Q: How can I find out my child’s grades and attendance?
Because of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, information is not provided to parents of students over the age of 18. Generally, schools must have written permission from the student in order to release any information from a student's education record.
For more information, check out the Department of Education's site: http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
Q: How are financial aid packages determined?
Undergraduates are offered financial aid in the form of a 'package' — a combination of grants, loans, and work-study. The first step in determining a student's financial aid package is through the process of need analysis. There are two formulas for need analysis. The first is conducted by the federal government to determine eligibility for its programs. The second is sometimes conducted by colleges and universities to determine how they will distribute their own institutional aid.
The process of need analysis determines how much students and their families are expected to contribute from their own resources ('expected family contribution,' or EFC) and how much aid students are eligible to receive. When the federal government conducts a financial need analysis, it considers the family's income and assets (but ignores assets for families that make less than $50,000 a year), the family's size, the number of parents, the age of the older parent, and the number of other family members enrolled in postsecondary study. The federal formula typically expects a family contribution of approximately 5 percent of net worth.
The amount of financial aid an undergraduate qualifies for is determined by subtracting expected family contribution from the total price of attending the institution. Total price includes tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses. The gap that exists between a family's expected contribution and the price of attending may be filled by a number of federal and state grant and loan programs, aid provided by institutions, and private sources of aid.
Q: What should I do if my student hasn't picked a major?
Suggest your student first meet with the school's career services office. Often, career services offices offer testing services and internships with alumni. Assessments such as the Myers-Briggs can help match talent with logical career choices. Once the student has picked a career path encourage them to meet with their academic adviser to determine which major may best prepare them for their desired career.
Q: What are the biggest academic adjustments during the freshman year?
Learning to discipline oneself and manage time are critical adjustments. College classes may meet only every other day, or once a week, but the workload does not diminish. It is suggested that the student spend two hours studying for every one hour in class, balanced with study breaks. Students should learn to seek help for academic difficulties.
Q: What is the FFEL Program?
The Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program makes loans available to students and their families through some 7,100 participating private lenders. The federal guarantee protects FFEL lenders against loss from borrower default. These loans are guaranteed by the federal government, and are designed to give students flexible repayment options. For more information visit the department of education site: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/ffel/index.html
Q: My son or daughter did well in high school. Why are they struggling in college?
Even students who have done exceptionally well in high school find college work to be challenging. Students spend less time in class and more time in preparation. College professors demand much more, and course material is covered at a faster pace. Good note-taking and study habits are essential. If they are struggling it may also be a good idea to encourage them to talk to their professor or Teaching Assistant about tutoring options.
Q: What is a FSEOG?
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program provides grants to low-income students, and generally helps supplement the aid they receive from Pell Grants and other sources. Federal funds provide for 75 percent of the award; the college or university contributes the remaining 25 percent or more. For more information visit the Department of Education site: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fseog/index.html
Q: Will buying a house in the state qualify my student for in-state tuition?
This depends on the state's in-state tuition requirements. For more information, contact the Bursar or Registrar at your student's university.
Q: What is FAFSA? How do I file FAFSA online?
FAFSA is the free application for federal student aid. Parents and students are encouraged to fill this out after January 1st of the student's senior year, and then renew the form each following year. The FAFSA form uses numbers from your taxes to calculate the amount that they think the parents can afford to contribute to their child's tuition each year. Using that number, your student’s university can award need based grants and work study to help pay for institutional costs. To learn more about FAFSA, or to file your FAFSA online, go to the US Department of Education Free Application For Federal Student Aid Website: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
Q: If parents are divorced, which parent fills out the FAFSA?
Your student’s FAFSA information should be completed based on the information of the parent he lived with most during the last 12 months. If he didn’t live with either parent, or if he lived with each parent an equal number of days, he should use the information of the parent who provided the most financial support to him in the most recent calendar year.
Q: What tax benefits am I eligible for through paying college tuition?
Hope Scholarship Tax Credit
The Hope Scholarship tax credit allows students, or their parents or guardians, to claim up to $1,500 per student per year for out-of-pocket tuition and fee expenditures. This $1,500 tax credit may be claimed for the first two years of undergraduate study. The Hope credit is available to taxpayers with a gross income of up to $50,000 (up to $100,000 for joint filers). The credit is phased out on a sliding scale for taxpayers earning $40,000 and above (and $80,000 and above for joint filers).
Lifetime Learning Tax Credit
The Lifetime Learning tax credit allows college students or their families to claim up to 20 percent of qualified out-of-pocket tuition expenditures per year. The Lifetime Learning credit, which may be claimed for an unlimited number of years for both undergraduate and graduate study, allows qualified taxpayers to claim a tax credit equal to 20 percent of the first $10,000 spent on tuition and fees. The Lifetime Learning credit is available to taxpayers with a gross income of up to $50,000 (and up to $100,000 for joint filers). The credit is phased out on a sliding scale for taxpayers earning $40,000 and above (and $80,000 and above for joint filers).
