Tagged: funds

Financial Aid Fashion Blogging

So this is my one (and most likely only) chance to join the myriad of “fashion bloggers” out there. Definitely a bucket list item I can now cross off.
So what’s the connection between my real life world of financial aid and the far more interesting world of fashion… budgeting of course (my favorite topic of conversation).

Our 2013-2014 Cost Of Living Survey indicated that on average, YLS students spent $642 on professional clothing last academic year (a significant jump of 18% over what was spent the prior year). That’s a big bite out of the already stretched student budget.

But the reality is that you can indeed “dress for success… for less” as our October 20th Financial Literacy Lunch Workshop proved. Fashion editor Shanelle Rein Olowokere (In Style, Entertainment Weekly, People Style Watch, PEOPLE.com and currently senior fashion editor at Goodhousekeeping.com) brought her fashion sense and sensibility to YLS.

Shanelle Points

Shanelle recognized that YLS students face two distinct challenges- dressing for the nonprofit/public service work environment and dressing for the far more conservative and formal law firm setting. With clothing generously provided by THE LOFT, Shanelle used real YLS models to demonstrate two looks for both the conservative (think firm or clerkship) to casual (nonprofits or new media) work places. Our special thanks to our two models Chelsea Lane-Miller’ 17 and Irina Anta’ 15 for agreeing to walk our makeshift runway (well, okay just the amphitheater stairs in Room 127) . In the photo on the left, Shanelle (right) highlights some of the features on Irina’s “casual work environment” LOFT look , while Chelsea (middle) waits to show a LOFT suit appropriate for “firm wear”. And Shanelle didn’t forget the men- she included in her presentations visuals for optimum casual and conservative looks for them as well.

So here are some of the key takeaways that Shanelle shared-

1) The absolute need to find the right fit- whether that means ignoring the sizing label, making friends with your local tailor or just knowing your body enough to realize what looks right on you!

2) Have a shopping strategy- know how much you can spend (i.e. the all-important budget), know what you need (make a list!), research on line first (saves lots of time browsing through stores) and shop smart (see something you like… wait for it to go on sale!)

3) Work those accessories- want to express your individual style while wearing a relatively conservative wardrobe? Let your accessories (tie, scarf etc.) do the talking for you. But don’t forget that you want quality in those accessories so that they fit well and will last … whether in good (aka comfortable) shoes or leather handbags .

Shanelle smilesBeyond her basic presentation, Shanelle fielded a lively Q&A session with students that touched on every fashion aspect imaginable from appropriate winter outerwear (answer- classic trench coat and wool coat), whether you can wear black shoes with navy pants (answer- absolutely), if black flat shoes are appropriate (answer- depending on the work environment and if the shoe was constructed well i.e. no ballet shoes), how to work with a tailor (answer- start with alterations to some of your less expensive clothing to see if you like their work before giving them any of your higher quality suits or dresses) to whether you can use a nice leather tote bag in lieu of a purse (answer- yes!) .

Above all Shanelle emphasized how important clothes are to not just looking professional but feeling good about yourself in the workplace, which ultimately help your performance. And she gave tips galore on inexpensive brands, sale strategies (shopstyle.com!) and continually proved that you can indeed dress well on a budget (provided you make a budget!).

And so ends this post from the self-proclaimed “Financial Aid Fashionista”!

Get On Board the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Train

Any 3L who has already come in for a loan counseling session has probably heard my (overused) analogy of “ getting on the COAP train and riding it to the end of the station”, meaning determining a way to maximize your COAP benefits for a full ten years of eligibility. Well, there’s another train that you may also wish to ride either exclusive of or in tandem with COAP…. Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness was initially established by Congress with the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. And despite the fact that its been around for 6 years, as a recent article in the New York Times reported, the program has been underused. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has even developed an “Employer’s Guide to Assisting Employees With Student Loan Repayment” to encourage public service employers to start actively promote PSLF among their workforces.

