Financial aid is a college student’s worst nightmare as it can be very complex and complicated. Understanding this, the Federal Student Aid launched the Next Gen Federal Student Aid (Next Gen FSA) initiative in 2017. Next Gen FSA is a big step forward in improving the way students, parents, and borrowers interact with and access the benefits given by Federal Student Aid.
On December 6, 2020, the Federal Student Aid released a significant update to the myStudentAid mobile app to add personalized features, improve functionality, and integrate the look and feel of StudentAid.gov. This includes a new module of Loan Simulator, which allows you to estimate what your monthly bill would be if you borrowed more federal loans.
Before the update, completing the FAFSA® form was the primary in-app experience available to users of the app. With the enhanced app, users will be able to
create an account;
View and update their account settings;
complete the 2020–21 and 2021–22 FAFSA forms;
access a personalized dashboard that summarizes their aid, highlights upcoming loan payments, and provides relevant content and checklists;
view their detailed loan and grant information, loan servicer information, and details such as remaining Direct Loan and Pell Grant eligibility, qualifying payments toward public service loan forgiveness, and more with the new My Aid Summary feature;
get important notifications and account updates, such as recertifying an income-driven repayment plan within the Notification Center; and
continue to receive alerts (push notifications) directly on their phone.
They will continue to add features to the mobile app in the coming year.
uAspire’s College Cost Calculator is a free online tool that helps you compare multiple financial aid offers and calculate the total cost of attending different colleges. With the Calculator, you learn about the financial aid process, build self-advocacy skills, and increase financial literacy.
Why did we create the Cost Calculator?
Financial aid offers, also called award letters or financial aid packages, can be very difficult to decipher. There’s no industry or government standard for colleges to communicate costs consistently or transparently to students. Different colleges use different formatting and jargon for the same types of aid or loans and the information they include varies. Some don’t clearly label student loans and often omit details about the total cost, making it a challenge for students to figure out how much they will have to pay. As a result, it is exceedingly difficult for students and families to make an informed financial decision.
We believe students deserve to be able to better navigate the process of financing college, especially when leveraging their futures with loans to pay for a college degree. College-goers should be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons between schools easily, instead of having to decipher the information from a hodgepodge of offers. This is why we developed the uAspire College Cost Calculator and are providing students direct, free access to a decoding device for better decision-making about college.
Who can use the Calculator?
ANYONE. uAspire’s College Cost Calculator is available for general use, for free. The mobile version is easy to use, like the desktop version, making it accessible for those without reliable internet access.
The calculator is also intended as a free resource for school counselors and financial aid officers to share with their students. High schools and colleges can begin sharing the Calculator with their students immediately.
What are the benefits of using uAspire’s Calculator?
The Calculator empowers students to know and compare the full costs of attending multiple colleges in order to make more informed decisions about where to go to college and how to pay for it while minimizing student debt. The Calculator was developed to:
Help text, images guide students to find and enter info
Data validation reduces entry mistakes
Summary report compares aid, estimated bill, loan projection for each school
Student accounts can be accessed, updated, shared anytime from any device
Financial terms dictionary, tips, next steps, and links to resources
Why do we ask you to create an account?
By creating an account, save and share a one-page summary that compares the aid offer, estimated bill for the upcoming year, and a 4-year loan projection for each school. The report can be downloaded to a PDF and translated to Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
You can also save your information, come back to it at a later date, and add more schools to compare as you receive additional financial aid offers.
UC and CSU system officials are stating that financial aid appeals are up in both systems, with some campuses seeing as many as twice as many financial aid appeals as they had the year before.
If your financial situation has changed you can file an appeal at any time throughout your college journey. There is a chance your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) might be lowered. If your financial aid office lowers your EFC in response to your financial aid appeal, you may be able to take out additional federal loans or receive additional scholarships.
Financial aid appeal or request is available to qualifying students at all types of institutions offering federal financial aid. Federal law allows your financial aid office to make changes to your financial aid package under certain circumstances. Each school has its own process and requirements.
COVID-19 has impacted our families and communities tremendously. This might be a good time to consider if you qualify to submit a financial aid appeal. There is a free resource that will help you write a financial aid appeal letter – for free.
SwiftStudent is the only FREE, digital resource that provides financial aid appeal letter templates for students. Through SwiftStudent, students can learn about the financial aid appeal process, review eligibility requirements for making an appeal, and customize a financial aid appeal to start the conversation with your college financial aid office.
A financial aid award letter indicates how much financial support a college/university is able to provide a student for the upcoming year.
After a college/university admits a student, you will receive a financial aid award letter that outlines how much will cost and what kind of financial aid you will receive including school, state, and federal aid. Each year you will receive a financial aid package. Your financial aid package each year may or may not change depending on various circumstances.
Check your mail or your student portal to find your award package.
1. Find out your EFC and how much grant aid you were awarded
Your package will include information about your:
Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)
This amount is calculated based on the information submitted on your financial aid application. Your EFC is not an actual that you have to pay but it is an estimate of how much your family should reasonably be able to contribute towards your college expenses. EFC takes into account income, assets, number of people in the household, and number of people attending college for the year.
Type of aid that does not have to be repaid. Examples include grants and scholarships.
Type of aid that must be repaid or earned through work. Examples include loans and work study.
2. Find out the net price
Cost of Attendance: full price colleges/universities list in their brochures and on their websites. To find out your net price, look at the cost of attendance subtract grant aid you were awarded in your aid fin aid package. The net price is the amount you or your family will pay out of pocket. If you or your family cannot cover your net price, you can find employment, additional scholarships or get federal loans to offset the net cost.
3. Focus on your net price
Knowing your net price gives you the best estimate of what you pay for a particular school and makes comparing college easier. In addition, you can use your net price each year to make financial plans for the school year.
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