Hello, and welcome to this online discussion about scholarships and financial aid for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. My name is Devin, and I will be your host today. Thank you for joining us live today, really happy to have you. And then, thank you to those watching this recording later on. Without further ado, well, let’s see, we’ve got a bunch of chats coming in already. Maryland, Wisconsin, Oregon, New York, Japan, Colorado, Michigan, a bunch from California, Chicago, Florida, Alaska. Excellent. Well, it’s great to see everyone coming from all over the world today.
Today, we are joined by members of the Admissions and Student Financial Services team, who I’m going to ask to briefly introduce themselves. So, Sadia, we’d like you to get us started.
Yes, hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m Sadia Khan. Some of you I have met over interviews, and I will be discussing our scholarships, and then what our plan is for next year in terms of funding, and then, I’ll try to answer as many questions as we can today.
Basically, our goal today is to be able to address any concerns, address any questions that you have about the admissions process, scholarships, what our next steps might be. Please also note that there is some information that we don’t know yet, but we will try our best to be as forthcoming as we can and as transparent as we can, given the limited information we have at this time.
And then I’ll ask Regina to introduce herself next.
Hi, my name’s Regina Garner. I’m the Director of Student Financial Services. I’m the one with the likely dog barker. She’s a little dog, and people are not allowed to walk in front of our house, so she barks a lot. I apologize in advance if she does.
But I’m going to talk to you a little bit about the loans, what the rates are looking like, what you’re going to be eligible for, what changes you might see to those loans if there is the online format that might be introduced. So, we’ll talk about how things are, as we know it today, and how things might change if we see any changes to the format of education that we provide, so that’s what I’ll be chatting about today.
My name is Trish Aportela. I’m the Associate Director of Student Financial Services. I work directly with Regina, and today, my goal is going to be kind of monitoring the chat box a little bit and trying to answer any questions that you guys might have about financial aid if they’re not addressed live.
Hi everyone, this is Isabelle Dubrana. I’m the Associate Director of Admissions, so I work directly with Sadia. I’ve, I think, interviewed quite a few you that I recognize. For those of you I haven’t interviewed, I’m glad to get to meet you now, and I’ll do the same thing as Trish, but for admissions, so I’ll look at your questions on the chat and see what I can answer when there are more personal types of questions that I can directly address privately.
Excellent. Well, thank you for those introductions. So, to get us started, I’ll ask Sadia and Regina just to give some kind of opening thoughts and comments, and then we’ll move to questions and answers from there.
So, a lot of you probably have already received your scholarship offers. You have information about what your scholarship looks like, and hopefully, what your financial aid package looks, and as you know, our goal here in the admissions office is to be able to work with each one of you directly to be able to address any concerns that you have about financing, any questions that you have about your scholarship offer.
In terms of how we offer scholarships and what has been the parameters that we have used in the past, and especially in terms of what we’re doing this year, our goal has been to try and be as competitive with scholarships as possible because we know that we’re all facing a very, very challenging time. So when you do receive your scholarship offer, I mean, the admissions office has been as generous as we can, given we do have a limited budget, and we’ve been trying to go out with our most competitive scholarship offer.
This year, we have been more generous because we have received a large donor-directed scholarship fund, and we have been able to utilize that fund to be able to offer our students more scholarship in the form of a merit or a Dean’s Scholarship.
As many of you’ve probably know the process by now, we encourage you to stay in touch with your enrollment advisors if you do have concerns about the financial offer, and if you want to be able to talk to me directly about this, I’m more than happy to set up a time to speak to you directly to talk about those concerns, but at the end of the day, we just want to make you be aware that we are here to assist you in the best possible manner, and I understand, I mean, there is so much that is going on right now, in terms of the uncertainty and in terms of the situation that you are all facing, and please just be aware that we are here to assist you and to be able to walk you through any of these concerns and to be able to help in terms of being able to make this program more affordable.
Regina, would you like to add anything else?
Not on the scholarship pace, but I can talk about loans and what’s going on in the financial aid world.
So, right now, if you have student loans, hopefully you’re aware that you aren’t required to make any payments on them, and that the interest rate has been dropped to zero, and that was effective mid-March, and it is going to be in effect until September 30th of this year.
