Parents: Tips to Help Your Child Complete the 2016–17 FAFSA

2016-17 FAFSA Tips for Parents
If you’re a parent of a college-bound child, the financial aid process can seem a bit overwhelming. Who’s considered the parent? Who do you include in household size? How do assets and tax filing fit into the process? Does this have to be done every year? Here are some common questions that parents have when helping their children prepare for and pay for college or career school:

Does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?

Your child’s dependency status determines whose information must be reported on the FAFSA. Even if your child lives on his own, files his own taxes, and supports himself, he may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If your child was born on or after January 1, 1993, then he or she is most likely considered a dependent student and will need to include your information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Why does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?

Our dependency guidelines are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. If your child is considered a dependent student, it doesn’t mean you, the parent(s), are required to pay anything toward your child’s education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner.

Which parent’s information should I include when completing the FAFSA?

If your child needs to report parent information, here are some guidelines to help.

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

Click to enlarge

Who’s considered part of the household?

When completing your child’s FAFSA, your household size should include parents, any dependent student(s), and any other child who lives at home and receives more than half of their support from you. Also include any people who are not your children but who live with you and for whom you provide more than half of their support.

Do we need to wait to apply until I file my income taxes?

You do not need to wait until you file your federal tax return. Deadlines in some states are before the tax filing deadline so you’ll want to ensure your child fills out his or her FAFSA as soon as possible to maximize financial aid. If you haven’t filed your taxes by the time your child completes the FAFSA, you can estimate amounts based on the previous year if nothing has drastically changed. After you file your taxes, you’ll need to log back in to the FAFSA and correct any estimated information. If you’ve already filed your taxes, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically pull in your tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be available February 7, 2016.

Do I need to do this every year?

Yes, you and your child need to complete the FAFSA each year in order for your child to be considered for federal student aid. The good news is that each subsequent year you can use the Renewal Application option so you only have to update information that has changed from the previous year!

What else do I need to know before I begin?

You and your child will each need to get an FSA ID, which is made up of a username and password. It is used to confirm your identity when accessing your financial aid information and to electronically sign the FAFSA. You can save time by getting your FSA IDs prior to starting the FAFSA.

Certain information and documents are necessary to complete the FAFSA and it’s good to have them handy before you begin. Here’s a checklist to help you get ready.

Susan Thares is the Digital Engagement Lead at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images.

Why Students and Parents Need to Create Their Own FSA IDs


Each year, more than 18 million people submit a FAFSA, and the U.S. Department of Education provides more than $150 billion dollars in federal student aid. To protect the integrity of this important financial system and the private data of all of the students, parents and borrowers within it, it’s essential that only the FSA ID owner create and use their account.


In order to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), you now need an FSA ID, made up of a username and password that you create.

Although the FAFSA is considered your application, one of your parents will have to provide some information on the FAFSA and sign it, if you are considered a dependent student. Any parent, who wants to electronically sign the FAFSA, will need his or her own FSA ID.

To avoid problems with your financial aid down the road, you (and your parent, if that applies) should create your own FSA ID. Don’t let anyone—not your teacher, your financial aid counselor, your mom or dad, your best friend, or your second and third cousins—create your FSA ID for you. And you should not create one for your parent or anyone else.

For starters, it’s against the rules. The FSA ID has the same legal status as a written signature, so you should treat it like such. You’re not supposed to let someone else sign your name on a tax form or a job application. Well, the same goes for your FAFSA.

Also, one of the primary reasons people have issues with their FSA ID and need to call our contact center for help is because someone else created their FSA ID. If you don’t make your own FSA ID you are less likely to know or remember your username and password. And if you get locked out or need a reminder of your username or password, you are less likely to know the answers to your challenge questions or have access to the e-mail address associated with your account.

Don’t miss an important deadline because someone else created your FSA ID, and you can’t reset your password!

