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Evaluating college acceptance letters

August 6, 2020

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Making the Final Decision
Forward thinking during a pandemic is never wasted effort. Prospective college students are watching from a distance to see how college campuses are providing safety measures for their current students on and off campus. These actions are informing next semester's or next year's students on how to make the final decision for their postsecondary journey.

Considerations when reviewing and comparing your financial aid offers:

  • Is a physical visit to campus possible? If not, you may be able to virtually tour the campus online at: www.campustours.com. Things to consider: distance from home, rural/vs urban, college size, class size, and more.
  • Does the institution fit your personality, personal goals and interests the best?
  • What is the graduation rate of the institution? A college that has a 25% graduation rate means that only 1 out of 4 students graduate! A college that has a 90% graduation rate means that 9 out of 10 students graduate.

Understand your financial aid offer
Once you have applied for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any other financial aid forms required by the college, you will receive a financial aid offer. This offer will detail the types and amounts of financial aid the college is offering you for the upcoming year along with your expected costs for the year. The offer may arrive with your notice of acceptance or may be available online.

Read the fine print
Read your award notification carefully to ensure you understand all terms and conditions. You can accept, decline or reduce any award offered. You may need to complete additional paperwork (i.e. loan applications).

Identify the following items for each college you are comparing

  • Cost of Attendance
    • Includes tuition, fees, housing, meal plan, books, transportation, etc. Some are fixed prices (tuition/fees) while other items are based on your personal financial decisions such as sharing a dorm room vs. a single dorm room.
  • Grants and scholarships: FREE money – does not have to be repaid as long as you meet the grant or scholarship requirements (ASK: is the grant/scholarship renewable?)
  • Work Study
    • Part-time employment opportunities may be available for students who qualify and indicate an interest on the FAFSA or institutional aid applications. You may need to complete additional paperwork (i.e., job applications).
    • Will opportunities for work-study be offered virtually at the college you're interested in?
  • Student Loans
    • NOT free money – MUST be repaid
    • Key words for loans: Direct, Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Parent PLUS, Grad PLUS

Students can accept, decline or reduce the award offered.

Compare
When comparing financial aid offers, consider your final out-of-pocket cost. An offer containing loans may have a higher ultimate out-of-pocket cost than an equivalent offer containing mostly grants.

Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new tool to help understand your financial aid offers. The tool helps you make a plan to pay for costs your aid offer doesn't cover. It also offers student loan help to decide how much you can afford to borrow; breaks down confusing jargon, provides money saving tips and points out pitfalls.

Make your college aware of any special circumstances
Considering the pandemic situation, be mindful that your family's financial situation may change after the FAFSA has been submitted due to unemployment or illness. If this occurs, be sure to report any changes to your college's financial aid office. Have you been awarded additional private scholarships? Any of these changes can affect your offer.

What if it's not enough?
If after reviewing the offer letter you believe that the offer and your family savings are not enough to cover all of your expenses, don't panic! There are other options.

  • Research any and all sources for private scholarships. It may not be too late to apply.
  • Consider any potential benefits from your (or your parent's) place of employment.
  • See if your college offers a payment plan that allows tuition expenses to be spread out over the year.

Additional documentation

Review all acceptance offers and determine:

  • Is additional documentation needed to complete the admissions process?
  • Are instructions provided for setting up your student account?

Meet deadlines
Once you've selected a college that meets your needs and comfort level during the pandemic, you might need to inform the college, in writing, about how much of the offer you plan to accept. If you don't respond by the date indicated, your offer could be in jeopardy.

Help is available. ECMC's The College Place offers free assistance by qualified college access professionals. You can also download a variety of free college resources here: https://www.ecmc.org/students/opportunities-guide-workbook.html and here https://www.ecmc.org/students/resource-guides.html.

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ECMC to serve as third-party guarantor servicer for Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development

August 3, 2020

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Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) announced today that it has completed the conversion of $12.3 billion in loan guarantees from the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (MDHEWD). MDHEWD will continue to serve as the guarantor for the state of Missouri, with ECMC performing functional and operational guarantor work on MDHEWD's behalf.

The conversion represents an expansion of ECMC's third-party guarantor offerings.

"We are excited for the opportunity to partner with MDHEWD to support its mission and help its borrowers successfully repay their loans," said Dan Fisher, president of ECMC.

Established in 1994, ECMC is one of the largest guarantors for the federal student loan program in the country. Since 1996, ECMC has acquired the guaranty agency portfolios of Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut, California, Tennessee, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Maine. Additionally, ECMC has been performing third-party guarantor servicing since 2015 and has the following clients: College Assist, American Student Assistance, Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, Michigan Guaranty Agency and Oklahoma College Assistance Program.

About Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development
The department works to empower Missourians with the skills and education needed for success. More information about MDHEWD can be found at https://dhewd.mo.gov or on Facebook and Twitter @MoDHEWD.

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Plan wisely for college

The following article is from Suffolk News-Herald

July 13, 2020

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Summer is a reality check for recent high school graduates. Those college admission letters that created such excitement have been tempered by the new knowledge of exactly how much parents and students will have to pay or borrow to make up the difference between what financial aid and scholarships will provide. This is particularly true in the present pandemic, when some parents have lost their jobs and students are questioning whether they will get the full "college experience" they were expecting.

