In a continued effort to help students and parents prepare for college or career school, the U.S. Department of Education has launched the Financial Aid Toolkit. This “one-stop shop” provides federal student aid information and outreach tools for counselors, college access professionals, nonprofit mentors, and others. Financial aid professionals may also find these toolkit resources useful.
The Financial Aid Toolkit, located at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, is ideal for learning about types of financial aid, student eligibility, the FAFSA, and loan repayment. This Toolkit has some excellent resources, including tips on hosting outreach events and sample financial aid night PowerPoints, as well as suggested messages for social media, emails, and newsletters.
To make it easy to find the resources and content, the Toolkit consolidates and organizes FSA resources into a searchable online database.
In November, Nelnet hosted another round of Advisory Council meetings. These meetings give financial aid professionals from the SWASFAA, RMASFAA, WASFAA, MASFAA, EASFAA, and SASFAA regions an opportunity to voice their thoughts, concerns, and ideas regarding Nelnet and the financial aid industry.
Since schools and students are Nelnet’s primary focus, the guidance provided in these meetings allows us to improve our loan servicing efforts and product offerings. We have been able to implement many past recommendations and are very proud and excited to have finished as the #1 servicer in the FSA survey for the past two years. Without the help of our regional Advisory Councils, this would not have been possible.
Here are some major things we learned during our recent Advisory Council calls:
- Our schools are happy with the information being provided on the monthly Nelnet Loan Servicing Snapshot. We received a few suggestions on additional information that would increase the snapshot’s value.
- Members were excited about our new, upcoming “nuts and bolts” approach to default prevention (details forthcoming!).
- There is some borrower-specific deferment and forbearance related information that our schools would like to access through Nsight.
- Council members were in agreement that they could benefit from leveraging Nelnet’s expertise in locating skip borrowers.
- Email communication seems to work well for Advisory Council members, and they like the new newsletter format. We received great feedback regarding what topics our school partners would like to read more about.
- Council members commended Nelnet on making it easy for borrowers to make excess payments on loans, but would like to see consistency among servicers in this area.
- From a default prevention perspective, our school partners asked Nelnet to ponder how we could assist them with identifying what a defaulter looks like at their specific institution.
- One of the greatest challenges facing financial aid professionals is finding time to provide all the information that is essential to student success in loan repayment.
Along with these, our members have provided Nelnet with numerous tangible recommendations for improving Nelnet’s service to school and borrower customers. We are fortunate to be receiving such direction from these groups and look forward to working hand-in-hand with them to further support our customers and the borrowers they serve.
Please let your Regional Director know if you’d like to participate in a future Advisory Council meeting. As always, if you have recommendations, feel free to submit them on our website or reach out to your Regional Director.
The Final Student Loan Rules have been posted on the FSA website. The link to the PDF can be found in this electronic announcement, as well as on the IFAP website under Federal Registers. Check it out!
“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” Although meant as a joke by comedian Milton Berle, Erika Cox most likely agrees with that statement. Erika is the Associate Director for Student Enrollment Services at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the mother of two daughters, Evelyn (Evie) and Eliana (Elie). Her other “two hands” come from husband Brandon, “who is an extremely supportive husband and hands-on dad.” They also have “a worthless (but cute) mini-schnauzer Darcy” that rounds out the family of 4 ½.
A 2012 Pew Research Center survey noted 56% of working moms and 50% of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family life responsibilities. Erika and Brandon have found ways to make sure that family remains their top priority.
“As much as possible I try to leave work at work,” says Erika. She admits that this task may be hard in busy months like August, but feels that’s when it’s the most necessary. She recalls her dad reading to her at night as a child, and that has always stuck with her. “It’s a tradition that I’ve carried on with my daughters. No matter how hard of a day I’ve had (or how many times I’ve had to explain a “simple” financial aid concept), reading The Berenstain Bears to Evie makes me forget about it.” She relishes the shared giggles, secrets, and prayers that remind her that family is the most important aspect of their lives. She added, “I do travel for work at times, but make ‘dates’ with my children individually the weekend after. That gives Brandon a break and also shows my kids they are still my world.” She loves Facetime and notes it is a great invention for fellow travelers! “I can’t overstate how much the support my husband gives me allows me to be the worker that I am. He’s an incredible partner and friend.”
Erika remembers arriving home from the hospital with Evie some 4 ½ years ago. “I remember panicking and saying, who let me take care of a baby human?!” She notes it was an incredible responsibility and joy all rolled into one. “Ah, there were sleepless nights, double-checking Evie for breathing, trying to figure out how to feed her, and scrutinizing the color of every B.M., looking for signs of trouble. She admits that things with Elie came much easier. “I had the confidence of having done everything before, and that brought great peace of mind.” She was fortunate to take 12 weeks off with Evie, and 11 weeks with Elie. “After my time off, I went back to work full time and right in the middle of summer disbursements (each time). Talk about stressful!” She admits it was very difficult to go back to work. “Emotionally it’s a tough decision for any parent to leave your baby with anyone other than you; it’s especially tough if you’re a nursing mother.”