In addition to signing the FAFSA, you can use your FSA ID to do things like

  • import your tax information into your FAFSA from the Internal Revenue Service,
  • view and print an online copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), and
  • sign your master promissory note.

Creating an FSA ID is simple and only takes a few minutes. To save time when you and your parent are filling out the FAFSA, create your own FSA ID before you begin the application. For more information, visit StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

The 2016–17 FAFSA® is now available! The online FAFSA has gotten a lot easier over the last few years. Thanks to improvements like skip logic, where you only see questions that are applicable to you; and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows you to import your tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA application, the FAFSA takes less than 30 minutes to complete. Just make sure to take your time so you don’t make one of these mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA®

I hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA is too hard,” “It takes too long to complete,” I never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. By not completing the FAFSA, you are missing the opportunity to qualify for what could be thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes little time to complete, and there is help provided throughout the application. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there is no income cut-off when it comes to federal student aid.

2. Not Using the Correct Website

The official FAFSA website is fafsa.gov. That’s .gov! You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA. If you’re asked for credit card information, you’re not on the official government site.

3. Not Getting an FSA ID Ahead of Time

We’ve made a big change to the FAFSA process this year in order to increase security. Students and parents can no longer use a Federal Student Aid PIN to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You must, instead, use the new FSA IDa username and password. Once you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA. If you don’t want your FAFSA to be delayed, register for an FSA ID now. If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need to create an FSA ID too.

The key to making the FAFSA simple is being prepared. The process will go much smoother if you register for an FSA ID and gather everything you need to complete the FAFSA before you start the application.

4. Waiting to Fill Out The FAFSA Until After You File Taxes

Because some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to fill out the FAFSA early. However, the 2016–17 FAFSA is available beginning January 1, 2016, well before most people have their 2015 taxes filed. This, however, shouldn’t stop you from getting the FAFSA submitted. If your income from 2014 is similar to your income from 2015, you can use your 2014 taxes to estimate the financial information on the FAFSA and get it submitted now. You can then update the FAFSA after you file 2015 taxes, preferably using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Not Filing by the Deadline

States, schools, and the federal government each have their own FAFSA deadlines. To maximize the amount of your financial aid, you should fill out your FAFSA (and any other financial aid applications that may be required by your state or school), by the earliest of these three deadlines, if not sooner!

6. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each definition and question carefully. Too many students see delays in their financial aid for simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

Don’t rush through these questions:

  • Your Number of Family Members (Household size): The FAFSA has a specific definition of how your or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number.
  • Legal Guardianship: One question on the FAFSA asks: “As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents, even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardian. You are also not considered a legal guardian of yourself.

7. Inputting Incorrect Information

Here are some examples of common errors we see on the FAFSA:

  • Confusing Parent and Student Information: I know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA for their child, but remember, the FAFSA is the student’s application. When the FAFSA says “you” or “your”, it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter the student’s information. If we are asking for parent information, we will specify that in the question.
  • Entering the Wrong Name (Yes, I’m serious): You wouldn’t believe how many people have issues with their FAFSA because they entered an incorrect name on the application. It doesn’t matter if you’re Madonna, or Drake, or whatever Snoop Lion is calling himself these days. You must enter your full name as it appears on official government documents. No nicknames.
  • Entering the Wrong Social Security Number (SSN): When we process FAFSAs, we cross check your social security number with the Social Security Administration. To avoid delays in processing your application, triple check that you have entered the correct SSN. If you meet our basic eligibility criteria, but you or your parents don’t have a SSN, follow these instructions.
  • Amount of Your Income Tax: Income tax is not the same as income. It is the amount of tax that you (and if married, your spouse) paid on your income earned from work. Your income tax amount should not be the same as your adjusted gross income (AGI). Where you find the amount of your income tax depends on which IRS form you filed.

Tip: If you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, this number will be pulled for you, directly from your income tax return.

8. Not Reporting Parent Information

Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, and therefore, you’ll need to provide parent information on your FAFSA. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether or not you need to provide parent information by answering these questions.

