Archive for student loans

On financial aid, the JJWBGSP Scholarship, and student loan scams

To our Fall 2019 MIA, MPA and MPA-DP applicants: Thank you for your patience as the Admissions Committee reads your applications. Decisions will be released in mid-March (so, soon!), and you’ll receive an email telling you to check your Status Page.

We’ve already been receiving some questions about financial aid and wanted to give a few updates about that:

First, we’ll have a number of admitted students events, online and in-person, that will fully cover financial aid options at SIPA. A reminder that your financial aid information is confidential, and often the best way to get personal information tailored to you is by contacting our Office of Financial Aid at sipa_finaid@columbia.edu.

Second is a scholarship reminder: In case you didn’t mark your calendars last time we posted about it, the 2019 Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program application opens tomorrow, March 7th, and closes on April 11, 2019. Find the full information for the JJWBGSP Scholarship on their website.

Finally, if you have a phone number, there’s a good chance that you have recently received numerous calls from someone telling you that your student loans are eligible for reduced monthly payments and/or forgiveness. There are a number of ways that student loan borrowers may be able to reduce monthly payments and/or qualify for partial forgiveness of their loan, but please be aware that these phone calls are all scams.

An article in the morning Metro describes an example; a borrower learns about repayment options that provide some relief, but doesn’t realize that the $50 monthly fee she’s being charged to sign up and remain in that option is completely unnecessary. Student loan borrowers have many options for repayment, and thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, many can get part of their loans forgiven, but all of this can be arranged by working with their loan servicer – completely free of charge. The monthly payments themselves might be a big enough financial obligation; don’t add an extra fee for services that shouldn’t cost anything.

Again, any SIPA students with questions about student loan repayment can always meet with or contact (sipa_finaid@columbia.edu) a member of the Financial Aid Office staff for guidance; we also have information on repayment and PSLF here. We know that student loans can cause stress, but take the time to get all the facts.

Financial Aid FAQs: Common questions about paying for SIPA

We often tell students that as much as you plan for graduate school, you should also be planning for the tuition and payments side of it. But we understand it’s a process, and we’re here to walk you through the process.

Our financial aid officers have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help with concerns about student loans, work study, billing, and payment.

Student Loans

I was only awarded the Direct Unsubsidized Loan for $20,500 but I need more funding. What are my options?

When you submit the FAFSA, we can package you with the Direct Unsubsidized Loan because it does not require a credit check or additional application. For graduate students, the annual cap for the Unsubsidized Loan is $20,500; however, you can also apply for a Graduate PLUS loan. If you have already received your award notification, please see the Documents & Messages page of NetPartner. Beneath the section labeled “Unmet Financial Need,” you will find the application and you will see your remaining amount of need which is the maximum you can borrow in a Graduate PLUS or similar private loan.

When do I need to apply for loans/complete entrance counseling/sign the promissory notes?

We recommend you have your aid in place no later than early August. Please log in to NetPartner and be sure to accept your awards on the Accept Awards tab and review the Documents & Messages page for any outstanding materials.

When and how will the loan be disbursed?

Loans are divided evenly between the terms you are enrolled and disbursed to your Columbia student account at the beginning of each semester.

If I borrowed loans to cover living expenses, how and when will that money be refunded to me?

We strongly encourage you to set up direct deposit (click here for instructions). Any amount you borrowed in excess of the tuition and fees for the semester will be issued as a refund to you by the second week of classes after the loan has disbursed to your student bill and after you have registered for classes (assuming you have also completed all the necessary steps on NetPartner).

Can international students borrow student loans?

There are private lenders who make loans available to international students, but most require a US citizen to co-sign. Find a list of suggested lenders here.

Work Study

Do I have to accept Federal Work Study? How does it work? Will it be paid towards the bill? How do I find a job? Should I wait until I know my class schedule to look for a job?

If you were eligible for work study, it was included in your financial aid notification. You are not required to accept it. You will need to find an eligible position and then the money will be paid out to you like a regular salary subject to taxes (it is not applied to your bill). We recommend you start searching for positions and then you can work out the specific schedule after you are hired. More info, including how to search for positions, is here.

Billing & Payment

The SIPA Financial Aid Office does not charge tuition or collect payment. The office responsible for these procedures is the Student Financial Services Office. Find more information here; SFS can be reached at 212-854-4400.

When will I receive my first bill?