So why aren’t more people taking advantage of this “free” loan forgiveness? Two factors come to mind:

First, while the program was launched in 2007, the Department of Education had no system in place to actually track public service employment until 2012 (yes five years into the program!). But now that a system has been established with an annual ‘Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Form” and a loan servicer (Fed Loans) appointed as the sole servicer for borrowers in this program, these issues should be addressed going forward.

Second, as the article in the Times references, is the complexity of who gets PSLF for what loans under what conditions. Basically PSLF works this way… IF the borrower makes 120 separate, one time monthly payments IN certain loan repayment plans WHILE maintaining working in a public service organization(s) during that 120 month period THEN the borrower may have the remaining balances on the Direct Loans forgiven. For more information on what the IF, IN, WHILE AND THEN really means – see the federal PSLF website for the program’s specific eligibility requirements.

Because what I wanted to focus on in this post are the two questions I get asked most frequently by students considering PSLF :

Question 1: If I have COAP, why would I need Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

The general answer in most cases would be, if you have full COAP eligibility for all ten years of COAP (again the COAP train analogy), then most likely you would not even need to consider Public Service Loan Forgiveness as an option. But given changes in your own income, the addition of a spouse income, accumulated assets or even the amount of your total debt burden, there may be situations where based on the COAP formula you “income out” of COAP (i.e. your assessed COAP contribution surpasses the calculated COAP repayment amount based on either the 15 year repayment in COAP years 1-5 or the 5 year repayment in COAP years 6-10). In that situation if you were not eligible for COAP but still were employed in public service (and committed to it for the balance of the 120 loan payments) then PSLF might be a viable alternative for you. The issue would be that you would have to have a sense of that happening right from the outset of your loan repayment to insure you got on one of the eligible PSLF repayment plans from the get go and started banking those 120 payments as soon as possible. This is where one of our loan repayment counseling sessions can really assist you because part of that process is actually estimating your COAP eligibility (based on projected income and loan debt) for the full 10 years of COAP so that you can see how long you might receive support and if you should be making accommodations for PSLF as an option.

Question 2: How likely is it the Public Service Loan Forgiveness will be around when I actually need it?

We have no indications that PSLF is going anywhere yet this question continues to haunt us Financial Aid folks. Why? Do the math.. the program started in 2007 which means the first “graduating class” (i.e. the first group of borrowers to complete the 120 payments) won’t happen until 2017. That’s the magic moment when all these people (who up until last year when they required people in PSLF to identify themselves we had no idea existed) will step forward and ask the government to forgive the balance of their loans and write off their debt. Why is that significant? Because unlike other federal loan forgiveness programs where the forgiven debt is a taxable occurence (i.e. must be declared as income by the borrower in the tax year in which it is forgiven) in Public Service Loan Forgiveness the forgiven debt is not taxable . So while you could argue that the actual forgiveness of PSLF loans doesn’t have a direct cost to the government (these are all federal loans so the debt is “written off”) it could have a significant tax loss which may make it a target for review. On the optimistic future side for PSLF it should be noted that PSLF is not subject to appropriations or the budgetary process so literally it would take an act of Congress for it to go away. And if that were to happen (switch to pessimistic side) one would also hope that individuals currently clocking time in the program would be grandfathered to completion. The reality is that I don’t have a crystal ball capable of predicting the long term future of PSLF let alone any other federal aid program.

Want to learn more about if Public Service Loan Forgiveness is right for you or how it can work with COAP? Come to our COAP In Action workshop this spring where we dedicate a portion of the session to the specifics of PSLF. Want an individual loan counseling session to chart out your COAP eligibility? Contact the Financial Aid Office at financialaid.law@yale.edu.

“Fixed- Variable” And Other Student Loan Oxymorons

The recent Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 sped its way through Congress and the President’s desk on its way to significantly changing the federal student loan landscape. Let’s take a looks at it and see what are the upsides and what are the downsides….

First I need to say up front that anytime I see the words “bipartisan” anything I have to believe it’s a good thing. So let’s acknowledge that this really was a good faith effort on the part of Congress to address the student loan crisis. How effective their solution will be in providing real term debt relief may be difficult to assess in the immediate.

