student aid life cycle, ranging from the aforementioned FAFSA and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, entrance and exit counseling, and signing Master Promissory Notes, all the way to loan history access on the National Student Loan Data System and—more recently—StudentAid.gov. PIN is survived by one child, FSA ID.

On May 10, 2015, we changed the way you log in to Federal Student Aid websites. Students, parents, and borrowers are now required to use an FSA ID, instead of a Federal Student Aid PIN, to log in. If you haven’t logged in to a Federal Student Aid website (such as fafsa.gov or StudentLoans.gov) since May 10, you will need to create an FSA ID before you can log on in the future.

Create an FSA ID here: StudentAid.gov/fsaid

Q: What is an FSA ID and why do I need one?

A: An FSA ID is a username and password you use to access your personal information on Federal Student Aid websites and to sign important documents.

Q: What happened to the Federal Student Aid PIN?

A: On May 10, 2015, after 17 years of dedicated service, the PIN was retired to make way for the more modern and secure FSA ID.

Q: If I already submitted my FAFSA this year, do I already have an FSA ID?

A: The FSA ID replaced the PIN on May 10, 2015. If you submitted your FAFSA before that, you used a PIN. In order to do anything with your FAFSA or any other Federal Student Aid websites, you will now need an FSA ID. You can create one at StudentAid.gov/fsaid

Q: Who needs an FSA ID?

A: Students, parents, and borrowers who need to log in or interact with Federal Student Aid websites need an FSA ID.

Q: Can I make an FSA ID for someone else, such as my child or my parent?

A: No. Only the FSA ID owner should create and use the FSA ID. Why? The FSA ID is a legal signature that should be used only by its owner. If you don’t create your own FSA ID, then you may not be able to access the websites you need to get your financial aid!

Q: How do I get an FSA ID?

A: Go to StudentAid.gov/fsaid to create an FSA ID. If you have a PIN, then you can enter your PIN during the FSA ID registration process so that you won’t need to wait for the Social Security Administration to verify your information. But, if you don’t have a PIN or don’t have it handy, you can still create an FSA ID.

Q: Do I have to wait before I use my FSA ID?

A: You can use your FSA ID to sign and submit a new FAFSA right away. For other tasks, if you didn’t link your PIN when you created your account, you’ll need to wait one–three days for us to confirm your identity with the Social Security Administration. You’ll get an e-mail when this process is complete.

Q: What if I forget my FSA ID username or password?

A: Don’t worry. On our log-in pages, you’ll find links that give you the option of retrieving your username or password through your verified e-mail address or by successfully answering your challenge questions.

For answers to other frequently asked questions about the new FSA ID, go here: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.