Propose a Session for OCAP's 2012 Annual Conference
As summer approaches, OCAP is busy planning our fall conference and we need your help. The theme this year is 10.11.12—Counting on a Bright Future, and we can already tell you that it will be jam-packed with helpful content and incredible speakers. To supplement this great slate of sessions, we're looking for a few additional session ideas that offer expertise, resources and ideas to help all of us lead students to a bright future.
We invite you to submit a session proposal! We're looking for information and ideas that will appeal to our diverse audiences who serve Oklahoma students, including community partners, high school counselors, administrators, campus professionals and more. Here are a few of the topics we're hoping to see:
- Understanding and accessing financial aid
- Successfully engaging parents
- Spreading the word about Oklahoma's Promise
- Working with low-resourced students and parents
- Resources for mentoring organizations
- Providing services to tribal students
- Reaching underserved populations, such as at-risk youth, foster children, homeless/unaccompanied youth, homeschooled children or others
- Any best practices in improving college access, default prevention, retention, or financial literacy and helping students succeed
That's not all. At the conference, we'll also highlight the best and brightest of YOUR organization's success stories. Do you know a student who's used your support and services to propel them to a brighter future? We want to hear about it! The session proposal packet (external class) includes a nomination form that will allow you to highlight a successful student to be featured in our video success stories during the conference.
If you'd like to submit a session proposal and/or nominate a student for the success video, please complete the appropriate form(s) (external class) and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m., June 15, 2012. The OCAP Conference Committee will review all proposals and identify sessions that will appeal to the greatest number of our partners or that provide unique expertise. If your proposal is selected, you'll be notified by June 30.
Please forward this information on to colleagues that may find it of interest. If you have questions about OCAP's annual conference, contact Liz Brandon at 405-234-4288 or email@example.com.
We look forward to learning and sharing with you on 10.11.12!
Living on a College Budget
FinAid.org (external class) publisher Mark Kantrowitz offers this valuable tip to help students manage education costs: "Live like a student now so you don't have to live like a student after you graduate." Though Kantrowitz's tip encourages students to mind their expenses during college, some current and future college students might not heed that advice when the cost is more than they can afford. Unexpected costs and a lack of advance financial planning lead many students to make poor spending choices, borrow too much in student loans, work multiple jobs to make ends meet and, for some, drop out of school.
Higher education is a worthwhile investment in an individual's future earning potential, and it's absolutely possible to successfully manage a college budget. To do that, however, students must be willing to live on less now so they can have more later.
Track and plan spending. Knowing all costs is crucial to managing the collegiate budget. There's more to plan for than tuition, fees, and books - daily living expenses, transportation costs, and other miscellaneous expenses must also be considered. Students need both an accurate view of available funds (family savings, financial aid, job income) and a realistic spending plan to make it work, and that means lifestyle sacrifices may be required. Encourage your students to check out the Setting Up A Budget (external class) page on the Oklahoma Money Matters (OKMM) website to learn more.
Keep living costs under control. Students often have T-bone taste on a ramen noodle budget. A little effort, some creativity and a few tolerable lifestyle changes can make living within a tight budget less painful. Buy groceries and household items at discount retailers, stick to a list and use coupons. Share an entrée with a friend when dining out. Carpool and use public transportation whenever possible. Seek out free entertainment options, like campus movie nights, local concerts and community festivals. Find clothes and furnishings at thrift stores, consignment stores and garage sales, or hold a swap meet to trade with friends. Visit the library for free access to movies, books and magazines.
Explore all aid options. There are many resources available to help students pay for college, and it's in the student's best interest to find them. With the demands of a busy college life, it might seem easier to focus on one source of assistance, but that can be a costly mistake. For example, students who rely solely on student loans to pay college expenses instead of pursuing grants, scholarships and work-study opportunities may ultimately borrow more than their starting salary after graduation can support. Visit FAFSA.gov (external class) to learn about all forms of federal assistance and how to apply.