The major change of this act was to move the present federal loan system from one where Congress established interest rates to a system where interest rates are linked to the financial markets. Every academic year a new interest rate would be established for both Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Graduate Plus Loans. The rate would be based on the high yield of the 10 year Treasury Note (T-bills) prior to June 1 plus additional add-ons of 3.6% for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan and 4.6% for the Grad Plus Loan. So for academic year 13-14 we are looking at a 5.41% interest rate on the Direct Unsubsidized Loan (previously 6.8%) and a 6.41% interest rate on the Grad Plus loan (previously 7.9%).

The most common question asked of any loan regarding interest is … is this a fixed or variable rate? And the great answer regarding these new student loan is that it’s termed a “fixed-variable” rate. (Seriously that’s a better oxymoron than “jumbo shrimp”). What it means is that while the interest rates will change and be re-established every academic year depending on the T-bill and market, once that interest rate is established it will be locked in for the life of the loan through both your in-school enrollment and your full repayment. What that translates to is that you could end up finishing YLS with six different loans (a Direct Unsubsidized and Grad Plus per year for three years) all with different interest rates. That could make loan repayment just a little challenging but also may afford you a good opportunity to pay off your loans strategically using a “debt stacking” model (i.e. pay off the highest interest rate loans first).

It may also make accepting your aid award each year difficult, as you would not have confirmation of what your loan interest rates would be for the forthcoming academic year until after June 1 annually. It would put you on a very tight timeframe to decide if you would then take the loans at that rate or perhaps look at private loan alternatives and get it all sorted out by the time the August 1 bills are due.

Probably the biggest unknown out there is how high can the interest rates rise and ,depending again on the health of the market, how fast would it get there. As a safeguard, Congress did build “maximum” rates into the “fixed-variable” plan… for Direct Unsubsidized it’s a 9.5% rate and for the Grad PLUS it’s 10.5%. The reality is that if the economy improves these rates could increase quickly (some experts are even predicting that as earlier as 2015 we could already exceed the existing 6.8% on the Direct Unsubsidized loan.). Though the Congressional Budget Office predicts we would not reach the maximum interest rates within the next ten years. We all want fast economic recovery but we may be developing a culture of current students who need it to happen at a slightly slower pace until they graduate.

So why did Congress take this approach in addressing the student loan crisis? According to the bill’s proponents the measure was a “victory” for taxpayer who won’t be forced to subsidize student loan rates arbitrarily set by politicians. In addition the bill is estimated to reduce the deficit by $715 million over the next decade. Graduate and Professional students, the often ignored in the student loan debate, probably also want to applaud the fact that the bill actually addresses their loans.

Critics of the bill (including many student and consumer groups) are worried that the maximum caps are still far too high and should have been set lower to protect future borrowers – i.e. are we offering an immediate interest rate reduction to today’s current college student but on the backs of our current middle schoolers.

And the other question behind all this is… is how permanent is this solution? Would this all change (again) when Congress takes its rewrite of the Higher Education Act this Fall? Stay tuned.

Tonight’s Top Ten Category … Things You Need to Know About Using Your Financial Aid …

Note- this post has been updated since its original publication in May 2013
Okay, I couldn’t resist adding one more to the myriad of over used Top Ten Lists out there (David Letterman what have you wrought in our society!!). But this is a pretty important one to at least take a look at because it’s all about what you need to do to insure your financial aid actually materializes to pay your tuition bill and actually is accessible for you to pay your own bills. So… (drumroll….)

#10 – You will not receive a bill – it’s true..…not in the sense of a bill mailed or emailed to you directly. What you will get is an email that a July 1 billing (due August 1) for charges for the Fall  term is available for you to review on the Student Information System (SIS).

#9 – You may not need to actually pay the bill – if you have accepted enough financial aid between loans and scholarship funds to fully cover the Fall term (i.e. that’s 50% of your total aid for the year) your financial aid will appear on the July 1 billing statement as anticipated aid. Provided you have enough accepted financial aid to cover the bill, you will not need to make any payments on the due date of August 1. However, the only way that your financial aid appears on your bill is if you have completed the financial aid process by submitting all required tax returns and the Notification and Confirmation form.

