Tagged: tuition

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.

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.

What Still Needs To Happen To Get Your Money Or The “Never Ending” Financial Aid Process

So I like to think we are in the home stretch of the financial aid process, applications have been processed, award letters are out and award acceptances (Notification and Confirmation forms) have come in. So very close… but the reality is there are still a couple of important things that need to happen to insure that the Yale bill is paid and that you have money in your pocket to live on. I have been getting a lot of our new admits emailing me with the basic questions below so I am gearing this blog to them but all the info is valid even for our veteran rising 2Ls and 3Ls.

When will I get a bill? You won’t… 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) is available for you to review on the Student Information System (SIS). You’re going to pick up in this blog that the SIS system (www.yale.edu/SIS) needs to become your new best friend for the sake of financial aid – bookmark it and keep it close at hand . That July 1 bill is going to show your charges (tuition, fees and health) and is also going to show all your accepted financial aid totaled as an “anticipated financial aid credit”. As long as the anticipated aid covers the charges you need not worry about the July 1 bill. If there is a gap that you intended to pay on your own you must make arrangement to pay it (instructions will be on the SIS system how to make direct payments) prior to August 1. If there is a gap and you discover the need to borrow more loan funds that July 1 bill gives you the time to contact our office and do that prior to that August 1 payment date.

What happens if there is still a balance due on my bill as of the August 1 due date? On that date if there is any balance due a number of “bad” things will happen. First a $125 a month late fee will be assessed increasing what you owe even more. Secondly you will be put on financial hold which will prohibit you from registering with the rest of your class and receiving your course schedule. (In the cast of current students note that a financial hold will prevent you from getting transcripts needed for FIP!) Note, at any time before the start of classes if the balance is cleared then the financial hold is removed but the late fee is still payable.

How can I insure my loans will disburse on schedule? There is a critical step yet to complete to insure that your loans are ready to go and mark your calendars now to be on the lookout for this in mid July. After July 1 our office will certify the loans you’ve accepted with either the Department of Education (for federal loans) or Yale’s Student loan office (for our own Graduate and Professional International Loan or Perkins loans). When the certification is complete and the loan established you will then get an email from Student Financial Services that it is time to complete the loan paperwork which will include a promissory note and other supplementary documents such as truth in lending statements (TILAs) and entrance counseling session (which are not counseling sessions at all but an online information survey that you participate in and sign off on). Documents will differ depending on what type of loan you have- some will be on the www.studentloans.gov website (Direct Unsubsidized and Grad Plus loans) some will be available right from SIS (Yale GPI Loan and Perkins). Also note that you will need to complete separate promissory notes for each loan (including both the federal Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate Plus loans). Please wait for the email with instructions before going out to any website and doing the prom note on your own as its critical that it link with the completed certification loan (otherwise it hangs out there and goes no where)

When will my financial aid disburse? By federal regulations the earliest aid (both loans and institutional scholarships) can disburse is three business days prior to the first day of the term (for us the first day of the term is September 5, 2012). There are no exceptions to this rule ever. So what this means is that you need to come to New Haven with ample funds to get yourself established including rent (and security deposit), furnishings and food (New Haven has a lot of really good, cheap places to eat – talk to a local for tips).

How do I get a refund of my financial aid funds if I borrowed money to live on? We’ve already established that the aid comes in the three days prior to the start of the term. Then the direct Yale charges (tuition,fees and health) post against the financial aid and, (if your aid is more than the charges) generates a credit balance which has to be refunded to you directly. By federal regulation an institution has 14 days from the first day of the term to provide you the refund and Yale does an exceptional job of getting it to you as quickly as possible even as early as the first day of the term. But again because there is no set or guaranteed date for the refund make the necessary allowances in your cash flow to survive. To expedite your actual receipt of the refund there are two important steps. First, set up automatic deposit on the SIS system so that refunds are deposited directly into your personal checking or savings account. Second you must actually request the refund on the SIS system (i.e. the credit balance in and of itself will not generate a refund automatically). That’s a step that get’s missed alot and something you have to do each term and each time you want the refund to generate. Check out Student Financial Services website for detailed instructions on the automatic deposit and refund request process: http://www.yale.edu/sfas/financial/accounts.html.

That’s an abundance of information to digest so I will stop there. As you transition in (or back) to YLS don’t hesitate to ask questions (I readily admit that the financial aid process is overwhelming). The best way to reach our office during this summer period is using our main number 203- 432-1688 and our main email financialaid.law@yale.edu given staff vacations and summer hours but there is always someone checking that phone and that email who will respond right back to you. You’ve all done a great job of negotiating the financial aid process… just make sure you finish out the final steps and you will be in the money!

Next Blog- Life Beyond Ramen Noodles- budgeting your refund to live well.

Scholarships to help pay for your law degree…where do I sign?!

This is the time of the year when a variety of firms, companies, and clubs send the Financial Aid Office information about the scholarships they offer. Some of the scholarships are awarded based on where you reside, the field you are interested in, and/or if you are in good standing or as simple as writing a paper. These funds can help pay tuition for the fall semester or spring semester or both.

Why not take advantage of all that is available? Who could pass up “free money”, especially if this money can help pay for your law degree and lessen your student debt? Apply for any of these scholarships now for 2012-2013 financial aid year!

Toward your benefit, at Yale Law, outside scholarships are applied first to reduce loans (up to 50% of your unit loan amount) and second to reduce any institutional funds that were awarded. If you are only borrowing loans to pay for tuition, then the entire amount of the outside scholarship would be applied toward reducing the loans.

Intrigued by a “free money” offer? Then take a look at some of the recent scholarship opportunities that our office has been made aware of:

The Yale Club of New Haven – www.ycnh.org – the scholarships ($3,000 per year) are available through the generosity of the alumni of the Yale Club of New Haven. Scholarships are awarded to full time graduate and professional school students in the spring of their first and/or subsequent years and awarded to residents of the greater New Haven county.

New England Employee Benefits Council (NEEBC) – www.neebc.org – is an organization whose primary function is to advance knowledge and education about issues in the employee benefits field. The intent of this scholarship ($5,000) is to encourage students to consider the employee benefits field for career opportunities.

NPBA Foundation Fitzwater Memorial Scholarship for Second Year Law Students – www.norfolkandportsmouthbar.org – was established in honor of Elizabeth Fitzwater. The Foundation’s mission is to promote the administration to justice, to educate the public about the importance of law in their daily lives and to enhance the image of the legal profession in the community. This scholarship ($1,000) has been set up for those students who intend to practice in the south Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

Information on these and many more outside scholarship opportunities is available directly from the Financial Aid Office – come by to learn more!