Take advantage of special discounts. College students often qualify for campus-based discounts. Many colleges and universities have local and national partnerships with incentive programs featuring student discounts on cars, computers and other merchandise during school and after graduation. It's worth asking if a college I.D. card makes any difference in the pricing, especially for substantial purchases.
Bottom line, the financial choices students make in college will either help or hinder them going forward. Encourage them to live like students today so they can live like graduates later!
Status Check: New Year's Goals
Well, it's been nearly six months since we all made our New Year's resolutions. How's it going? Studies show that 25 percent of us likely broke those resolutions in the first week alone and by week eight, there are a lot more treadmills available at the gym. With summer upon us, it's a great time to revisit and revive those good intentions. This time, instead of calling them resolutions, let's call them goals and try these steps to help us achieve them.
Break it down. Research shows that people who break down their goals into smaller steps are much more successful overall. Examine your ultimate goal and spend some time figuring out what you need to do to get there. Having a road map will keep you aware of every milestone you reach, and that's powerful motivation to succeed.
Reward yourself. Each time you achieve a piece of your goal, be sure to recognize that success. Most of what we do in life is for reward and recognition, even if it's just a pat on your own back. Treat yourself in a way that's personally meaningful to celebrate the steps that take you closer to reaching your goal.
Share the plan, stay on track. Keeping your goals to yourself is like admitting an expectation to fail. When you proclaim your plans to friends and family, you're automatically accountable to your expectations and theirs. Take the leap and let your friends know that you're making changes so you can benefit from their support along the way.
Pick positivity. People who focus on the consequences of failure are much less successful than those who look forward to the outcomes. Skip the cycle of fear and shame and remind yourself of all the positive ways this experience will change your life.
Don't wait until next January to set new goals. Anything worth doing is worth starting today. Follow these simple steps and when 2013 rolls around, you'll be ready to toast to all your accomplishments!
UCanGo2's Facebook Profile
Do you 'like' UCanGo2, OCAP's college access initiative? Many of you utilize UCanGo2's materials, website and services to help your students plan, prepare and pay for college, but have you visited our Facebook page (Facebook.com/UCanGo2 (external class))? Whether you're a school counselor, campus administrator or community service provider, there are at least five good reasons YOU should be reading UCanGo2's Facebook posts.
- Get the scoop on upcoming college planning events and activities, such as student and parent workshops, college fairs, ACT and SAT registration deadlines and test dates, and counselor trainings.
- Put the focus on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) with teaching tools and tips you can share with families. No exceptions - every student should complete the FAFSA. All federal aid programs and many state and school-based aid programs depend on it.
- Help students find scholarships based on their interests, abilities and affiliations. Free dollars are a big help when it comes to managing college costs, and UCanGo2 features several scholarships on a weekly basis. (You may also be interested to know that we've added a scholarship page at UCanGo2.org (external class)!)
- Strengthen your college planning programs with timely, relevant information and resources that empower you to help students explore careers, compare institutions and make the most of campus visits.
- Stay informed by accessing helpful articles and links you can share with your team, your partners and the people you serve.
Visit the UCanGo2 page (external class) on Facebook and 'like' us today!
Do You Know Jolynn Horn?
Meet Jolynn Horn, the State Regents' Assistant Vice Chancellor for GEAR UP.
What's GEAR UP and how has it changed recently?
GEAR UP, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a federal grant program offered through the U.S. Department of Education to provide opportunities for middle and high school students to acquire the academic skills, planning information, financial assistance and support they need to succeed in college. This is Oklahoma's third consecutive state GEAR UP grant. GEAR UP is administered by the State Regents and will provide $34.9 million over the next seven years to implement and continue college preparation programs that strengthen learning and increase student achievement across our state.