We don’t know if they will extend that at this point, so what we’re going off of is that, as of July 1st, if you’re on student loans, we will be certifying those loans after the July 1st date, when the interest rates will change, and it’s a very favorable change for this group of students.
The interest rates are going to go down to 4.3% on the Stafford Loan, 5.3% on the Graduate PLUS loan, and we’ve not seen rates that low, at the graduate level, since we’ve been doing loans as long as I can remember, so that’s a good piece. The undergraduate, if any of you are doing the BA program or if you’re doing SILP, you may have gotten… Those loans will be certified as undergraduate loans, and those rates are even lower, which is great.
So the student loan situation is a good one, and those rates will be fixed until they pay it off, so it’s a favorable time to take a student loan if you’re in a position of having to do so. As far as if the decision is made to go online, I think that’s a big question, and we don’t have that answer for you today. We don’t know anything until April 15th, but if that decision is made to go online, the award letters, in terms of the living expense, should stay the same.
Now, when we package students that have aid, you’re given a budget for tuition and a budget for living expenses, and the Department of Education allows you to still borrow the budget for living expenses, even if we’re online. Now, the difference there that I would encourage any of you to consider, is that that budget for the living expenses is assuming that you’re going to be in Monterey, and Monterey is, for better or for worse, it’s a beautiful place to live, and we’re excited to have you all join us in person, but it’s expensive.
So if we aren’t in an online format, you might want to consider creating a budget and only taking what you need because this is a time for you to sort of get your degree on a sale, in some format, because you may be able to save money on the living portion of that budget.
Maybe you’re living at home, maybe you’re living in a location that’s cheaper than Monterey, or you’re at least saving on the moving expenses. Those all may be real expenses, hopefully, for you in the spring. If we have to go online, hopefully it’s only one semester, and we’ll have you in Monterey, and you’ll have those expenses, but this is a chance to really think about what you need, and don’t just automatically take what we’ve offered to you on those award letters.
So there is a potential cost saving, if there is the online format. The one thing I will caution you is that if we do go online, some people may think that online is not for them, and they may decide they don’t want to go full-time. That might be an option, and if that is, you still remain eligible for the living expenses as long as you’re in six credits at any given point in the semester, so you want to be careful that if you are looking at a less than full-time format, that you really consider, as you’re selecting those classes, that you’re in at least six credits at any given point.
And if it comes to that, again, these are all questions we don’t know. We’re prepared to advise you on it, but if it does come to that at some point, you can always reach out to Trish and I, and we can sort of look at your schedule and advise like, “Oh, it looks like you might not be eligible for living expenses in that portion.”
So again, at a very high level, that’s how that will work. The only other thing I’ll mention is, whether we’re online or whether we’re in person, you want to have a little cushion of funding if you’re using financial aid to pay your living expenses because you guys will register very close to the first day of class. I mean, assuming everything goes the way we normally have it, orientation occurs the week prior to class starting, and you guys will register that Friday before classes start, so that’s the day that we can start dispersing any financial aid, including loans, so that’s the day that we’ll start sort of dispersing all the aid.
It will clear out your tuition, and anything over and above the cost of tuition is returned to you in the form of a refund check. Thankfully, everything is set up online, so we can disburse online, we can do the refund to you via direct deposit, so everything, we have the ability to do remotely, but I would not expect any money returned to you in the form of a refund check for the first two weeks of class, so that we have time to disburse aid and really start issuing those refunds.
You want to plan, financially, not to get anything within the first two weeks. We, hopefully, will do it sooner, but it’s always better to plan for the worst-case scenario. And that’s all I have.
All right, excellent. Thanks to you both for that. So, I see that people have started submitting questions already, so I’ll just jump into those, and I’ll preface by saying there’s a good chance that we won’t get to everyone’s question, so if that’s the case, very sorry.
We are recording the questions that come in, and we’ll be building or continuing to build our frequently asked questions page based on these, but we’ll do our best to get to all of them.
So, one of the first that came in is, can I alter what I accept from my financial aid package if I’ve already accepted it, assuming that the picture may have changed between then and now?
