Three financial aid resources for people in public service

If you are in a public service career and carrying—or considering—student debt, your life just got a little easier.

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You'll make it through these piles! (Photo from troismarteaux on Flickr/Creative Commons

Here are three resources to help you navigate your repayment options:

1. AskHeatherJarvis.com

Heather Jarvis is a national expert on public service loan forgiveness who contributed to student debt relief policy for the House Education Committee and others in Congress. Her new site is a clearinghouse of information about managing your debt while working in a mission-based career.

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2. IBRinfo.org

IBRinfo is an independent information hub about income-based student loan repayment and public service loan forgiveness – two relatively new federal programs that help student borrowers afford an education.

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3. EdAward.org

For former AmeriCorps, VISTA, and NCCC members out there, check out the official CNCS website on the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. The Education Award—around $5,000—can be used to pay back student loans and/or to pay tuition at qualifying schools.

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If you’re thinking ahead about financial aid for grad school, consider these additional resources from Idealist:

Cross posted from Idealist.org.

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For Corps Members: Free or Low-Cost Gift Ideas for People You Love

homemade soap, wrapped in cloth

Giving gifts when you are a corps member.

Last year I wrote about how people can show love to the corps member in their life through their holiday gift-giving. This year I wanted to offer some ideas about how corps members themselves can give gifts when their incomes are often incredibly limited.

I asked The New Service contributors and currently serving corps participants Marissa Pherson of AmeriCorps VISTA and Leslie Dolland of Health Corps to share their thoughts, too. Here are the ideas we’ve collectively come up with.

Setting the Stage for Frugal Gift Exchange

If you are gathering many other corps members, extended family, or among a group of old friends, consider throwing a White Elephant party swapping gifts doesn’t have to be expensive when you’re swapping things you already own.

If you are exchanging gifts individually with others — your partner, close friends, family members, and/or fellow corps members — consider setting some ground rules such as: Continue reading

Mistakes I’ve Made, Lessons I’ve Learned…Wisdom from a Second-Year VISTA

Marissa Pherson, AmeriCorps VISTA

Marissa Pherson, AmeriCorps VISTA

A second-year VISTA and new blogger shares her thoughts with new members of her team.

Over-communicate with everyone! In the beginning, I didn’t communicate enough with off-site program staff. They’re super busy and may not be easy to get in touch with, but be persistent and do your part.

Keep track of names, contact info and the type of contact. Another way to think of this is: Imagine on your way home from work one night you get hit by a bus and are in a coma (god forbid). The world continues to go on without you – whoever has to take over for you needs to have something to go on. Can they figure out your mess of notes?

On this note, start with the end in sight. What about the VISTA that replaces you eventually?  Do you want to have to write a procedures handbook to pass on to them during your last week as a VISTA Continue reading

Yellow Ribbon Program Makes School More Affordable for Vets

Military service member saluting the U.S. flagThe Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 created a new way to help members of the military pay for school.

Currently the the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays up to the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition and fees. However, if you’re heading to a private college, going to grad school, and/or are not qualified to pay in-state tuition, your expenses may exceed the GI Bill benefit. The Yellow Ribbon Program — taking effect at participating schools on August 1st, 2009 — attempts to close the gap between GI Bill education benefits, and the true cost of many educational opportunities.

As part of the Yellow Ribbon Program, schools can volunteer to contribute up to 50 percent of that gap between their own costs and the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition and fees. The government then matches the school’s Continue reading

Income Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness are Here!

Anne.Oeldorf's Flickr Photostream

Anne.Oeldorf's Flickr Photostream

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 officially goes into effect today, July 1st, and income-based repayment (IBR) applications are now available from many major lenders, including the U.S. Department of Education.

According to IBRinfo.org, you should contact your lender directly to apply for IBR.

Also, take a look at the resources mentioned in this post as well as IBRInfo.org’s FAQ.

According to IBRInfo.org, if you have exhausted other avenues and still face “serious problems” applying for IBR, Continue reading

What Happened to Getting Rid of the Taxes on the Education Award?

Institutions that Match the Ed AwardWhen the various bills that became the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act were in play, there was talk about eliminating the taxes from the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.

In case you are new to national service, the education award is the post-service benefit received by AmeriCorps and VISTA members that can help them pay for educational expenses and/or student loans. It’s considered taxable income.

It was never the Kennedy bill but rather a separate bill introduced by Senator Dodd of Connecticut that would have ended the tax on the education award. Late in the process, elements of Dodd’s national service bills were incorporated into the Serve America Act. However, the elimination of the taxes on the education award was not one of those elements. The tax remains.

I called Senator’s Dodd office last week and asked a staffer if there were any plans to follow through with Continue reading

Low-Income, High-Debt Program for Student Borrowers Starts in July

When I first heard about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that cancels student loandebt after 10 years for nonprofit workers, I wasn’t that excited. My thinking was that many student loans are on a 10 or 15 year repayment schedule and the savings wouldn’t be that substantial.

Income Based Repayment Calculator

Income Based Repayment Calculator

I changed my tune big time when I learned about a second program called Income-Based Repayment (IBR) that works in tandem with public service loan forgiveness. Designed to assist low income/high debt student borrowers, IBR lets people making AmeriCorps/VISTA/grassroots nonprofit-level wages make student loan payments as small as 0-$5 per month (based on income) and those payments count toward the 10 years needed for borrowers to get their larger debt forgiven.

The reason I write this now is that the Income Based Repayment program begins next month. If you are interested, first learn more about it, then search for it on your lender’s website and apply for the program online.

Finaid. org offers a really great calculator that shows how much you might save (or not) using these programs versus a standard loan repayment program. Even if you’re income is higher than average for the nonprofit field, the program could offer substantial savings.

I also prepared a two-page draft document on the information most relevant to members serving in AmeriCorps or VISTA. Like I said, this is a draft document and I will be revising and simplifying it as my understanding of these programs evolves.

You can also take a look at this post about the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that offers some basic facts and resources.