All posts by CollegeFinancialLady

What to Expect in the 2020-2021 FAFSA

Last month– as it does every May– the Department of Education released its Needs Methodology for the coming FAFSA. The Higher Education Act of 1965 requires that the Income Protection Allowance, Adjusted Net Worth of a Business or Farm, the Education Savings and Asset Protection Allowance, and the Assessment Schedules and Rates be updated annually for inflation.

Three of the four items received modest increases. For example, the Income Protection Allowance for a family of four with two college students went from $25,400 to $26,080. Meanwhile, the dependent student Income Protection Allowance went from $6,660 to $6,840.

Once again, the outlier is the Asset Protection Allowance, which took another whack. Whereas last year’s formula gave a married couple with the oldest partner age 50 an Asset Protection Allowance of $12,500, this year that same couple would only get only a little more than half that amount, $6,300.

Why does this happen? Here’s an explanation of how the APA is calculated. Interestingly, the Higher Education Act requires that the Consumer Price Index be the inflation measure for every category other than the Asset Protection Allowance; in the case of the APA, it requires inflation to be calculated at 6%.

Here are some takeaways from all of this:

  • The typical family will see their EFC increase by about $350 based on the changes to the APA.
  • A student earning the average college student hourly pay of $13.32 could work a little over 500 hours without it impacting their EFC. While 500 hours may seem like a lot, a student who works 10 hours per week during the school year and 30 hours per week for two months of summer will work around 540 hours.

And one last reminder: If you haven’t yet completed the FAFSA for the 2019-2020 school year, you have until 11:59pm Central time on June 30 to do so.

Community College as a Pathway to a Four-Year Degree

Community colleges are often promoted as a great way for students to start on the path to a four-year degree: they’re lower cost than four-year colleges and it’s more likely the student can live at home to save additional money. However, a recent study showed that while 81% of students entering community colleges aspired to a bachelor’s degree, only 14% actually earn one within six years of starting at a community college. In fact, only 1/3 of community college students in the study’s cohort even transferred to a four-year institution. Continue reading Community College as a Pathway to a Four-Year Degree

Late-Stage College Savings Strategies

One of the bigger frustrations about 529 plans that I hear from parents is their reliance on investments to fund college. In the early accumulation years, parents don’t like the seemingly large allocations to fixed income that many plans have. As college nears, parents’ fears tend to group around two risk factors: market risk, whereby you might lose some or all of your savings in a poorly-timed market downturn; and inflation risk, where a conservative investment allocation means your savings are losing purchasing power due to inflation. Continue reading Late-Stage College Savings Strategies

Unemployment Rates

With college tuition increases outpacing inflation by a substantial margin, it’s normal to ask whether a college degree is worth the cost. One metric for determining that is whether a degree results in lower unemployment. A recent New York Fed report shows that college graduates have consistently lower unemployment rates than those without a degree. Not only that, but during recessionary periods (the shaded areas in the chart below) those without degrees suffer far higher unemployment rates. Continue reading Unemployment Rates

Scholarships and Taxes

Do you have to pay taxes on a scholarship? It depends what the scholarship is for. To understand taxes on scholarships, it’s worth remembering that the IRS defines qualified expenses differently for different purposes. Expenses get more or less the same treatment for taxability of scholarships as they do for education tax credits, so let’s review those. Continue reading Scholarships and Taxes

Student Loan Interest Rates 2019-2020

The May Treasury auction has taken place, which means that federal student loan interest rates for the coming school year have been set. And there’s good news: for the first time in three years, interest rates went down– by about half a percent. Keep in mind that federal student loan interest rates are fixed, meaning borrowers won’t see their costs go up should interest rates change in the future. Continue reading Student Loan Interest Rates 2019-2020

Co-Signing Student Loans

If you’re among the 2/3 of families that will borrow to pay for college, you may be looking at private student loans as one of your options. Unlike federal direct student loans, private student loans typically require a co-signer. It’s vital that parents and others asked to co-sign understand what they are actually doing when co-signing a student loan. Continue reading Co-Signing Student Loans