#8 – You may need to actually pay the bill – if you have declined financial aid, intend to pay on your own or have not accepted enough financial aid to cover the Fall term bill you will owe a balance that must be paid by August 1st .

#7 – There are consequences (bad things) if you do not pay the bill in full by the deadline… including late fees added to your account and holds (including a registration hold if the bill is not paid by the time you get to YLS which will prohibit you from registering with your class and getting your course schedule).

#6 – Your loans are not really loans yet…there are steps that need to happen in the summer to actually “set up” your loans. You will get an email from Student Financial Services mid-summer (usually mid to late July) instructing you to complete loan paperwork electronically on the SIS system including a promissory note, truth-in-lending statements (TILAs), Title IV authorizations and an entrance counseling session (which are not counseling sessions at all but an online information survey). Documents will differ depending on what type of loan(s) you have and you will also need to complete separate promissory notes for each loan (including both the federal Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate Plus loans).

#5 – The Asset Verification Form is the final piece of the financial aid puzzle – this form must be completed within the window of after July 1st and by August 1st (no earlier and no later) allowing us to substantiate the estimate you made on Need Access for your total assets (and upon which we based the asset contribution in your aid award). Depending on the balances reported on this Verification form aid awards will be adjusted (both increases and decreases). Find this form in your Admissions Binder or on our website. Failure to submit by the deadline will put a hold on all financial aid funds.

#4 – Financial aid (loans and scholarship) disburse three days prior to the start of the term – with no exception. That’s in keeping with federal regulations and there is no getting around that. What that means is there is no “early” disbursal of aid for any financial reasons or hardships. So you will have to come prepared to pay for critical things you need (shelter, food, etc.) with your own funds from the time you move to New Haven through orientation.

#3 – Refunds on Financial Aid need to be requested in order to disburse. Refunds are the technical term for financial aid funds you have accepted for the sake of your own living expenses. Refunds are generated when all the Yale direct charges are paid and there are still excess funds on your account. However, in order to gain access to these funds you must “request a refund” on the SIS system. And you need to do this each semester or anytime you want a refund (i.e. those funds are not going to come to you automatically just because they are yours). And the earliest you are going to receive a refund is the first day of term. But again because there is no set or guaranteed date for the refund (albeit per federal regulations schools have 18 days from start of the term to issue and Yale does an extraordinary job of getting refunds to students in a timely manner) make the necessary allowances in your cash flow to survive.

#2 – There are things you can do to expedite the refund. First, sign up for automatic deposit so that the refund is deposited directly into your own bank account and you are not waiting for a paper check to be issued. Instructions on this process can be found on the Student Financial Services website . Second, request the refund a couple of days before the first day of term so that as soon as the excess funds are generated the refund process will already be in process.

#1 – Reach out to the Financial Aid Office for questions and help. As as you have just read a lot of fairly complex things need to happen on a certain timeframe, in a certain order over the next few months to ensure that you actually have funds in hand come the first days of classes. Don’t let a missed step leave you without the money you need. (Try as some have you can’t survive by living off the free candy that the Financial Aid Office always has available in our candy dish). So call us, email us or come visit us anytime if something in the process needs to be clarified.

The Price of Solitude … the cost of living with or without a roommate

I know that this is the time of the year when our new admits are scrambling to find housing and put deposits down before someone else snatches up a good apartment. Lots of pressure to insure that you have a place to actually “land” when you get here in August.

And not wanting to add any additional pressure onto those tough, timely choices but…. thought it would be worth just throwing out a few numbers which show why we advocate that students give serious cost consideration to finding roommates. Yes, I know that the thought of sharing space with someone you barely know at this stage of your life probably just makes you groan. Are they going to “mistakenly” eat your peanut butter… probably yes? Are they going to play some unbearable (you fill in the genre) music night and day … most likely. And are they going to have a whole warren of dust bunnies living under their bad? Absolutely. They will invariably do things to annoy you and impede your independence.

