Thanks to everyone who sent us their questions. Here’s what a few of our followers wanted to know:
@AaronHorak asks: @EFXFinanceBlog, are student loans forgiven if you die? My understanding is that if it’s a federal loan it is, but not if it’s a private loan.
Answer: According to the U.S. Department of Education, if you, the borrower, die, then your federal student loans will be discharged. For federal Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS loans)—often used by parents on behalf of their children—if either the borrower or the benefactor dies, the loan will be discharged.
For private student loans, it depends on the lender’s policies. For example, Sallie Mae has a death or permanent disability policy stating that if a student borrower dies or becomes permanently and totally disabled, Sallie Mae will waive the remaining loan payments.
You can check with your private lender to find out if they offer any death discharge protections.
Answer: While everyone should apply for financial aid to see if they can receive it, according to the U.S. Department of Education, there are a few basic requirements that may disqualify a potential borrower from receiving federal student loans:
- You did not pass high school. You need to have a high school diploma, GED or have completed a state-approved home school education. Depending on the year you enrolled in college, you may show that you’re qualified by taking a test, completing some coursework, or meeting federally approved standards that your state establishes.
- You were not accepted into a college, university, or certificate program.
- You did not demonstrate financial need, which is calculated as the difference between the cost of attendance and your expected family contribution.
- You are male and did not register with the Selective Service.
- You do not have a valid Social Security number (unless you are from the Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau).
- You did not fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- You refused to sign certain statements on the FAFSA stating that you are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe a refund on a federal grant, and that you will use federal student aid for educational purposes.
- You are not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or an eligible noncitizen, including those who have a green card, an arrival-departure record, a battered immigrant states, or a T-VISA.
When you fill out the FAFSA, you are applying for financial aid for a specific year. So, even if you did not receive financial aid this year, you should be sure to fill out the FAFSA again next year. If you are denied financial aid, your school will give you a denial letter, which you may have the option to appeal depending on the circumstances.
Answer: The short answer is that the FAFSA takes into account the information of the “custodial parent,” which is the parent with whom the student lived with most during the previous year.
If a student lived with both parents equally, include information for the parent who provides the most financial support. There are several different criteria that are weighed on the FAFSA. For more in-depth information on which parent’s information to include, visit the Studentaid.ed.gov website.
Answer: The FAFSA asks for financial information including tax forms; either your tax forms if you are independent, or your parents if you are a dependent.
The FAFSA comes out in early January and often students want to file it as early as possible. You do not need to have filed your taxes by the time you fill out your FAFSA.
If you haven’t done your taxes, you will need to estimate your income (or your parents’ income, if you are dependent). You can base your estimates on last year’s tax return or, if your income has drastically changed, there are tools to help you estimate your income.
If you have already done your taxes, you can use the IRS data retrieval tool to help fill out your FAFSA.
Room and board can be a significant expense for college students. The College Board estimates that the average cost for on-campus room and board amounted to around $9,000 for state schools and $11,000 for private schools in the 2014-2015 school year.
You should try to figure out a net cost for each school, in order to narrow down your search to the most affordable schools. Be sure to include tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies and transportation into your total cost. Then you should subtract the grant and scholarship amounts awarded to you from the total cost to get your net cost.
Compare the net costs for the schools you are considering: that’s the amount you’ll have to pay yourself, either from your earnings during school or with student loans, which you will have to pay back after you graduate.
Financial aid includes grants, scholarships and federal student loan offers. You should be sure you understand the obligations of federal student loans and interest payments before you accept. You may be offered more financial aid than necessary; make sure you only borrow what you need.
Please share your own questions or experiences with financial aid in the comments, and thanks to everyone who participated in our #EFXQandA on Twitter. You can follow us @EFXFinanceBlog.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.