The fall statement will be issued August 13th and due September 14th. The full schedule is available here.

What happens with the admission deposit I paid?

It will be applied towards the charges for the first semester you are enrolled and you will see the credit on Student Services Online (SSOL) when you review your student account.

Is there a payment plan?

Yes. Information on the monthly payment plan is available here.

Can I wire money from a foreign bank to pay my bill?

Yes. Please click here for more information.

Can I waive the health insurance and health services fee?

Domestic full-time students can waive coverage if they have alternate coverage that meets the criteria; see here. The waiver for the fall term is due September 30th. Students cannot waive the Health Services Fee.

If I’m living in Columbia housing, will my rent be on the bill?

Most students in University housing will see their room charges on their bills.

My employer/sponsor is going to pay my bill and needs to receive an invoice from Columbia. What do I do?  

You will need to set up third-party billing. Please also email our office with a copy of your sponsorship letter.

I’m receiving an external scholarship. Do I notify you? Where can they send the payment?

Please email our office the details. They can mail the check to:
Attn: Payments & Deposits Office
Student Financial Services
205 Kent Hall
1140 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Other Helpful Resources at Columbia University:

International Students & Scholars Office

Office of Military and Veterans Affairs

What admitted students want to know about paying for SIPA

Have questions about billing and payments, work study, or student loans? Our financial aid staff compiled a list of commonly-asked questions and answers to help alleviate some of these concerns.

Student Loan Questions:

I was only awarded the Direct Unsubsidized Loan for $20,500 but I need more funding. What are my options?
When you submit the FAFSA, we can package you with the Direct Unsubsidized Loan because it does not require a credit check or additional application. For graduate students, the annual cap for the Unsubsidized Loan is $20,500,  however, you can also apply for a Graduate PLUS loan.  If you have already received your award notification, please see the Messages tab of NetPartner (https://studentviewer.finaid.columbia.edu).  Beneath the section labeled “Unmet Financial Need,” you will find the application and you will see your remaining amount of need which is the maximum you can borrow in a Graduate PLUS or similar private loan.

When do I need to apply for loans/complete entrance counseling/sign the promissory notes?
We recommend you have your aid in place no later than early August. Please log in to NetPartner and be sure to accept your awards on the Accept Awards tab and review the Messages and Documents tabs for any outstanding materials.

When and how will the loan be disbursed?
Loans are divided evenly between the terms you are enrolled and disbursed to your Columbia student account at the beginning of each semester.

If I borrowed loans to cover living expenses, how and when will that money be refunded to me?
We strongly encourage you to set up direct deposit (see http://sfs.columbia.edu/billing/payments-to-students#how_to_enroll for instructions).  Any amount you borrowed in excess of the tuition and fees for the semester will be issued as a refund to you by the second week of classes after the loan has disbursed to your student bill and after you have registered for classes (assuming you have also completed all the necessary steps on NetPartner).

Can international students borrow student loans?
There are private lenders who make loans available to international students, but most require a US citizen to co-sign. Go to http://sfs.columbia.edu/financial-aid/private-loans#suggested_lenders for more information. We have learned of two lenders who will make loans to international students without a co-signer requirement:  mpowerfinancing.com and www.prodigyfinance.com.

Work Study Questions:

Do I have to accept Federal Work Study? How does it work? Will it be paid towards the bill? How do I find a job?  Should I wait until I know my class schedule to look for a job?
If you were eligible for work study, it was included in your financial aid notification. You are not required to accept it. You will need to find an eligible position and then the money will be paid out to you like a regular salary subject to taxes (it is not applied to your bill). We recommend you start searching for positions and then you can work out the specific schedule after you are hired. More info including how to search for positions is at: http://sfs.columbia.edu/content/work-study-overview.

Billing & Payment Questions:

Please note the SIPA Financial Aid Office does not charge tuition or collect payment. The office responsible for these procedures is the Student Financial Services Office. More info is: http://sfs.columbia.edu/billing-basics.  

When will I receive my first bill?
The fall statement will be issued August 14 and due September 15. The full schedule is here.

What happens with the admission deposit I paid?
It will be applied towards the charges for the first semester you are enrolled and you will see the credit on SSOL when you review your student account.

Is there a payment plan?
Yes, for the fall and spring terms (it is not available for the summer).

Can I wire money from a foreign bank to pay my bill?
Yes, please see http://sfs.columbia.edu/content/pay-wire.