GEAR UP will continue its statewide presence while targeting education and direct student services locally to 24 rural school districts serving approximately 21,170 students in seventh through 12th grade. Statewide services such as the Student Information Hotline, OKcollegestart, electronic transcript exchange, GEAR UP website and social media presences are ongoing. GEAR UP is also using School Connect, an online mobile app to help school districts target college access messages directly and immediately to their students and families using smart phones. GEAR UP school districts include Ardmore, Caney Valley, Catoosa, Checotah, Davis, Duncan, Guymon, Harrah, Henryetta, Hobart, Kingston, Little Axe, Luther, Madill, McLoud, Newkirk, Okmulgee, Roland, Sapulpa, Stilwell, Tecumseh, Wagoner and Woodward.
Tell us about your role with GEAR UP.
The Assistant Vice Chancellor for GEAR UP flies a plane that's being built while it's in the air. The position oversees all aspects of the grant, but the main role is putting together a staff that can create and deliver the GEAR UP message to the 24 school districts and their communities across the state. The staff have to believe in the mission of the GEAR UP project and be dedicated to making sure students, teachers, parents and communities catch the vision of educational opportunity. The GEAR UP staff must work together as a team while planning, presenting and implementing all facets of the grant. Each position in the grant plays a vital role in making the GEAR UP project a success. It takes time and testing to put together a group of 18 people who understand the role GEAR UP can play in Oklahoma regarding education and economic development.
What's your favorite thing about your job?
The part of the job I enjoy most is meeting people. I have friends and colleagues all over Oklahoma that I've met since I started with GEAR UP in 1999. Some of those people work in schools, some are parents and some are at higher education institutions. I've had the opportunity to meet people who are shaping the direction of education for our nation. The work I do with other state GEAR UP directors is some of my most enjoyable as we talk and plan what GEAR UP has done and will do for the education culture in the U.S. I'm surrounded by a great staff of people who can take abstract ideas and put feet to them! They're not only very bright and dedicated, they're a lot of fun. The students are the very heart of this work and when I hear their stories and visit with them, I always leave smiling. This really is the best job in the world.
What resources does GEAR UP offer?
GEAR UP offers resources for families, including: Plan4College Centers in 25+ communities across Oklahoma; college access websites and hotlines; parent leadership academies; parent information programs and activities at GEAR UP schools; videos and guides for first generation college families; parent guides for college and more.
GEAR UP offers resources for students, including: college counseling with GEAR UP campus liaisons; college campus tours; summer institutes in science, math and technology; college campus visits, college application and financial aid application assistance; ACT and SAT preparation and more.
GEAR UP offers resources for educators, including: professional training on using data to improve student success; common core standards; math and science institutes; Advanced Placement institutes; grant writing; counseling first generation college students and families; using school culture for success and more. GEAR UP also works one-on-one with each of the 24 school districts to implement and support changes.
How can people take advantage of these services?
Oklahoma families who need assistance with college planning or questions can call the Student Information Hotline at 800.858.1840 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Spanish speaking representatives are also available. College planning information is also available online at OKcollegestart.org (external class) or at Plan4College Centers across the state. Info about Plan4College Centers can be found at http://okhighered.org/gearup/plan-4-college.shtml (external class).
To learn more about GEAR UP's services, contact Jolynn at email@example.com or 405.225.9376.
College and Career Choices
So many choices, so little time. That may be exactly what many Oklahoma youth who've just graduated from high school are thinking right now if they haven't decided which college to attend this fall. With the current focus on managing student loan debt in our country, it's even more important for prospective college students to make money-wise choices. We've got some helpful advice for recent high school graduates who are exploring their college and career options.
Find a fruitful career path. For graduates who are still unsure which direction to take after high school, we recommend the following websites:
Each of these sites features an excellent career exploration tool that gives great information about workforce demand and income potential in various fields.
Be salary savvy. Once students have chosen a career path, they should research the cost of the education required for that profession. Two great online resources to visit are OKcollegestart.org (external class) and CollegeNavigator.gov (external class). As students are researching the costs of college and the types of financial aid that are available, they may discover they'll need student loans to help fund their education. If student loans are necessary, it's important to exhaust all federal loan options before considering private or 'alternative' loans. Here's a good rule to remember: the monthly student loan payment shouldn't exceed 8-10% of the student's starting monthly salary. This will help ensure that loan payments will be manageable. To estimate monthly loan payments at various loan amounts, students can use our loan calculator at OCAP.org (external class).