Yeah, I was supposed to answer that question, and I didn’t, I apologize. That’s a very good question. Yes. The financial aid is very fluid. You have several options to cancel what you’ve already taken or return what you’ve already taken.
What will happen if, let’s say you did nothing, and you decided that you accepted more than you need. When we disburse that aid, we’re required to give you what’s called a disbursement notification, and in that, it gives you the instructions on how to return the funds, but you’ll be given the opportunity to send the money back to the school, and we cancel it like it never happened.
If you know upfront that you’ve borrowed more than you need, you have the option to cancel it now. The problem is, in BannerWeb, if you’ve already accepted it, you can’t go and change that, so all it is, is sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and telling us the new amounts that you wish to borrow.
One of the things to be aware of is that if you decide you don’t want it today, let’s say you cancel everything, and you decide, at some point along the way, that you want to accept the loans, you have that ability as well, really, through the end of the academic year.
So if you are taking SILP, either at Middlebury College or with the Monterey, I think there’s some ESL stuff going on, you only have until December to decide that you want the loans from fall. If you are here regular fall/spring and not doing a summer language program of any kind, then you really have until May to decide that you want to cancel aid, or that you want to re-accept aid that you’ve already canceled.
Excellent. Thanks for answering that, Regina. So another, about the timing of things, if the acceptance of our financial aid package is due the 15th, would there be leeway if we’d like to wait to hear if MIIS is online or not?
Yes. So, I think our award letter, maybe it’s not very clear, it’s two weeks after the deadline, after your deposit deadline, and we understand that the deposit deadline has been extended to June, correct me if I’m wrong on that, admissions, but to June 22nd or somewhere around there.
So, really, our deadline is two weeks after that date, that you have to accept aid with us.
Excellent. And then, for those of us who have received financial aid scholarship offers much earlier on this year, is there any chance of receiving additional funds, considering we’re now facing a much more difficult financial situation?
So, I think, Sadia, that probably goes to you.
Yes. Just be in touch with your enrollment advisor, or you can email me directly and just talk to me a little bit about explaining what the situation is and what you’re facing, and I will be more than happy to work with you directly, one-on-one, based on whatever funding we have available, to be able to see if we can provide additional merit aid.
Okay, excellent. And then, if we decide to defer, but have already accepted loans, what happens to those loans?
So, really, the driver of the disbursement of those loans is your registration, so if you defer and you never registered, but you’ve accepted everything, when we go in and we see that there’s no registration, we automatically will cancel the loans.
But if you’ve already accepted them and you know you’re not coming, you can tell us now, and we can cancel everything. We haven’t certified loans, nor will we until after that July 1st deadline, correct me if I’m, Trish does all our loans certs, but we have not begun certifying any loans yet, to my knowledge, I think.
Except if you’re going to the summer program, then yes, I’ve been certifying those loans so that they’re ready to go.
Yeah, so if it’s a summer program, you might want to communicate with us a little sooner, but otherwise, we haven’t, so you have time to tell us if you know that you’re going to defer, and we can cancel everything like it didn’t happen.
Okay. And then, I think, Sadia, this is something that you’ve mentioned. You’ve kind of just addressed this, but if you’re pushing to the spring ‘21 semester, you choose to go to spring ‘21 instead of fall, scholarships will be preserved for that, but what’s the process for getting repackaged for loans?
So when we package, we package the full year, so you don’t need to redo a FAFSA. What we do is we move the Stafford from the fall over to spring though, so the award, the actual loans, will look a little different for you.
The only thing I would say is if you defer beyond spring, then you do have to reapply, so you have to do the new 2021-2022 FAFSA, and if you have a need-based grant or a student financial services grant, we are prepared to honor that for deferred students if you apply for financial aid by our deadline, which is February, gosh I should know this, February 1st, Trish, is it?
February 15th. I apologize, I don’t know that. So if you don’t apply by that deadline, we do not guarantee that you will receive that funding in the next year.
Okay. Excellent. And then, the next question that’s come in. If I applied for the fall 2020 semester on May 15th, the last deadline, am I too late to get aid?
There’s not a deadline to apply for federal financial aid, so that’s including federal work-study, federal student loans, so you’re okay there.
