During College: Things To Watch For Before Signing An Off-Campus Lease

So your student found an off-campus apartment for next year. And now it’s time to execute the lease, which is strictly binding, and pay the deposit, which can be non-refundable. Guide her to do certain things before signing her name and turning over her money.

IMG_0532Tell her to read the lease thoroughly. This is a boring task, but she needs to understand everything in it. If she doesn’t, have her contact you, the local tenants association, or even an attorney for help.

She should zero in on key leasing terms and conditions. For example, when could her rent be increased, how does she get her deposit back, under what circumstances could she be required to vacate?

Advise your student to try to negotiate provisions out of the lease that’d give the landlord or property manager the right to:

  • Keep part or all of her security deposit for moving out early or normal cleaning and upgrades once she’s gone;
  • Charge her to repair or replace what she doesn’t break; or arbitrarily extend required periods for fixing or replacing things;
  • Enter her apartment without prior notice; and
  • Confiscate her property, unless she leaves it behind after moving out.

Coach her to check out the actual unit she plans to rent, if possible. It may be damaged or neglected in ways that’ll never show up in the model unit, and she’ll have to accept those deficiencies or fight with her landlord to get them fixed.

Tell her to conduct all business about her residence in writing. She needs datedIMG_0535 receipts or cancelled checks on all payments she makes, written commitments about how long repairs will take, and responses to all landlord notices in writing. Have her keep copies in her records in case her property’s management tries to rip her off.

Anything the landlord or his agent promises verbally that runs counter to the lease is a warning sign. She’s may be dealing with an unscrupulous character, so she should probably look for another place.

It’s important for your student to consult current residents or the local tenants organization about landlord/management’s record in living up to their responsibilities. Lease problems today’s tenants are experiencing are lease problems she’ll likely experience, too.

Finally, suggest she review local codes and ordinances on landlord/tenant responsibilities — who does inside and outside maintenance, how are landlord-tenant disputes settled, and so on? She can probably find these rules at public libraries or city offices and websites.

Yes. College is expensive. But if you’re trying to identify ways to make it less costly, do a no-cost consultation with College Affordability Solutions by calling (512) 366-5354 or emailing collegeafford@gmail.com.

During College: What to Consider Before a Student Chooses an Off-Campus Residence

Many students are now looking to move into off-campus housing next year. It’s natural. Leaving the dormitory’s cramped, closely supervised, heavily regulated environment is a natural part of growing into an independent adulthood.

But there are dangers your student may not recognize in the heady rush toward off-campus living. A bad living arrangement may lead to poor grades, dropped classes, and even dropping out, which can cost him (or you) lots of money.

Here are some issues your student should consider while searching for that off-campus apartment . . .

Is it affordable? New off-campus residences tend to be high-amenity facilities with IMG_0526everything from resort-style swimming pools to granite countertops and upgraded cable TV packages. But luxuries mean rent, deposits, and utility bills that may be outside your student’s budget. Costs may be cut by getting one or more roommates, and your student, like thousands of others, will definitely find he can save by selecting an older, more basic residence.

Roommate(s)? Speaking of roommates, your student should be extra careful about who he lives with. It’s not just about friendship. He needs someone he’ll get along with in close quarters, who’ll work to resolve conflicts, and on whom he can count. Off-campus living isn’t like the dorm — if his roommate moves out two months into the lease, your student will have to pay full rent and utilities.

Does the facility have what he needs? Notice the reference to needs not wants. A place offering sufficient space, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen facilities, and parking is more important than all those glitzy niceties.

Getting to and from campus? Easy access to classes is, of course, a necessity. If an IMG_0529apartment’s not within walking distance of campus, can your student get there on low-cost institutional or municipal bus systems?

Safety? Your student should check out issues of crime and safety in and around every facility he’s considering. Have him check police reports and talk to current residents for such information.

Landlord and/or management company? Too often, off-campus residences have crooked landlords and predatory managers. No matter how much they fail to deliver what’s promised to this year’s tenants, there’ll always be new victims who’ll unwittingly rent from them next year. Urge your student not to rent until he’s quizzed current residents and checked with local tenant organizations about complaints against the owner and management.

Look here next Wednesday for what to watch out for in the lease for an off-campus residence.

Got questions about college costs? Need advice on making college more affordable. Contact College Affordability Solutions by calling (512) 366-5354 or emailing collegeafford@gmail.com for a no-cost consultation.

Special Bulletin: Your College-Related Tax Breaks Survived a Congressional Move to Eliminate Them

In November College Affordability Solutions urged you contact your members of the U.S. House and Senate in opposition to certain provisions within the House tax bill that was then working its way through Congress.

That bill was supposedly designed to cut taxes. But it would have done away with IMG_0428deductions and exemptions that reduce taxes for you and other students and parents by over $18 billion a year — money that helps pay college costs.

The original House bill was remarkably partisan. It was written by Republican House members without input from Democrats, and it got 227 Republican votes but no Democratic votes

Fortunately, the Senate also opposed eliminating college-related tax deductions, exclusions, and exemptions. It made sure they remained unchanged in the final bill, which is now law. So don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter — constituent pressure clearly helped preserve these tax breaks!