But what they will also do is save you considerable money in your student budget. Here’s why we know that… as some of you may have read on the blog post “The Means to Live Within Your Means” we do an annual costs of living survey among current students to assess if the number we use for “living expenses” in the student budget is accurate (which it is). What that survey also shows us is the overall cost differential between living alone, living with one roommate and living with two or more roommates.

COL Roommate Chart

Using the example of the cost differential of single to one roommate.. that’s $203 per month or $1,827 per academic year or $5,481 over a 3 year JD degree. So let’s say that you chose to live alone and let’s suppose that you then have to borrow ( in a Grad Plus loan) the additional funds of the cost differential in loans in order to make up for that extra expense of living alone. That $5,481 extra you borrowed over your 3 year enrollment translates to $7,946 on a 10 year loan repayment and $12,582 on a 25 year loan repayment. (And that is not factoring in the interest that is building on the borrowed amount while you are enrolled). So you just spent at a minimum $7,946 to live without a roommate. Is it worth it?

You are going to hear two things ad nauseum from me during your enrollment. First, you have a limited amount of money to live on in your student budget. Basically you are on a fixed income (and you didn’t even have to wait till social security). You can live adequately on our student budget provided you make some fiscally sound life choices. Second, any opportunities that you have to mimimize your borrowing saves you considerable funds in the future. Sacrifice a little now for long term financial gain. And choosing whether to live alone or with a roommate is one of the first choices you make that will impact both budgeting and borrowing.

Apples to Apples (or at least Granny Smith to Macintosh): Comparing Aid Award Letters

Note this blog was updated from its original April 2013 publication.

This is the season when our office gets a lot of requests to match aid awards from other Law Schools. But as a need-based institution we can only review or change an aid award if there is a change in financial circumstances which affects need. The existence of an alternative scholarship does not affect need or allow the leveraging of additional YLS funds.

What we will do when you reach out to us with this request is two things. First, we will do a re-review of your Need Access and FAFSA applications to ensure that we have understood your financial situation correctly. We recognize the fact that the data on those forms often does not tell the full story of an applicant (or their parents) and as such it’s helpful to dig a little deeper into what has been reported. Sometime the student has miscalculated what assets they will have available as of September 1st (which is the key number we use in calculating the asset contribution – not the data that reflects the assets you had at the time you completed the application). Or sometimes we will note that the student or parent had a one-time influx of income which is not representative of what their annual income truly is. Again, adjustments to the aid award can be made if we determine that the financial need data should be revised.

Second, we will talk with you about how to look at our aid award in the context of other awards you may have received. We are big believers in the “look before you buy” philosophy. Often we share the following points in how to effectively compare aid awards:

— As previously stated, it’s not possible to do a direct (my apples to apples analogy) comparison of “merit” based awards vs. need based awards because they simply are not done on the same principles.

— With merit-based awards that support tuition only, you want to be conscious, therefore, of how you will then fund your living expenses (and what realistically are those living expenses). If you are borrowing loans to support your personal expenses and living in a high cost city this could be substantial loan debt. Which then leads to the question: is this loan debt borrowed for living costs covered under the institution’s LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program)? Which in turn leads to the larger question of comparing that LRAP to other LRAPs available.

— LRAPS in general have to factor into any aid award comparison as a “back end” scholarship. It’s not just about what you are getting in the initial aid award to fund those three (short) years of law school, it’s also about what support you will receive to assist in the long term repayment of the debt.

— How was the aid award made? At YLS we make it a point to show on the aid award letter the entire progressive calculation: Budget minus Contribution (Student, Parent, Spouse) = Need. Need is first met by unit loan and then by Institutional Scholarship. You can see exactly how we are arriving at bottom line numbers. It’s all very transparent and equitably applied to all students. If you are going to do a direct comparison of aid awards you will need to understand exactly how each element of the award was calculated by each institution.