Coverdell Education Savings Account
Coverdell ESA's are savings accounts to finance the education expenses of a child or other designated beneficiary. Contributions are limited to $2000 per year and are not tax deductible. However, funds deposited into the account grow tax free until withdrawn to pay college tuition. Eligibility to make contributions to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts is phased out for contributors with modified adjusted gross income between $95,000 and $110,000 for single taxpayers ($200,000 and $220,000 for joint filers).
Deduction for Student Loan Interest
The deduction for student loan interest allows borrowers to deduct interest paid on any loan used for college expenses. This deduction is available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they take the standard deduction or itemize their deductions. The maximum deduction is $2,500 in 1998; $1,500 in 1999; $2,000 in 2000; and $2,500 in 2001 and thereafter. The deduction is phased out for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of between $50,000 and $65,000 ($100,000 and $130,000 for joint returns).
Deduction for Tuition and Fees Expenses
Beginning in 2002, up to $30,000 of qualified tuition expenses may be deducted from your taxable income. This deduction is available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they take the standard deduction or itemize. There are no income phase outs, therefore this deduction may be beneficial to taxpayers who cannot take either of the education credits because their income is too high.
Exclusion for Employee Education Benefits (Section 127)
This provision allows workers to exclude from taxable income up to $5,250 a year in undergraduate tuition assistance provided by their employers.
Q: What is the biggest challenge my student will face during the fall semester?
The biggest challenge college students have is accepting responsibility for their educational experience, living arrangements, social life, and free time. College classrooms require initiative and independence, critical thinking and writing skills, and independent research. Life in the residence halls is similarly challenging as students with a diverse range of experiences and values work together to develop rhythms for studying and living together. All of these freedoms and responsibilities are intertwined with students’ explorations of old and new identities.
Q: What is a Pell Grant?
The Pell Grant program provides grants to low-income undergraduates to help them pay for college. The amount awarded depends on the student’s financial need, costs to attend school, and enrollment status. To apply for a Pell Grant students must file their FAFSA. See the Department of Education site for more details: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.html
Q: What is the “Freshman fifteen?”
The "Freshman fifteen" is fifteen pounds of fat which can accumulate over the course of a freshman's first year away from home due to a combination of factors that can include change in diet, new sources of stress, and lack of exercise.
It is a good idea to talk to your student about the importance of exercise, avoiding fast food, controlling portion sizes, eating balanced meals, and trying not to eat while he studies.
Q: What should my student do if she becomes homesick?
First year students face numerous challenges and some struggle at first. Encourage your student to give it a little time, get engaged with her academic work, eat the right foods, engage in regular exercise, get enough sleep, invest in her relationships with roommates or classmates, join a club or organization, and establish a good working relationship with her advisor or another faculty or staff member.
Q: How can my student get help if he’s struggling with academics or a certain class?
If a student is struggling in a class, he should schedule an office meeting with the professor. He can discuss challenges, note-taking and test-preparation methods, and tutoring possibilities. The professor can help your student decide if he should continue or drop the class. If the student continues, he should attend every class session.
Q: What should my student do their freshman year of high school to prepare for college?
- Build strong academic, language, mathematics and critical thinking skills by taking challenging courses.
- Study hard and get excellent grades.
- Strengthen her vocabulary by increasing her reading.
- Become involved in co-curricular activities.
- Meet his high school guidance counselor and discuss his plans for the next four years.
- Browse through college literature or research online to get an idea of what kinds of schools may be of interest to him.
- Find out which high school courses colleges require.
- Know NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) requirements if she wants to play sports in college.
- Keep an academic portfolio and co-curricular record.
- Research career possibilities.
- Begin saving money for college.
Q: Where can I find a substance abuse treatment facility for my student?
Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's online searchable directory of alcohol and drug abuse programs located around the country: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
Q: What’s the difference between a 529 prepaid tuition program and a 529 savings program?
Essentially, parents, grandparents, and other interested parties may purchase future tuition at today’s rate. The program will then pay the future college tuition of the beneficiary at any of the state’s eligible colleges or universities (or comparable payment to private or out-of-state institutions). Amounts of tuition (years or units) may be purchased through a one-time lump sum purchase or monthly installment payments. The program pools the money and makes investments to enable the earnings to meet or exceed college tuition increases in that state.
Savings plans (also known as investment plans) enable participants to save money in a college savings account on behalf of a designated beneficiary. Amounts contributed and any earnings on the account may then be used to pay the beneficiary’s qualified higher education expenses. Contributions can vary, depending on the individual savings goals. The plans offer various investment options that provide a variable rate of return usually based on stock or bond funds, although some plans offer investment options that guarantee a minimum rate of return.
Q: Where can I learn about the alcohol policy at my student's school?
Visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s College Drinking Prevention site and click on your student's school to learn more. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list.