Can I waive the health insurance and health services fee?
Domestic full-time students can waive the insurance if they have alternate coverage that meets the criteria. The waiver for the fall term will not be available until July 15 and will be due September 30.  Students cannot waive the health services fee.

If I’m living in Columbia housing, will my rent be on the bill?
Most students in University housing will need to pay their rent separately.

My employer/sponsor is going to pay my bill and needs to receive an invoice from Columbia.  What do I do?   
You will need to set up third party billing.  Please also email our office with a copy of your sponsorship letter.

I’m receiving an external scholarship.  Do I notify you?  Where can they send the payment?
Please email our office the details. They can mail the check to:

Student Financial Services
210 Kent Hall
Attn: Cashiers office
1140 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Other Helpful Resources at Columbia University:

Info for International Students: https://isso.columbia.edu/

Office of Military and Veterans Affairs: http://sfs.columbia.edu/departments/veterans-service

Applying for Financial Aid – It’s FAFSA Time!

Applying for financial aid doesn’t involve too many steps.

Some of you may want to consider financing part of your costs through student loans or work study.  If so, you will need to complete the 2013/14 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA.  To do so, go to www.fafsa.gov.   The information collected on the FAFSA will be used by the SIPA Financial Aid Office to determine your eligibility for student loans available from the federal government and possible work study jobs.

If you completed the FAFSA as an undergraduate, you’ll be familiar with the process, although as a graduate student, no parental information is necessary.   If you have a PIN number that you used as an undergraduate, use the same one.  If have never completed a FAFSA before, you will need a PIN in order to complete the FAFSA; you must go to www.pin.ed.gov, which is linked from www.fafsa.gov.

When you complete the FAFSA, designate Columbia University as the recipient with our school code number, 002707, in Step 6 of the FAFSA.

Do not wait until you have received an admission decision to complete your FAFSA.  While there is no absolute deadline approaching, you should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible; we recommend that you do so by March 1 for a timely review.  Also be aware that this is an annual form, and you will need to complete the 2014/15 FAFSA for your second year should you wish to borrow or be considered for a work study position.  If you are only interested in SIPA scholarships or assistantships and do not wish to borrow loans, you do not need to complete the FAFSA.

The FAFSA is a lengthy form that collects a lot of information.  If you are completing the FAFSA for the first time, it can be confusing.  If you have any questions or need any assistance, contact us at 212-854-6216 or email us at sipa_finaid@columbia.edu.

 

Note: Do not complete a FAFSA if you are an international student; it is only used to determine eligibility for student loans and Work Study available to US citizens, permanent residents and political refugees.

 

Financing your education at SIPA – Part 5

Student Loan Repayment

While SIPA does make funding available through various scholarships and assistantships, approximately 40 percent of our students also use student loans as part of their financing strategy.  If you borrowed student loans as an undergraduate, you may already be familiar with the obligation of repaying your loans.  Just like a mortgage, a car loan or any other type of debt, repaying your student loans can be stressful.  But be aware that there are a number of options available that can help you manage student loans, and even save you money.

Before you make any decisions about borrowing while attending SIPA, we’d like to familiarize you with some of the resources and information that can help you be an informed borrower.

First, plan carefully and borrow only what you need.  There are loan programs from government and private sources that can cover all of your costs…tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, travel expenses…but over a two year period that can add up to lots of debt.  Make sure that you apply for not only all of the funding that SIPA offers, but external sources as well, and also review financial resources you have on hand.  Using some savings now might save you interest-bearing debt later.

The types of loans most SIPA students qualify for include the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan (Congress eliminated the interest subsidy on Direct Loans for graduate students when they passed the Budget Control Act of 2011), the Federal Graduate PLUS loan, the Federal Perkins Loan and various loans from private lenders.  A good source of information for the federal loans is http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans, while a sampling of some private loans can be found here.

Be aware of when your repayment begins…it’s not the same for all loans.  Click here for information on when loans from the federal government (those are the majority of loans borrowed by SIPA students) go into repayment.  And once you have borrowed federal loans (or if you already have), log in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at www.nslds.ed.gov to find out who will be servicing your loan (which is where your payments will be sent).  To log in to NSLDS, you will need your Social Security number and your FAFSA PIN.

In our next student loan repayment entry, we’ll discuss how to find out what your monthly payment will be, along with the different repayment plan options.

 

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

Boiler Image