Consider kicking-off at a community college. At a two-year college, students can usually take all or most of the same general education courses that are required at four-year universities at a lower cost. After earning an Associate degree, graduates can then enter the workforce or transfer to another institution to complete a Bachelor's degree. Students who intend to transfer after earning an Associate degree should stay in touch with the academic services office to ensure their credits will transfer to another college or university. Learn more about community colleges in Oklahoma on the Oklahoma Association of Community Colleges website (external class).
Need more information? Check out the free publications at UCanGo2.org (external class) that help students plan, prepare and pay for college.
Why is Entrance Counseling Important?
Entrance counseling is a vital step in the student loan process. Effective entrance counseling can help your student borrowers understand the principles of smart borrowing and the importance of repaying their loans. This, in turn, can positively impact your school's cohort default rates.
When should my school provide entrance counseling?
Your school must perform entrance counseling before disbursing Direct subsidized or unsubsidized student loans to students receiving their first federal student loan. If a student has previously gone through entrance counseling when receiving a past Direct or FFELP student loan, you are not required to provide entrance counseling again; however, your school may decide to require entrance counseling each time a student receives a student loan.
What information is required during entrance counseling?
Provide your student borrowers information about Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, including terms and conditions. Also, explain loan management tools such as available repayment plans, deferment and forbearance options, and loan forgiveness and cancellation provisions. Your borrowers need to know they have the ability to accelerate repayment without a prepayment penalty. They also need to understand the consequences of default, such as ruined credit, litigation, referral to a collection agency, wage garnishment, offset of income tax refunds, collection charges, non-renewal of professional licenses and the loss of deferment and forbearance options. You'll also want to make them aware of tax benefits like the student loan interest deduction.
It's also important they understand their rights and responsibilities as a student loan borrower. Check out the Entrance Counseling Rights and Responsibilities Summary Checklist (external class) on OCAP's website.
How can I make the most of entrance counseling to help lower my school's cohort default rate?
Students who borrow only what they need to pay school expenses, stay in school, and know all of their repayment options are more likely to repay their student loans. The information you provide in entrance counseling can start your students on the right path from the beginning and empower them to make smart choices throughout their collegiate career.
Talk to your student borrowers about maintaining satisfactory academic progress. Discuss money management tips like borrowing only what's needed to pay school expenses, keeping track of what they've borrowed, and reassessing the need to borrow each time. Offer them tools like OKMM's Your Money Matters guide for college students (external class), which teaches students how to budget limited resources, manage student loans and prepare for successful repayment. Explain how your borrowers can use NSLDS to locate their loans and keep track of their loan information. OCAP's NSLDS flyer (external class) offers step by step instructions for accessing NSLDS.
Borrowers need to understand that they're responsible for repaying their student loans whether they withdraw from school, drop out or graduate. You can also remind your students how important it is to communicate with their lender/servicer about demographic changes and financial hardship. OCAP's No Longer in School? flyer (external class) and Unable to Make Your Student Loan Payment? flyer (external class) can help you communicate these messages.
Entrance counseling is a great time for your school to obtain borrowers' demographic information, such as mailing addresses, home and cellphone numbers and email addresses for future use.
How should my school provide entrance counseling?
If time permits, one-on-one counseling with borrowers is the best method. This gives you the opportunity to provide detailed information and allows your student to ask questions. Ask a mentor to share personal experiences with obtaining and repaying student loans with your students. You can use a Power Point or audiovisual presentation, and there are many Web-based and interactive options for providing entrance counseling. Web-based entrance counseling can be customized to individual borrowers, and can test borrower understanding of terminology and loan conditions. Both StudentLoans.gov (external class) and MappingYourFuture.org (external class) provide online entrance counseling.
Where can I find regulations concerning entrance counseling?