We do have a need-based grant, as I just mentioned, and the student financial services grant, and we are operating in a waitlist at this point, so you can still apply, but you will be put on, if you’re eligible for those funds, you’re going to be put on a waitlist. We don’t have funding, although that changes daily as students maybe say they’re not coming.
We may have more funding available, so it’s not a hard no, but it’s a maybe not at this point.
For scholarships, merit scholarships, that’s not an issue right now. We have not run out of funding yet, so we would encourage you to submit your application. We do have funding available to offer competitive scholarships.
Okay, excellent. Thank you. So, another question that’s come in is, if the format is remote, and students decide to defer and not attend, will students who choose to attend be able to receive the unclaimed financial aid and merit scholarships?
We are working with our financial aid department and trying to figure out, I mean, in terms of funding and things like that, we are trying to figure out what we would like to be able to do in terms of any unspent money that we have, be it the donor money or merit aid.
We don’t have a final answer on that yet, however, as I mentioned earlier, our goal is to be very considerate of the hardship that everybody is facing, and if we have funding that is still available, I mean, we would like to be able to offer that to students to be able to offset some of the issues that you are all facing right now, but unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer on that one yet.
Okay, so building off that, the next question that’s come in, so if the fall semester is virtual remote, will there be additional financial support for students and, or adjusted tuition?
We are in the process. Like I said, we are in the process of exploring all of these options with a team that’s really looking at the funding that’s available. We have donor-directed funds that were supposed to be used this year, trying to figure out what we would like to do with those funds, and we should be able to have an answer by the time we make that June 15th announcement.
We should have a very clear answer about what that all is going to look like, but at this stage, I don’t have an answer to that.
So, a question that all have, or I’ve gotten before, and Regina, maybe you can help with this one, is how work-study or graduate assistantships will operate, and how does that operate related to packaging now or how might that change if we’re in a remote or online or hybrid format?
Yeah, that’s a tough one. The Department of Education gives us a budget, and we have not heard anything that they’re not going to continue to give us federal funding next year. There’s been no discussion of that.
Right now, what happened when we went remote unexpectedly in this spring, students that were already working were given the option to continue to work remotely if there was work to be done, unless you were not physically in the United States.
Now, some of us, like my office hires work-study students, and a lot of times, they’re greeting, in person, students, the walk-ins, they answer the phones, they do all our filing. That’s not work that we can handle remotely, so our student did not continue to work, but not to say that we couldn’t, now that we’ve had time to absorb this, think about online work.
So, I think all of the on-campus offices are considering that. I know that our off-campus partners, we have off-campus federal work-study partners in the community that do non-profit work, they’re busier than ever actually, and so, those students did continue to work. So, assuming that the Department of Ed still follows through with the funding, I would assume there will be employment opportunities if we go online.
If we don’t, all things should be the same, and the way that works is we have an online, it’s called Handshake, and it’s where you look for employment online, and typically, what happens is, in August, I don’t know the question of when you guys get access to Handshake, if somebody else on the team can answer that in a second, but what we do is we output our jobs into that format, and you can start searching them.
You apply directly to the supervisor, send them your resume. They’ll interview you, so it’s not, having a federal work-study award does not a guarantee of a job. It gives you the right to apply for federal work-study jobs. They’ll interview, each supervisor, they’ll decide who they want to hire. The big thing is you can’t start working, so a lot of people were busy at orientation week, for example, so a lot of people, the supervisors may not know if you’re new or returning, so they’re going to try to say, “Hey, help us during orientation.”
You need to be advised that you cannot begin working until the first day of classes pass, so none of you can work orientation week. That’s a no-no, so the other thing is you have to be able to show all of your documents, I-9s, and things like that.
But normally, then you start working first day of class, so that’s how the process works. The other question we get quite a lot is the $2500 award. Where we came up with that number is it’s, on average, what our students earn. Now, keep in mind, some students work an event and make 150 bucks. Some students will earn $6,000, that’s not a limit. So it’s a starting point where we begin all students, and where we have the funding, we will attempt to increase you to allow you to work beyond that, so it’s sort of a case-by-case basis, but I wouldn’t work too heavy in the fall because we don’t really start increasing budgets until spring, when I know I have a better idea of who’s working in spring, and if I can increase those budgets, so the 2500 is not a hard amount that you’re committed to earning.