Bonus: Who is my parent when I fill out the FAFSA?

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

Click to enlarge

9. Listing only one college

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Do not make this mistake! Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ANY college you are considering to your FAFSA, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

10. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is entering in the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This year, the tool will launch on February 7, 2016. In most cases, your information will be available from the IRS two weeks after you file. It’s also one of the best ways to prevent errors on your FAFSA and avoid any processing delays.

Tip: If you used income estimates to file your FAFSA early, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update your FAFSA shortly after after you file your 2015 taxes.

11. Not Signing the FAFSA

So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons, maybe they forgot their FSA ID, or their parent isn’t with them to sign with the parent FSA ID, so the FAFSA is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you. If you don’t have or don’t know your FSA ID, register for one. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA online.

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

7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

Need to fill out the FAFSA® but don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. You’ve already done the hard part and gathered all of the necessary information, so now it’s time to complete the FAFSA. Let me walk you through it step by step:

IMPORTANT: On May 10, 2015, we changed the way you log in to fafsa.gov. You now must use an FSA ID to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You can no longer use a PIN. If you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA, your parent must register for an FSA ID too. Create your FSA ID at  StudentAid.gov/fsaid

1. Go to fafsa.gov

One thing you don’t need in order to fill out the FAFSA? Money! Remember, the FAFSA is FREE when you use the official .gov site: fafsa.gov.

2. Log in using your FSA ID

If you completed a FAFSA last year: Click “Login” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t transitioned your PIN to an FSA ID, you can do so here. If possible, make sure you link your PIN during the FSA ID registration process. Otherwise, you will need to wait 1-3 days before you can use your FSA ID to sign and submit your renewal FAFSA.

If this is your first time completing the FAFSA: Click “Start a new FAFSA” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t created an FSA ID yet, you can do that here. You will be able to use your FSA ID to sign and submit your new FAFSA right away.

If you are a parent: Click “login” and “Enter the student’s information”.

FAFSA Login Screen

3. Choose which FAFSA you’d like to complete

The new FAFSA that becomes available on January 1, 2016, is the 2016–17 FAFSA. You should complete the 2016–17 FAFSA if you will be attending college between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. Remember, the FAFSA is not a one-time thing. You must complete your FAFSA each school year.

Note: The 2015–16 FAFSA is also available if you will be attending college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, and you haven’t applied for financial aid yet.

4. Enter your personal information*

This is information like your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA in the past, a lot of your personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on official government documents. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

5. Enter your financial information*

All of it. You should use income records for the tax year prior to the academic yearfor which you are applying. For example, if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need to use 2015 tax information. If you or your parent(s) haven’t filed your 2015 taxes yet, which at this point, most people haven’t, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return; just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. Once you file your taxes, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It makes completing the FAFSA super easy!

6. Choose up to 10 schools

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Make sure you add any school you plan to attend, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. You can add up to 10 schools to your FAFSA at a time. We will send the necessary information over to the schools you listed so they can calculate the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.  If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, this is what you do.

7. Sign the document with your FSA ID*

Your FSA ID serves as your electronic signature, or e-signature. You’ll use it to electronically sign and submit your FAFSA. If you don’t have an FSA ID, you’ll need to get one. If you’re considered a dependent student, at least one of your parents or your legal guardian will need an FSA ID as well. You will use your FSA ID to renew/correct your FAFSA each school year, so keep it in a safe place. If you have forgotten your FSA ID, you can retrieve it. If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSAs for all his or her children.

*If you are considered a dependent student, your parent(s) will also need to do this.

I’m finished. What’s next?

That’s it. You’ve filled it out. I told you it wasn’t so bad. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.

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

7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the FAFSA

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The 2016–17 FAFSA is available on January 1, 2016, at 12 a.m. Central Time. You should fill it out (for FREE) on the official government site, fafsa.gov.