Here are the college tax benefits that were preserved in the final bill:

  • If you’re a student, you still won’t be taxed on money you use from your College Savings Bonds to pay your educational expenses.
  • Parents, you may keep on making deposits into your Coverdell Education Saving Accounts to build up money for college.
  • The first $5,250 you use from your Employer-Provided Educational IMG_0429Assistance program to pay higher education costs will continue to be untaxed.
  • The Lifetime Learning Tax Credit remains unchanged. So you may keep reducing what you’ll pay in federal income taxes by up to $2,000 a year based on what you spend on tuition, required fees, books, and supplies for any student (including you) taking courses to get a degree or improve job skills.
  • The Scholarship and Fellowship Exclusion will continue to omit from federal taxation what your scholarships and fellowships pay toward your college costs.
  • Borrowers, you’ll still be able to claim your Student Loan Interest Deduction of up to $2,500 for student and/or parent loan interest you pay each year.
  • Your $4,000 per year Tuition and Fee Deduction remains unchanged.
  • Are you or will you be a graduate student? If so, any Tuition Reduction you receive in connection with a graduate assistantship or fellowship still won’t be subject to taxation.

Congratulations on keeping these benefits! But stay active and alert. More bills impacting college affordability will come before Congress soon.

Contact College Affordability Solutions by calling (512) 366-5354 or emailing collegeafford@gmail.com.

After College: Things to Do As Your First Student Loan Payment Comes Due

If you graduated from college last spring, chances are your obligation to begin repaying your Federal Direct Loans has begun. If you’ve not yet heard from the student loan servicer Washington hired to collect your payments, you need to contact it immediately (see below) because you’ve got some important things to do:

Choose Your Repayment Plan. Your servicer sent you a notice by email, U.S. Mail,IMG_0410 or both. This notice invites you to select the repayment plan that works best for you at this point in time. If you don’t select a plan, you’ll automatically be assigned a Standard Repayment Plan under which you’ll pay off your Federal Direct Loans within 10 years by paying the same amount every month.

No matter what your repayment plan, you can change it by contacting your servicer. However, if you’re paying under an income-based or income-contingent plan, you can switch only after making payments for at least three months.

Decide How to Pay. You may pay by cash or check. But the most convenient way to pay is to give your servicer permission to draw your monthly payment out of your bank account via “electronic funds transfer.”

Your Payment Due Date. Your notice will also tell you the date on which your first payment is due. This date is in January for most spring graduates.

Payment must arrive at your servicer within 15 calendar days of this date or you’ll be behind in your payments. But remember, if you’re mailing your payments, assume it’ll take the post office about 10 days to deliver them.

IMG_0411You’ll have the same payment due date every month. However, if at any time this date doesn’t work for you, you may contact your servicer and request a different payment due date provided you’re not behind in your payments.

If You Can’t Afford to Make Payments. Call your servicer. Describe the issues affecting your ability to pay. Ask if you qualify to postpone your payments through a deferment or forbearance. But remember, postponing payments often IMG_0412generates additional interest on your Federal Direct Loans, so you’ll spend more to repay them in the long run.

Contacting Your Servicer. Access your records in the National Student Loan Data System to find your loan servicer’s contact information.

You’ve got lot’s of options. Make well-informed, wise choices to help set yourself up for a smooth and successful repayment experience.

Need advice about your student loan payments? Contact College Affordability Solutions at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com for a no-charge consultation.

During College: Timely Advice To Help Your Student Manage January Expenses

January can be expensive for college students. A new academic term often means paying for travel back to school, tuition and fees, books and supplies, and room and board. Add leftover holiday bills and January spending can quickly get out of control.

How to best resolve all this without jeopardizing progress toward graduation? These are big, intertwined tasks, so your student may need guidance from you, her parents, or even a skilled money management professional.

Linda Matthew, an experienced Accredited Financial Counselor with Money Mindful Personal Financial Coaching, endorses a four-point approach.

(1) Your student should confirm exactly how much she owes and when payments are due using her records, including credit card and other receipts, to make a list of these.

(2) Urge her to prepare to pay her outstanding debts and soon-to-be expenses by IMG_0367writing out a spending plan for the first quarter of 2018.

This plan should include your student’s school-related costs. If she must pay 100% of these by a certain date to enroll and succeed in classes, she needs to pay them by that date even if doing so means spreading other payments over the next two or three months.

But payment may not be required on every institutional charge as the term begins. Some colleges offer payment plans that delay one or more installments until later in the term, freeing up funds for other January expenses. Some also offer short-term tuition loans. However, these usually require extra fees so she should take those costs into consideration.

Your student may also want to investigate refinancing her credit card debt. Doing so could reduce her interest and even postpone a payment on her new card’s balance.

IMG_0366(3) If your student ended up dealing with unexpected January expenses because she didn’t plan for this past Christmas, it’s absolutely critical that she begin saving for next holiday season as part of her spending plan. No sense in courting another problem in another 12 months.

(4) If extra income’s needed, suggest your student search out a short-term, part-time job if she’s not already working. Another way to raise money is to file for her federal tax refund ASAP. The IRS issues 90% of tax refunds within 21 days of receiving 1040 forms.

The holidays are over, but advice about managing expenses is one of the best gifts your student will ever receive!

To contact Linda Matthew at Money Mindful Personal Financial Coaching for help resolving your financial issues, call Linda at (530) 220-3369 or email her at linda@moneymindful.org.
Have questions for College Affordability Solutions? Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com.