Thanks for that answer, they appreciate that. Another question that’s come in, if online school format is adopted, I assume many of us would have to maintain jobs to pay for our current living situations. Are professors planning on formatting classes, understanding that flexibility would be needed for many students?
And I’ll go ahead and kind of jump in on that because I think it’s probably a little outside of all of our purview, but we’ve, as a team, have been making that point to the academic team. We haven’t heard, of course we don’t know if the online format will be adopted at all, but if it is, we’re certainly mentioning that there’s a benefit to having asynchronous options, but don’t know much about that yet, but we’ll send that information out as soon as we do.
So, anything to add there, to that, that I missed? Sadia or Isabelle or Regina? Okay. Is there anything to consider/actions to take with financial aid, loans, scholarships, work-study, if we are currently receiving unemployment due to COVID?
No. Financial aid’s two years away, so for you guys, what will happen is, if unemployment, typically, it’s not, I don’t know, I can’t talk taxes, but anyway, it would not appear anywhere on a FAFSA until two more years, and most of you, unless you’re doing a dual degree, will be gone by then, so again, our financial aid is not need-based, so whatever your situation was, most people have some kind of financial hardship.
Once you’re a graduate student, most financial aid that we award, with the exception of work-study, is not based on your income or your financial situation, so there’s not a change that we would expect to make to your award letters based on that. Even the need-based grants that we award were not based on your income. We didn’t look at that, we didn’t look at savings.
We looked at previous loan debt. That was the main factor that we used to award that, so while it is unfortunate that most of us are having different kinds of financial hardships, at the graduate level, we don’t anticipate that it’s going to affect the award letter.
At the undergraduate, again, we do have a small subset of students doing an BA/MA. At the BA/MA level, it could make you eligible for a subsidized loan if you didn’t originally get one. Again, we talked about Monterey, our cost of attendance is high, so you had to make a pretty substantial income for you not to get a subsidized loan from us or even Pell Grants, but that’s something if you are doing a bachelor program with us.
You can talk to us because then, we can adjust and see and make changes, based on professional judgment, to your award letter, and see if it does make you eligible for a little bit more of that free money.
Excellent. Thank you. This is a question that’s come in regarding to Peace Corps fellows, the Coverdell Fellowship program. What are the options for filling the Coverdell Fellowship professional internship hours if classes are online for fall, and fellows are not on campus?
I have an answer for that, but Regina or Sadia? So, ultimately, they’ve been, we have Coverdells currently, well, I guess, graduation just happened, but this past semester, we had Coverdell Fellows that had to move their internships online, and all were able to do that, so we asked that same question of our Coverdell advisor, and she was pleased to say that there were options to continue [inaudible 00:26:16] some of the service projects, obviously, slightly adjusted, in some cases, in a remote format.
And then, does MIIS offer a database of resources for external scholarships? And the quick answer is yes, and Trish has helpfully put that link into the chat, so you can review those options there. Any additional comments there, Regina?
Yeah. I always say, “Take this one with a grain of salt,” but there are various scholarship search engines out there that you can look at. I will say, at the graduate level, again, graduate level education is considered a luxury, and so, most of the free funding you’re going to find out there is still for undergraduates, but there is stuff. I mean, one of the things we can task our work-study students with, is to go out and search, which is where a lot of those ones that you’ll find on our website are things that we’ve found, just in our free time, but I would say that there are various search engines out there that you can look at.
There is spam everywhere. People are going to try to get you to pay for a scholarship service. You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship, but it might be worth, I mean, if you have free time, it might be worth logging into one. I say it’s kind of like a dating website, so you’re going to go in, like Fastweb is the main one out there, and you’ll put in all of your information, including where your parents work, where you grew up, because sometimes, parents’ employers have scholarships for having them working there, I can’t say that correctly right now.
Anyway, so you’ll put everything you can think about yourself into this sort of format, and what it will do is it’s going to spit out scholarships that you might be eligible to apply for, but again, there’s a lot of junk in there, so I don’t know, it can get time-consuming.