 

To speed up the FAFSA process, get prepared early. Here is what you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA:

1. Your FSA ID*

On May 15, 2015, we changed the way you log into the FAFSA. You now need an FSA ID, instead of a PIN, to log in and sign your FAFSA online.

Anyone who plans to fill out the 2016–17 FAFSA should create an FSA ID as soon as possible. In some situations, you may need to wait up to 3 days to use your FSA ID after registering. If you want to avoid FAFSA delays, register for an FSA ID now.

If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA, your parent will need to register for an FSA ID too. Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using separate e-mail addresses. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.

2. Your Social Security number*

You can find the number on your social security card. If you don’t have access to it, and don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian or get a new or replacement social security card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid’s basic eligibility requirements, you’ll need your Alien Registration Number.

3. Your driver’s license number

If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.

4. Your tax records*

Use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying: so if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need 2015 tax information. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, don’t worry! You can still fill out the FAFSA now. Just estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return and make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. After you file, you may be able to import your tax information electronically into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Records of your untaxed income*

This includes variables that may or may not apply to you, like child support received, interest income and veterans non-education benefits. Parents can find specific details here. Students can find details here.

6. Records of all your assets (money)*

This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as investments like stocks and bonds and real estate.

7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Be sure to list any school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. The schools you list on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive. If you add a school to your FAFSA and decide not to apply, that’s OK. The school likely won’t award you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later.

TIP:  To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA.

*If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parent(s) as well.

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

The Parent’s Guide to Completing the FAFSA From Start to Finish

 

The Parent’s Guide to Completing the FAFSA From Start to Finish

Although a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the student’s responsibility, parents take a large role in the process when a student is determined to be dependent. If you’re getting ready to help your child apply for federal student aid on the 2016–17 FAFSA, here’s what you should be doing over the next few months:

Before the FAFSA

  • Learn the basics of the federal student aid programs (grants, work-study, and loans) at StudentAid.gov/types. Federal aid is intended to help cover the student’s cost of attendance (tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other education expenses.)
  • To familiarize yourself further with your child’s federal student aid options, read Do You Need Money for College? at StudentAid.gov/needmoney.
  • Encourage your child to maximize any available free money to help pay for college. There’s information and a free scholarship search at StudentAid.gov/scholarships.
  • Understand whether your child needs to provide parent information on the FAFSA. StudentAid.gov/dependency will help you determine if your child is dependent or independent.
  • Understand who counts as a parent for purposes of filling out the FAFSA. StudentAid.gov/fafsa-parent shares the definition of “legal parent” and discusses which parent’s information should be reported on the FAFSA when the legal parents are divorced or separated and not living together.
  • You and your child should get FSA IDs. An FSA ID is a username and password that you’ll be using to sign the FAFSA. You and your child each need your own FSA ID—and you each need to create your own for privacy purposes and because the information is easier to remember if you create your own. (Note: Only one of a student’s parents needs to sign the student’s FAFSA, so only one parent needs an FSA ID.)
  • You and your child will each need to gather these documents in preparation for the FAFSA:
    • Your Social Security number
    • Your Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
    • Your 2015 federal income tax returns, W-2s, and/or other records of money earned*
    • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
    • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
    • An FSA ID to sign electronically

*Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) once your tax form has been processed.