Entrance counseling regulations appear in the Federal Register at 34 CFR 682.604(f) for the FFEL program and 34 CFR 685.304(a) for the Direct Loan program. Regulations concerning entrance counseling for Perkins loan borrowers appear at 34 CFR 674.16(a), and regulations concerning exit counseling appear at 34 CFR 682.604(g) for the FFEL program and 34 CFR 685.304(b) for the Direct Loan program.
What's New on IFAP?
GEEA (Gainful Employment E-nnouncements)
- June 1 – Executive Order 13607 - Establishing Principles for Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members
- May 18 – Correction to Dear Colleague Letter GEN-12-08, Regarding the Conditions Under Which an Institution Submits a Copy of its Contract with a Third-Party Servicer(external link)
- May 31– TEACH Grant Closeout Information for 2011-2012 Award Year
- May 10– Reminder - Retrieving the Pell Grant LEU Report through the School's Reporting News Box on the COD Web site(external link)
- May 4– Publication of Federal Pell Grant Interim Final Rule(external link)
- May 31– Federal Variable Interest Rates for July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013
- May 1– Record Submission Due Date for 2010-2011 Direct Loan Program Year Closeout
Common Manual Update
The latest version of the Integrated Common Manual is available on the Common Manual website. (external class) As always, if you have questions about the manual, contact our Policy, Compliance and Training department at 405.234.4432, 800.247.0420 (toll free) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scholarships and Other Aid Opportunities
The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program is a federally funded program designed to promote student excellence and achievement and to recognize exceptional high school seniors who show promise in continued academic excellence and achievement. Students are selected to receive scholarships based on eligibility criteria and completion and evaluation of an application. An equal number of "Byrd Scholars" are selected annually to represent each of Oklahoma's five congressional districts.
"Byrd Scholars" receive $1,500 for the first year of study at an eligible postsecondary institution. To compete for the Byrd Scholarship, applicants must:
- be a United States citizen or national or be a permanent resident of the United States.
- be a legal resident of Oklahoma.
- be a senior enrolled in full-time course work leading to high school graduation.
- have applied to or been accepted for admission as a full-time student by an institution of higher education.
- be able to meet academic criteria as stated in the scholarship application, including GPA, ACT/SAT and/or GED scores.
Scholarships are renewable for up to three additional years of study provided students continue to meet eligibility standards as defined by the institutions they are attending.
Repair or Replace?
Have you ever wondered why your grandmother hand-washes the china after every meal when you'd rather use paper plates? Or thought about your grandpa's garage full of tools when you're hunting for a hammer in your junk drawer?
Our grandparents grew up in a time when it was worth the money and effort to retain and repair belongings. Times change, though, and these days it's often cheaper to buy a new thing than repair an old thing. With over 2,000 landfills in the U.S., it might be time to reconsider our grandparents' approach. How do we know if it's better to repair or replace?
Follow the "50 percent rule." Do a little research to find out if a repair will cost 50 percent or less than buying a replacement. Let’s say the DVD player you bought a couple of years ago is on the fritz. Clean the housing and check the power cord. A simple fix like a cord replacement could cost you as little as five dollars. Of course, the problem may be more complex, in which case you might find it makes more sense to buy the DVD/Blu-ray combo player that costs what your current DVD player cost two years ago.
Decide what it's worth to you. Consider if the item in question will appreciate in value, however you define it. A well-made piece of wood furniture or heirloom antique is likely to be worth the time and cost of repairs. Appliances, in contrast, can often be replaced with more energy-efficient models that will save more money over time.
Practice prevention. Avoid both scenarios with regular upkeep. Your grandmother hand-washes the china so it doesn't chip in the dishwasher. Consider this level of care with all of your belongings; a little extra TLC on the front side could save you from costly repairs or replacements later. If you don't have the know-how or equipment to maintain items effectively, try bartering with a local professional in exchange for skills or services you can provide.
In addition to saving money and space in landfills, opting to repair an item when it makes sense to do so can give you a sense of accomplishment and a renewed appreciation for your belongings. The key is to educate yourself so you can make an informed choice. Determine the cost to replace your item, investigate the cost of repairs, and compare the figures in the context of your item's financial and emotional value.