Usually, at the graduate level, they want you to do a writing, submit a paper or statement on this, and so, it’s not just free money based on grades, the way you might’ve found at undergrad, but there are sources out there, and I always say it’s worth applying for any little bit of free money that you can. So, I put it out there with a grain of salt, and there are several, Fastweb is the big one, but again, it can be frustrating, that process can be frustrating.
[inaudible 00:28:20] opportunity in terms of anybody that is doing either the international environmental policy program or the translation and localization management program because these are both STEM eligible.
There are special scholarships for STEM programs, and you might be eligible for that, and especially for women in STEM, there are lots and lots of opportunities, even at the grad level, I have seen those. But you do have to go research those, and we have some listed on our website, but I would look into that, specifically if you’re in those two programs because they do have money, and from what I have heard, they never are able to get enough women interested in the STEM fields where they have already… they had to spend their money before they can award it, so that is a good opportunity.
Excellent, thank you. So, another question that came in the chat that Trish was able to answer, for someone who’s doing their FAFSA now, the code is 001241, and again, that’s in the chat, so you can scroll up and find that.
The next question, do you know if we could continue to collect unemployment benefits while studying full-time if there is a remote and flexible online course schedule, or would we have to drop to part-time?
That looks like a very good question.
Yeah, that’s a good one. I don’t know.
So, we might have to do a little bit of homework on that, so thank you so much for asking that, Hannah, and we’ll make a note of that and try to get back to everyone.
Sadia, can you just mention which programs are STEM eligible?
The translation and localization management program, the international environmental policy program.
Okay, excellent. And then, it looks like those have been answered already, and Ben may have an answer to one of those questions, so feel free to put that in the chat, Ben.
If MIIS decides to go to an on-campus format, can financial aid work with incoming students to find affordable housing?
Gosh. That’s more of a student affairs question, and it’s loaded. There is no affordable housing in Monterey. I would say, the one thing I always tell my students is to consider, if you are interested in saving money, an apartment with a roommate is how we set our budgets.
If you want to live on the beach in a single, it’s going to cost money, and I can’t help you find that because I would like that myself. The other thing that we always say, to really save money, is there are people that will rent rooms in their homes. As unideal as that is, that’s probably the cheapest way to go. There are a lot of people, families in Monterey, that will rent out a room in their house, so you have to be… If money, again, if you come to us, and we’re looking for the cheapest format, that’s probably the way to go.
But it is more fun, you might find… Work with student affairs because we hear a lot about students that will rent houses, and that can be a cheaper way to go, is if you have three or four students in a home. That could be cheaper than renting an apartment, but that’s not our area of expertise, that’s a student affairs function, so I’d encourage you to get in touch with our student affairs office.
Yeah, and just to add to that, that’s typically an area with a lot of questions, so the June 3rd event that’s going to be happening at 4:00 PM Pacific Time with student life, community, health and wellness, will certainly address a lot of those housing resources that exist out there.
So there’s housing boards that exist in MIcommunity. We’re moving a lot of our content to that, and that will also be a place where students can connect about finding potential roommates as well, but that session will have a lot more detail to come.
So, as we’re [crosstalk 00:32:24].
Can I add one more thing? Sorry. One of the things we do offer though, since we’re talking about saving money and things like that, is, whether we’re online or in person, we have, usually, two sessions a year where we talk about ways to save money. We do a budgeting session, we do financial literacy programs that our office will do, and we will continue to do them even if we’re online for whatever reason, but that’s something that Trish is in charge of, and we spend a lot of time, and those are well attended, and we will also take feedback, so every time we offer one, students will say, “Can you talk more about this in the next one?”
And so, you’ll have the chance, after the session, to give us your feedback on what you want to know, if it be, I mean, COVID’s new to us, if it’s on unemployment, that’s a question we didn’t know the answer to there, but that’s something that maybe we can offer. One of the things that, also, that a lot of students do is, in Monterey, is apply for food stamps, and you are eligible if you have federal-work study and you’re working, that’s something that you can look into, and then, we talk to you about those services that are around.
So, housing is not our area of expertise, but we do offer sessions to help you sort of manage money and have some financial literacy.