— The cost of living differential is critical. Many people focus on the tuition and fees in looking at their student budgets. But let’s talk about the importance of the cost of living allotment. The reality is that the cost of living allotment is the only part of the student budget which you can control (you can’t change tuition, fees or health costs or anything else that will be billed from the school) but you can live on less (and more ) that what is budgeted for living. So it’s important to understand how exactly each school calculates the cost of living and if it’s a realistic number. In the case of YLS we conduct a Cost of Living survey annually with all our JD students to assess how much they are actually paying for rent, utilities, internet, phone, food etc. This year (2014-2015) the average monthly cost for all living expenses was $1,631 which at a nine month academic year was an average of $14,679. And we presently budget $17,000 in our 15-16 academic year student budget so we provide a buffer for other expenses. Bottom line — we are pretty confident that the cost of living allotment is accurate and is going to allow you to make out okay here in New Haven.

— Another related issue is evaluating if increased scholarship support is only supporting a higher cost of living. For example, say you received $3,000 more in scholarship support from another institution than YLS but in looking at their Cost of Living allotment in their budget (assuming their budget includes that breakdown) you see that it costs $3,000 more to live there than the YLS New Haven allotment. You really haven’t gained anything in that extra $3,000 because it’s just going to pay for a cost of living differential.

We recognize that deciphering multiple aid awards (all usually looking different, calculated different etc.) is a challenge. We are always willing to talk about how YLS calculates our award.

The Means To Live Within Your Means

I could give a million and one euphemistic quotes on saving money. My personal favorite: “if saving money is wrong, I don’t want to be right” from that wise sage William Shatner (presumably as the Priceline Negotiator and not Captain Kirk).

The bottom line is that as a YLS student we expect you to live within a budget and,as such, assume that you will need to modify spending and make financial sacrifices along the way. The same budget or Cost of Attendance must be applied to all students within the same degree program. Why do we do this? Because the Department of Education Title IV federal regulations which allow us to disburse federal loans dictate that we must do this… “students must be awarded on the basis of a Cost of Attendance comprised of allowable costs assessed all students carrying the same academic workload”.

What the regulations do allow is that every school can develop their own budgets based on estimate “allowable” costs specific to their institution and their student populations. In the case of YLS we do something that not every school does… each year we survey our current students on their primary “living” costs to ensure that what we are allotting for this expense is (again as defined by the federal regulations) “reasonable”.

This year 44% of our current enrollment (including both JD and Graduate students) responded to the “Cost of Living” survey (up from 38% last year). That’s a very good response rate and as such probably gives us a pretty accurate sampling. Aside from the obvious data on “rent” or housing we individually poll on a variety of other expense types including utilities, phone, cable/internet, food and local transportation. We average those individual expenses by type and then add them together to determine a typical inclusive “monthly” expense which we can then project for the nine month academic year to determine an average “cost of living” . The result for 2012-2013 is:

COL Table Black White

The survey also yields other interesting facts on how YLS students live which we factor into our decision on the cost of living allotment:

  • The majority of our students (35.6%) make the decision to live alone and, as such, are most likely incurring higher monthly costs (Although we did see a slight increase (18% to 22%) in the number of students living with two or more roommates from last year to this year’s survey).Col Living arrangement Chart 3
  • Most students are paying rents in either the $600-$800 range (31%) or $800-$1000 range (25%) Though we did see an increase (from last year) in the number of students at the extreme low end $400-$600 of the rent scale. Again in the survey rent was defined as the portion of the monthly payment that you personally are responsible for.
  • Surprising (to me at least) …our 1L students have the lowest total living costs per academic year ($14,031) while our 3Ls have the highest ($16,074). I would welcome feedback on the blog from 3Ls as to why that occurs.COL by class color version

The survey also monitors some additional expenses including books/class supplies where the average of $849 per year is within the $1,000 allotment already included in the student budget as a separate allowance. Average childcare costs in the survey were $10,377 per year and YLS presently allows an additional $17,500 in childcare costs to be covered by non COAP eligible loans.

Finally, the survey asks an open ended question regarding “what other ongoing expenses do you have not captured elsewhere on the survey”? There is always a great diversity in the answers to this question – my personal favorites this year being the response of “Gym, Tan, Laundry” (did you seriously think you could slip a Jersey Shore reference in there and I would not get it?) .