OKMM's Financial Friday Service
Do your students or clients ask financial questions you don't feel comfortable answering? Would you like to provide them with resources, but don't have the time or staff to create a new initiative?
We invite you to take advantage of Financial Friday, Oklahoma Money Matters' (OKMM) online question and answer forum that allows people to anonymously submit personal finance questions through our website and receive answers directly from your office. Past editions of Financial Friday have covered monthly budgeting, kids and money, the pros and cons of credit cards, and the pros and cons of renting-to-own, among many other topics.
Here's how it works: OKMM selects a question or two from our submissions and prepares the answer(s). On the last Friday of each month, we'll send the questions and answers to your office for you to distribute through email, include in a newsletter, or post on your social media profiles and/or website. We'll even help you develop website text or a customized online button to promote the service to your target audiences!
If you're interested in sharing Financial Friday with those you serve, call 800.970.OKMM or email email@example.com for additional information. To see more topics we've covered, visit the Ask OKMM Q&A Forum at OklahomaMoneyMatters.org (external class).
Student Loan Management
Ask the Expert: Economic Hardship/Unemployment Deferments
Economic hardship and unemployment deferments are repayment options available to help borrowers manage their finances. Both options are ideal for borrowers who need to postpone payments for a short period of time.
Economic Hardship Deferment
Borrowers who are unable to make their student loan payments due to a decrease in income or loss of income may be eligible for an economic hardship deferment. This deferment allows the borrower to stop making payments for up to 12 months at a time, for a maximum of 36 months. Borrowers can use this calculator (external class) to determine if they're likely to qualify for an economic hardship deferment. To obtain an economic hardship deferment, borrowers need to contact the lender/servicer for each loan(s).
Borrowers who are eligible for an economic hardship deferment may also want to consider the income based repayment (IBR) plan. IBR was designed to provide a more affordable monthly loan payment plan, based on income and family size, for those who need it. Borrowers who qualify for IBR will have their loan payments recalculated each year to keep the debt-to-income ratio in balance, which may result in lower monthly payments. This option also offers loan forgiveness benefits. Click here (external class) for more information on IBR, as well as an IBR calculator that allows borrowers to determine if they may qualify for the plan.
Borrowers who work 30 hours per week or less may be eligible for an unemployment deferment. This deferment allows the borrower to postpone payments in six-month increments. Borrowers with loans first disbursed before July 1, 1993 can defer payments for a maximum of 24 months. Borrowers with loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 1993 can defer payments for a maximum of 36 months. To obtain an unemployment deferment, borrowers need to contact the lender/servicer for each loan(s).
Borrowers facing financial difficulty are entitled to these repayment options to ensure successful repayment. To qualify, borrowers must meet certain criteria and provide documentation so the lender/servicer(s) can determine eligibility. Documentation requirements are outlined on the Economic Hardship (external class) and Unemployment (external class) deferment forms. Of course, borrowers should continue making payments until a deferment request is approved by each lender/servicer.
Encourage your borrowers to stay connected with their lender/servicer(s) throughout the loan repayment process so they know all options available to them in times of financial crisis. OCAP's Default Prevention department is eager to discuss repayment options with your borrowers. We can be reached at 405.234.4352, 800.358.5460 (toll free) or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit us at ocap.org (external class) and check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/Repayment Scoop (external class).
- 2011-12 State System Academic Calendar (PDF)
- Deadlines for Financial Aid Offices 2011-12(external link)
- Nelnet's Webinar Wednesday series (external link)
- OCAP/OKMM Pre-Conference Financial Literacy Training, Oklahoma City - Oct. 10, 2012
- OCAP Annual Conference, Oklahoma City - Oct. 11, 2012
- Deadline for Gainful Employment program information for award year 2011-2012 (external class) - Oct. 15, 2012
- 2012 FSA Conference - November 27-30, 2012 (external class)