Excellent. Thanks for that supplement. And just, related to the unemployment question, Ben has put in his response to it, and we’ll be, again, doing homework and putting a lot of these questions to our FAQs and sending that out to everyone who’s registered for this event, so we’ll be getting a lot of answers, including answers to that question, out to folks, so that’ll exist on our FAQ page, as well as in the email that you’ll receive.
So, a question, Regina, has the pandemic, in any way, affected the income-based repayment or loan forgiveness programs, to your knowledge, or are those still operational?
They’re operational, actually right now, for those of you that are in repayment, but even though payments have been suspended, they count towards income-based repayment payments, so you’re almost getting, I think it ends up being nine months of free credit towards that income-based plan if you’re in it currently.
If you just graduated, the one thing I’ll caution you is that you can’t sign up for income-based repayment until you’re formally in repayment, and so, for those of you that maybe just finished in May, you have a six month grace period, so you’re not in repayment on the loan, so that grace period right now, these six months, don’t count for you, but yeah, as far as we know, there have not been any eliminations or changes to it, and in fact, what they’ve done right now is actually in everyone’s benefit for eligibility for that program.
Great. All right, well, that’s very encouraging because I know a number of students have taken advantage of that, historically, for sure. So, I guess, just a kind of general question, Regina, Sadia, based on your experience so far with this term, from a financial standpoint, what does this fall ‘20 semester look like?
Is it financially advantageous to attend now? It sounds like a lot of indicators seem like it’s promising, but what else is on the horizon potentially? Kind of general advice for someone considering fall ‘20.
I’d say two things make… Again, I am coming from money only. I’m not talking about whether or not you are a better online learner or a better in person or what the quality of the education’s going to be, given the difference, but from a strictly financial position, there’s three main reasons I think, financially, it’s a good time to go.
One, low interest rates. We don’t know, people keep talking about, hopefully, maybe the economy’s going to come back and rebound quickly, and if it does, that means the interest rates will go with it next year, so again, these loans are fixed-rate until you pay them off, and given a 10 year repayment plan, that’s a money saver right there.
Secondly, again, as Sadia alluded to, we were fortunate that we got a nice pot of donor funds this year that we have not had in the past, and that’s allowed us to give bigger scholarships than we’ve given in the past. Now, I know if we defer, in some cases, we are going to honor that, so that may be still a good reason to come in the near future.
The third thing is that, again, as I spoke to earlier, if we go online, and this is only if we go online, is sort of a one year sale on living expenses. I cannot tell you enough that that is a big deal if you can handle a semester of online. That’s a big deal because, again, Monterey comes with a high price tag, and that’s one of the things that, in financial aid, we’re constantly thinking about, is that question of, how do you find cheap housing?
It’s difficult to find cheap housing, and I’m not trying to dissuade you from coming ever, but it is tough, and so, there’s shared living. That is our recommendation of how to save money because we want you to come, but we also, our goal in financial aid is to get you in and out of here with the least debt possible, and so, this year, with the potential of maybe online, that’s a cost saver.
Definitely, we know for sure, the interest rate is a cost saver, and definitely, the scholarships have been more generous that we’ll see. If you go out, wait a year or two out, we might not have that same level of scholarship support that we can offer, so those are the three things I would put out there, as it being from a financial-only standpoint, that it’s a good time to come.
I mean, I’d like to add that, in terms of just the outlook in terms of jobs, I mean, the big question for a lot of people right now is, if you don’t go to college right now, and you’re not enrolled in a graduate program, what are the opportunities in terms of career opportunities out there, given where we are in terms of the economy?
So sometimes, it might be a better option just to be enrolled in college, to get your degree, and then be well-placed to hit the job market when the jobs do become available. So now, with the combination of all the financial benefits, you also have to take into consideration the benefit of being able to graduate in a time when, I mean, right now, if you were to go back into the job market, it would be next to impossible for many people, but in the meantime, if you are looking for opportunity to really get your career set on the right track, it might be a good time to do that, and then, by the time you graduate, it’s two years out.
Excellent. Thank you. Regina, Trish had mentioned this in the chat, but could you talk a little bit about iGrad?