Of these “ongoing expenses” the most common response was Travel- particularly as cited for the holidays and to visit significant others. YLS specifically budgets an equitable travel allowance into all student budgets based on home state (as reported on the Need Access application or FAFSA.) The allotment is based on making two roundtrips- getting to YLS in the Fall, going home for the holiday break in December, returning to YLS in January and going home at the end of the academic year in May. Any other travel beyond that schedule is a personal budget choice. However always be aware that if emergency travel or if a personal crisis arises which necessitates travel, we can exercise professional judgment based on a justifiable expense to increase the travel allotment. As much of a romantic as I am, visiting a love sick significant other does not constitute “emergency” travel.

I also want to address a survey comment that YLS cost of living is less than other Yale Graduate and Professional Schools. The reality is that we have one of the highest cost of living allowances because on top of the basic living expense we build travel and books/supplies as separate budget items. Most of the other G&P schools are incorporating those costs in their general living allowance.

So… the reality is that the current $17,000 allowance well surpasses the average costs of $15,003 per academic year as documented in survey and provides a buffer of almost $2,000 to support those other “ongoing expenses”- however you may prioritize them. As such, we feel the $17,000 living allotment, in addition to the travel allowance by state and with the book/supplies allowance of $1,000, meets the federal guidelines as “reasonable” expenses for the 2013-2014 student budget.

Does it meet your own personal needs? Maybe not. Does it allow you to maintain a standard of living to which you are accustomed? Maybe not. But it’s still an equitable allowance to live “like a student” for the short time that you are here in New Haven. Will you need to make some sacrifices or make priorities? Probably. Is it going to be a challenge to live on what is essentially “fixed income&rdqurdquo;? Most likely yes. It is going to be a difficult to receive an influx of funds at the start of a term (no more weekly paychecks) that then has to stretch for several months? Of course. Ultimately will you need to carefully budget your funds? Absolutely yes.

And that’s also where the Financial Aid Office comes in… to support you as you face the potential challenge of living within that allowance and to assist you in that budgeting process. Our office has many budgeting tools and web resources that we can share with you. We can also sit down with you through one on one counseling to actually develop a personal budget based on your own financial aid, your expected refund and your monthly expenses. We also offer workshops throughout the year which provide basic budgeting how tos, manageable spending tips and credit dos and don’ts .

Because despite the preconceived notion that the budget in some way “hinders” you, the reality is that the budget parameters actually “help” you minimize your overall loan borrowing and , ultimately, ensures that 25-30 years from now you are still not paying off the lifestyle “choices” you made in law school .

Scholarships and the Bewares…

How often do we read or hear about something and think, “Come on, that is too good to be true!” Well…

All scholarships are a form of gift aid, money that does not need to be repaid (a wonderful thing) and it reduces debt (another wonderful thing)!!!!

To find scholarships to help pay for school, personal expenses, etc., can be difficult because where does one start and how would one know what is legitimate and what is not?

ALWAYS keep your eye out for scams:

If it is too good to be true – probably a scam

If you are asked to come to a free seminar/information session – probably a scam

Scholarships are FREE to apply for, so if there is a cost – probably a scam

If it states, “cannot get this information anywhere else” – probably a scam

The scholarship establishment states that they can do all the work for you – probably a scam

When a scholarship is awarded, notification is always sent by mail, you will NOT be notified by telephone

Be aware of 900 area codes

Walk away from pressured sales

Be suspicious of endorsements

When awarded the scholarship, always keep a copy of the letter!

Here are a few legitimate scholarship websites to review:





Ask around…get ideas and suggestions on where to look for scholarships through other foundations, friends, family or public libraries in surrounding towns.

Good luck on your quest! Remember, the Financial Aid Office is always open…come by and visit anytime!

Kellie signing out…

“Upgrade” With Help from A YLS Technology Loan

In April, I made the big leap and ditched my dinosaur of a home PC for an IPad (such are the dangers of working a block away from the allure of the Apple Store). But for all of us there comes a time when no matter how trusty the old computer has been or what fond memories you may have of it … it’s just time to let it go quietly into the night.