Filling Out the FAFSA

  • Completing the FAFSA is a question-by-question guide to the FAFSA. It offers help, hints, and definitions in case you get stuck on any of the questions.
  • Encourage your child to fill out the FAFSA before state and school deadlines, which may fall as early as February 2016. Students will be able to file a 2016–17 FAFSA beginning on Jan. 1, 2016.
  • Make sure your child goes to fafsa.gov to fill out the application.
  • The FAFSA is your child’s application, so keep in mind when it says “you,” it means “you, the student.”
  • If you haven’t done your 2015 taxes before your child fills out the FAFSA, don’t worry. You can estimate the amounts, perhaps using your 2014 taxes to guide you.
  • If you’ve already done your taxes before your child fills out the FAFSA, use the IRS DRT to automatically insert tax information into the FAFSA.
  • If your family’s income has had a sudden drop (for instance, if a parent lost a job) that isn’t reflected in your 2015 tax information, gather documentation so that your child can present the situation to the financial aid administrator at the school.
  • If you want to understand where your Expected Family Contribution comes from, take a look at the EFC Formula workbook at StudentAid.gov/resources#efc.
  • At the beginning of the application, your child will be asked to create a Save Key, which is a temporary password that lets you return to a partially completed FAFSA. If you and your child are accessing his or her FAFSA from different locations, your child should do his or her part and then share the Save Key with you. You’ll need to enter it to get access to your child’s FAFSA.
  • Be sure you or your child sees the confirmation page pop up on the screen so you’ll know the FAFSA has been submitted.
  • Read the FAFSA confirmation page carefully. There are a few differences between the e-mailed confirmation (which arrives later) and the one you see at the end of the application, so consider printing or saving the confirmation page before you exit.
  • Depending on your state, you may see a link on the FAFSA confirmation page to your state’s financial aid application. This will allow your child to transfer his or her information directly into the state aid application.
  • If you have more than one child attending college, select the option on the confirmation page to transfer your parent information into the other child’s FAFSA.
  • If you need help filling out the FAFSA, read the “Help and Hints” located on the right side of any page within the fafsa.gov application; click “Need Help?” at the bottom of any page; or chat (in English or Spanish) with live technical support staff by clicking the “Help” icon at the top of any page, then selecting “Contact Us,” “Federal Student Aid Information Center,” and then “Chat with Us.”

Help Options on the FAFSA

After the FAFSA

  • Both you and your child will receive e-mails letting you know the FAFSA has been processed, assuming you both provided e-mail addresses on the FAFSA. It takes about three days for the FAFSA to be processed and sent to the school.
  • Double-check the information you reported on the FAFSA. You can make corrections if necessary.
  • During the winter or spring, your child will receive aid offers from schools. You can visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa/next-steps/accept-aid for more information on how to help your child understand and compare the types of aid as he or she decides what aid to accept and what to turn down.
  • Encourage your child to read all communications from the school carefully and to supply any additional information, forms, or signatures needed by the deadlines the school sets.

Courtney Gallagher is a junior studying English at Westminster College in Missouri. She is an intern for the Content Development team in the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

Photo by Getty Images.

Your Federal Student Loans Just Got Easier to REPAYE

girl at computer

Beginning today, Federal Direct Loan borrowers can take advantage of a new repayment plan: REPAYE (the Revised Pay As You Earn Plan).

Some of you may be familiar with the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Repayment Plan, which caps payments at 10% of a borrower’s monthly income and forgives any remaining balance on your student loans after 20 years of qualifying repayment. But this plan is only for recent borrowers.

REPAYE solves this problem. Like the name implies, REPAYE has some similarities to PAYE. First and foremost, REPAYE, like PAYE, sets payments at no more than 10% of income. However, REPAYE—unlike PAYE— is available to Direct Loan borrowers regardless of when they took out their loans.

Should I switch to REPAYE?

If you can’t afford your monthly payment under your current repayment plan, you should consider REPAYE or one of the other income-driven repayment plans. These plans can offer needed relief by ensuring that you will never pay more than a certain percentage of your income. If you can afford to pay more on your loan, you should, since this will save you more on interest costs over the life of your loan.

If you’re pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you should consider REPAYE. REPAYE is an eligible repayment plan for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. If you’re working toward PSLF and considering consolidating your loans in order to qualify for REPAYE, you should read this first.

If you’re currently on Income-Based Repayment (IBR) because you weren’t eligible for PAYE, you should consider whether REPAYE might be a better option for you. REPAYE could lower your payments by one-third, from 15% to 10% of income.

Before making your decision, use our repayment estimator to compare what your monthly payment would be under REPAYE and all of our other plans.