Yeah, I might need some help from Trish about this, but iGrad’s great. It’s a total financial literacy program for students, but Trish, I guess, before I go into it too much, do they have access yet? When do they get access to it?
Yeah, so for students who have already deposited and have activated their Middlebury accounts, since they now have access to BannerWeb, they do have access to the financial literacy tool, and as much as we promote it during your program, I think it’s fantastic ahead of time too because there’s a ton of resources and tools out there for federal loans as well and budgeting.
What I put in the chat specifically was that it does have a scholarship search engine that I found really helpful because you can filter by a graduate or a master’s program, and then, they had a whole section for non-US citizens as well, and I know that a lot of search engines lack that, so I thought that could be really helpful for students.
And of course, we always encourage to continue to apply for external scholarships even while you’re in your program because a lot of scholarships will require that you’re actually actively enrolled, so I wouldn’t stop prior to actually attending.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s great. If you’ve deposited, I encourage you, if you’re bored and you don’t have a lot to do, there’s a lot in there, and for those of you that maybe had undergraduate loans, there’s information.
One of the things we also do is we have a big, it feels like it’s long because it’s two hours, but it flies, but we talk, in great depth, about how to manage these loans because some students have never had to take out loans, or for those of you that had undergraduate loans, the balance of loans was just much lower, and so, one of the things that we do, and that you’ll find we refer to the iGrad tool a lot in that session, is we talk to you about how to repay those loans.
Our default rate is like half a percent, which is great. It’s very, very low. If you look at most schools, they have high, but we are very committed to making sure our students understand, responsibly, how to manage the loans that they’ve taken, so we talk, in great detail, about each repayment plan, why you might pick one versus the other, because it’s overwhelming.
There are, I think, over eight or nine different repayment plans that you can select from, but we go in painstaking detail of why you might choose one or what’s the pro of one versus the other, given your individual goals in life, if you’re trying to save money, if you’re trying to pay it off the quickest, if you’re trying to find the lowest payment, if you want forgiveness.
So those are things that we do every semester, and so, some of our students, and actually, we think some people came to it, because we didn’t realize, when we sent out the invitation, it was going to all students, so we actually had a prospective student joins us at our exit, but they happen every semester, and so, you can sit in on each one each semester and just get a better idea of the loans and feel more comfortable with them, but we’re very into literacy, so if you have financial questions, we want to hear them, and we want to help you with them.
Excellent. Thank you for those. So, it looks like we’re close to wrapping up. I’ve seen a couple other questions come in that are probably a little bit outside of the financial aid talk, but if you’re admitted, your deposit deadline should be in your admissions letter, so you can look for that information there, and some folks may have seen the news that we did acquire a building nearby that we’ll be transforming into housing, so that’s really exciting news.
I don’t know much about the timeline of, kind of, the renovation and retrofit of that building, but we’ll definitely share that, or I’ll ask the student services team to address that in that future discussion that’s happening next week, if they have any insights there.
And then, in terms of when you get access to additional systems, you should be able to access those now actually, once you’ve deposited. You’ll get an email a few days after deposit from our IT team about how to access your Middlebury email, which will provide a credential, which will give you access to a lot of other systems on campus, but I can also push that question to the student life presentation that’s going to be taking place on June 3rd.
So, in the chat, I’ve put the link to the other discussions. It should look familiar since you probably saw that link to access this particular discussion, so we’ll be doing some scholarship discussions focused on international students tomorrow, but again, Wednesday, June 3rd, 4:00 PM Pacific Time, we’ll jump into a lot of the community, wellness, housing issues and questions that you’ve brought up today, and then, the next week, June 10th, on that Wednesday, we’ll talk about outcomes and internships and the careers and internships session with our Center for Academic Advising and Career Services, so those should be really exciting and informative sessions, and then, of course, we’ll keep adding to this as the summer progresses, so there will be additional discussions that do come up.
But I’d certainly like to thank our panelists for coming online today and answering these question, so a visual round of applause to the panelists. Thank you so much, and of course, I’d like to thank everyone for participating, asking these great questions, and we’ll get back to you with some additional answers and post these on the FAQ page as well.
But thank you all so much, and I hope you have a great day.