So this is reminder that if you are at that point you can avail yourself of the YLS Technology Loan to make that new purchase. The loan is made on a reimbursement basis meaning that you will need to make and fund the purchase yourself (not just “ordered” but actually purchased). After doing so bring the receipts to the Financial Aid Office and complete a budget revision form.

Reimbursement is made by adding an additional loan to your financial aid award package. In most cases this will be an additional Graduate PLUS loan or Yale Graduate and Professional Loan (for international students). If you already have a Grad Plus or Yale G&P loan in place adding the extra loan requires no additional loan paperwork or promissory notes. There is one tricky thing in terms of cash flow… because student loans must disburse 50% for Fall term and 50% for Spring if you purchase a computer in the summer or at any time in the Fall term you won’t have the full reimbursement until the beginning of the spring term when the second installment of the loan comes in. Some students have waited to purchase until the very end of the Fall term or even into the Spring term itself so that the full reimbursement comes in all at once.

The reimbursement amount is based on your year at YLS. 1Ls are reimbursed at $3,000, 2Ls at $2,000 and 3Ls at $1,000. As such, if you are planning on taking advantage of this buying the computer in the 1L year will allow the maximum reimbursement. Any computer purchases made in the summer are reimbursable but only at the next academic year level (because the loans will not be put into place until that academic year). So if you are a rising 3L and purchase a computer in July- you will be set up with a $1,000 technology loan for the 2012-2013 academic year.

What constitutes “technology” for the sake of this loan? Well we are making the loan on the basis that the technology purchased is essential and necessary to your studies at YLS. That being said we maintain a fairly liberal definition of what we will allow under this reimbursement. In addition to a core computer we would allow accessories and or ancillary devices (printer, scanner etc.) up to the reimbursement level if all purchased at the same time. If you feel a tablet or IPad serves your needs better than a PC or Macbook that’s fine as well. But keep in mind it is a one time only reimbursement so whatever you purchase you will need to live with for the balance of your YLS life.

How 3Ls Can Achieve “Low Debt, High Gain” (Workshop Series)

Beginning in April, the Financial Aid Office will be offering the “Low Debt, High Gain” workshop series designed to give some practical, real world advice for our 3L students as they begin their transition from Yale Law School. And while each workshop is individual, the most benefit will come if you participate in all three because, as a series, they have been designed to build on one another.

The workshops will be held on consecutive Mondays beginning April 2 from 12:10:-1:00 p.m. in Room 128. We start off on April 2nd with Lori Moore, Director of Financial Literacy for the Access Group. Some of you may have loans held by the Access Group and many of you may know them as the people who brought you the Need Access financial aid application each year. Lori will kick off the series by providing an overview of loan repayment – the various plans you as the borrower can choose from, understanding who holds your loan and who is “servicing” it, as well as your rights and responsibilities as a borrower.

Once Lori has brought you up to speed on loan repayment and options, it’s time to see how COAP then coordinates with your repayment plan. On April 9th, Associate Dean Asha Rangappa and myself will present “Coping Through COAP” which will answer all the basic questions on how COAP awards are determined, what loans are covered, how and when to make application, as well as deal with the COAP intricacies of spouses, dependents, clerkships and assets.

Finally, now that Workshop 1 and 2 has sorted out all your loan repayment, it’s time to move onto larger fiscal issues you will face. That’s where financial planner John Caserta comes in with his workshop on April 16th entitled “Your Financial Future Starts Now”. John, a Yale college alum, has been offering this workshop to YLS students for a number of years and it has always been well received. John uses the analogy of “building your financial castle” to talk about personal spending plans, investment and insurance basics, understanding employee benefit packages and even focuses on the need to start thinking about your retirement (before you have even graduated !!!).

Even more incentive to attend- since the workshops are at lunchtime there will be food (probably pizza) – as well as some home baked dessert treats courtesy of the Financial Aid staffs’ kitchens.

As I mentioned the workshops are designed for 3Ls getting ready to leave YLS but are absolutely open for any 1L and 2L students who wish to attend. We also plan to record the sessions and make them available on the Financial Aid website afterward for those whose schedule might not permit participating.