Under any income-driven repayment plan, you’ll need to “recertify” your income and family size each year.

How is REPAYE different from the other income-driven repayment plans?

So, you already know that your payment under an income-driven plan is a percentage of your income. But REPAYE is different from the other plans. Here are a few differences:

There’s no income requirement to enter the plan: Unlike with the PAYE and IBR plans, borrowers don’t have to show that that their income is low compared to their federal student loan debt in order to enter REPAYE. In simple terms, that means that the amount of your debt and your income level won’t keep you from qualifying.

Borrowers with only undergraduate loans will have a different repayment period than those with graduate loans: Income-driven repayment plans forgive any remaining loan balance after a specific number of years of qualifying repayment—either 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. REPAYE is a little different than the other income-driven repayment plans. With REPAYE, if you’re only repaying loans you received as an undergraduate student, you’ll repay your loans for up to 20 years. However, if you’re repaying even one loan that you received as a graduate or professional student, you’ll repay your loans (including any loans you received as an undergraduate) for up to 25 years. Of course, this difference doesn’t matter if you later qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, since your loans would be forgiven after 10 years of qualifying payments.

Married borrowers’ payments are calculated differently: The other income-driven repayment plans use the combined income of you and your spouse to set your payment amount only if you file a joint federal income tax return. If you and your spouse file separate tax returns, your payment amount is based on only your income. REPAYE (with limited exceptions) uses the combined income of you and your spouse to set your monthly payment amount, regardless of whether you file a joint tax return or separate returns. This could increase your monthly payment amount. For more information, read our Q&A.

REPAYE payments are not capped at the 10-year standard payment amount: Generally, your payment amount under an income-driven repayment plan is a percentage of your discretionary income. However, this isn’t always the case with the PAYE and IBR plans. Under PAYE and IBR, your payment will never be higher than what it would have been under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, no matter how much your income increases. With REPAYE, there’s no cap on your monthly payment amount. Your payment will always be 10% of your discretionary income, no matter how high your income grows. This means that if your income increases significantly, your REPAYE payment could be higher than what you would have to pay under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.

REPAYE provides a more generous interest benefit: If your payment doesn’t cover all of your interest, REPAYE pays more of the remaining interest than PAYE or IBR. This can help prevent your loan balance from ballooning and limit the total cost of your loans.

What else should I consider before applying?

Determine whether you have Direct Loans before attempting to switch to REPAYE. If you’re not sure which type of loans you have, you can log in to StudentAid.gov to find out. Loans labeled “Direct” qualify for REPAYE, loans without the “Direct” label don’t qualify for REPAYE unless you consolidate them. You can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan on StudentLoans.gov.

Special considerations for borrowers who are currently on IBR:

  • If you don’t have Direct Loans, but you’ve been repaying your other loans under IBR for a while and you’re thinking of consolidating to take advantage of REPAYE, it’s important to understand that you’ll lose any credit toward IBR loan forgiveness that you received before consolidating—you’ll have to start over with a new 20- or 25-year repayment period on the Direct Consolidation Loan. So, carefully consider whether having a lower monthly payment amount matters more than the additional time you may spend repaying your loans.
  • Any outstanding interest will be capitalized (added to your loan principal balance) when you leave IBR.

How do I apply for REPAYE?

You can apply for REPAYE—or any other income-driven repayment plan—on StudentLoans.gov. We’ve made some improvements to the way the electronic application works, so give it a spin.

Looking for the lowest monthly payment? With four income-driven repayment plans, it’s easy to overlook a plan or confuse a feature of one plan with another. Let us do the hard part for you. If you’re looking for the lowest monthly payment, there’s a box you can check on the application to request that your loan servicer evaluate you for all income-driven repayment plans, and put you on the plan with the lowest initial payment.

Where can I get more information?

There’s more to know about REPAYE than what you see in this blog post.

Have a question that our resources can’t answer? Contact your servicer. They’re the best option for individualized advice.

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.