What influenced your decision to go back to work?
“There were multiple reasons why I returned to work. The obvious is financial but I also feel called to what I do. The work we do as financial aid professionals is immensely important and gratifying, and I love the team I’m a part of. As long as I can contribute, I will. My girls know that I love them and that they come first. But they also understand that mommy has other responsibilities as well. Also, socialization is great for children. Most days my daughter can’t wait to go to preschool and be with other kids. Guess I’m just not that cool to be around.”
Most working parents will tell you that there are multiple challenges returning to work, and Erika is no exception. Their greatest challenge initially was time management. “Once you get in a routine, it just becomes life, and it does get easier. Now that we’re in a routine, it’s the sick days that are the hardest.” Erika and Brandon try to split sick days for the kids 50/50, but with two children, it seems like “sicknesses last that much longer.”
The best advice she can give new moms preparing to return to work is to schedule and plan! She learned to prepare and freeze several meals for her first week back, which made her transition of coming home much easier. Little things like keeping pictures of her kiddos at her desk and calling the daycare at lunch (“only when I really needed a fix”) helped her feel connected to the children and reminded her of why she works. She offers, “ALLOW YOURSELF TO CRY THE FIRST DAY IN THE PARKING LOT! I did. You’ll feel a lot better if you let it out. If you wear makeup, make sure to bring some with you, because you’ll most likely have it running down your face. Also, remember to cut yourself some slack.” She doesn’t always feel like a super-mom and realizes she is not perfect, “but no one else is perfect either.” Added advice: “I promise your child’s brain will not suffer from allowing her to watch an extra Caillou or Blue’s Clues, because that’s the only way you can either cook dinner or get ready in the morning. Limit the guilt. I know it’s tough but you know you love your kids and I promise they know too.”
She offers these time saving tips to other working parents:
“To save time in the morning (and sleep in as long as possible) I prepare everything the night before: lunch, bottles, baby food; I even lay out my clothes. Also, we have our kids on a schedule. Their bedtimes are early (the baby is asleep by 7 and Evelyn is in her room by 7:30). This allows time for Brandon and I to spend time as a couple, spend alone time, or work on anything still outstanding without feeling like we’re neglecting our kids. It works for us. Find out what works best for you.”
Brag to us about your children.
“I can do that rather well,” says Erika.
“Evie is a great mix of tom-boy and princess. She’s silly, kind, and enjoys attention in the form of singing and dancing. She’s never met a stranger and is constantly trying to make Darcy (the worthless dog) take part in her imaginative play. Darcy, bless her, is an extremely patient and compliant dog. I should give her treats more often. Evelyn is her dad’s twin in appearance BUT she has all of my flair for the dramatic and love of people. Eliana may look like me, but she has her dad’s temperance. Smiles come easily with her and she’s a very patient baby and definitely has a “go with the flow” attitude. She also has the biggest blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
Successful parenting is about making wise choices in order to prepare young men and women to be released into the world as responsible adults. It appears that Evie and Ellie are on their way to productive and successful lives. And maybe someday, they’ll be reading The Berenstain Bears to their children.
What is everyone’s favorite word this morning? Well, Verification of course! FSA recently posted additional guidance that institutions may use to collect verification information related to the 2014-15 FAFSA’s.
The announcement addresses:
- Customized Verification
- Removing Unnecessary Burden
- Suggested Verification Text
- Changes to 2014-15 Tracking Groups
Need: The ability to upload and submit documents to Nelnet in a secure format.
Solution: Use the Document Delivery system that was recently incorporated into Nsight Plus. Simply select the Contact Us/Upload Docs tab, select the Upload Documents tab, complete the fields, and click Send Document at the bottom. To send an additional document, click Send Another Document and repeat the process. Yes it is really that easy!
A few additional facts:
- We will make sure the appropriate area within Nelnet receives your information to update our systems.
- Your data will be sent in a secure environment and encrypted behind the scenes automatically.
- For best results, please include the 8-digit DOE code that pertains to your document in the designated field.
- We can accept any file format up to 10 MB.
Some Ideas of What to Upload:
- Demographic changes
- Withdrawn student listing
- Deferment Forms
- Forbearance Forms
- Specific borrower account questions with backup documentation
- Enrollment information
- Repayment Plan Forms
- Proof of Death Documentation
- Any supporting documentation that include personal identifying information
If you do not have Nsight Plus access, please submit the online request form at http://www.nelnetloanservicing.com/nsight/. You will receive a communication with your logon credentials from Nelnet’s School Service Center within two business days! Should you have any questions about how to schedule a report or about any other Nsight Plus features and functionality, we encourage you to view the computer-based training modules at the above link, or as always, please feel free to contact Nelnet’s School Service Center (866.463.5638 or email@example.com) or your designated Partner Solutions Representative.