Tuition and room and board are not the only college costs. Textbooks, student fees, meals that are not covered by the college plan, and transportation all add up and, in some cases, provide an unwelcome surprise of the actual cost of a year of college away from home.

Most students and parents have at least considered the option of going to community college for a year or two to complete general education requirements. However, not everyone realizes just how much money this option can save. Community colleges across Virginia have instituted a new program called "Guided Pathways." The goal is to ensure that every course a student at a community college takes will transfer as a degree requirement to the university of the student's choice or ensure a student has the possibility of earning a career certificate in the most efficient way possible. Tidewater Community College has articulation agreements with almost every Virginia four-year university, and students have guaranteed admission to the college of their choice if they take certain coursework and maintain the required grade point average.

Another way students can cut college costs is to complete a career certificate at TCC so that they can get a better-paying job to pay their living expenses while completing a four-year degree. A student might not want that job for a lifetime, but a higher-paying job would certainly enable a student to finish college in a chosen career field with far less student loan debt.

A third way to lower college costs significantly is by taking College Level Examination Program tests and earning college credit for what a student has already learned or is willing to study independently. A student can check if the college he or she is planning to attend will take CLEP credits, and in which subjects, by searching the name of the college and CLEP. Although some selective colleges do not accept credit by CLEP examination, most public and private colleges in Virginia do. Successfully passing CLEP tests can earn a student up to a year of college credits at very minimal cost.

Excellent resources are available from the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia at schev.edu/123gotoolkits. Resource guides on multiple topics related to college choices are available at www.ecmc.org/students/resource-guides.html.

Embarking on higher education is not a social decision — it is a business decision. Maturity means delaying present gratification for future long-term benefits. Now is the time to make wise educational decisions and wise financial choices.

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Dan Fisher named president of ECMC

July 8, 2020

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ECMC Group has named Dan Fisher president of its affiliate, Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), effective July 1. Fisher succeeds former ECMC President Jan Hines, who retired after more than 26 years with the organization.

"We are grateful to Jan for her exceptional leadership and guidance, which have been instrumental in advancing our organization over the last quarter century," said Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of ECMC Group. "Looking forward, Dan brings a wealth of expertise in our industry, as well as institutional knowledge that will prove invaluable as we work to further establish ECMC as a postsecondary education leader."

Fisher, who has been with the organization for 19 years, serves as general counsel for ECMC Group—a role he has held for 10 years. He also serves as corporate secretary and will maintain those positions in addition to serving as ECMC president. In his role as president, Fisher is responsible for the management and coordination of all Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and guaranty agency program activities for ECMC. He also oversees the organization's college access centers, training and outreach activities in the states where ECMC is the designated guarantor.

"Jan's tireless efforts to help students have been hallmarks of her tenure," Fisher said. "I look forward to carrying on her legacy of providing stellar products and services to our many borrowers, partners and clients while helping students succeed."

Hines will provide post-transition consulting and support for the remainder of 2020.

Prior to joining ECMC Group, Fisher served on active duty in the U.S. Army as a judge advocate in Georgia and the Washington, D.C. area, where his primary focus was court-martial litigation. Fisher also serves on the national board of directors for the nonprofit Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE), which has 60 state and local chapters focusing on teaching young people the skills to improve their financial literacy. Fisher is admitted to practice in most federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

About ECMC Group
ECMC Group is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help students succeed. Headquartered in Minneapolis, ECMC Group and its family of companies provide financial tools and services, nonprofit career education and funding for innovative programs to help students achieve their academic and professional goals. To learn more, visit www.ecmcgroup.org.

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ECMC awards $264,000 in college scholarships to 44 students in Virginia

July 7, 2020

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Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is proud to recognize 44 high school graduates from the class of 2020 who completed the ECMC Scholars Program. These students come from six select high schools across Virginia, and each earned a $6,000 scholarship.

For the past two years, these students participated in a comprehensive mentoring program designed to help build academic and life skills. Unlike a traditional academic scholarship, students were selected to participate in the program based on their potential—not solely on their academic merit. Working in collaboration with school staff and the ECMC Scholars Program team, students spent their junior and senior years of high school actively preparing for postsecondary education.

"I am so proud of the hard work and effort each one of the students has put in to earning their scholarship and preparing themselves for postsecondary education," said Sabrina Berg, ECMC Scholars Program manager. "In a year like no other, they have overcome obstacles never seen before and they are prepared for success in postsecondary education and beyond."

The scholarship funds can be used for enrollment in a degree or certificate program at an accredited college, university or career and technical education institution. Scholarship funds can be used to help pay for tuition, fees, transportation, housing, food, books and school supplies. In addition, each class of 2020 scholarship recipient has been given the opportunity to receive personalized near-peer college coaching services provided by Beyond 12. This service provides academic, social and emotional support students need to persist in postsecondary education.

"Now more than ever, it is important to provide students with a holistic approach to helping them get to and through postsecondary education," said Paula Craw, ECMC vice president of student success and outreach. "The ECMC Scholars Program is designed to help students with challenges that may prevent them from reaching their education goals."

Since 2005, ECMC has awarded $8.7 million to 1,455 ECMC Scholars students in Virginia alone. Over the past 16 years, ECMC has awarded $18.5 million in scholarships to 3,091 students in Virginia, Oregon and Connecticut.

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