In this issue:
General News    |    Featured Tool    |    College Planning    |    Who's Who    |    Financial Aid
Scholarships & Other Aid Opportunities    |    Financial Literacy    |    Student Loan Management    |    Calendar

General News

January NT4CM Workshops for Counselors Focus on the FAFSA

It's almost January and you know what that means….FAFSA completion is just around the corner! OCAP is offering counselor workshops in January that will focus on resources from UCanGo2 and the National Training for Counselors and Mentors (NT4CM) initiative to help you teach the students and parents you serve how to avoid common mistakes and successfully complete the FAFSA.magnifying glass

Workshop topics include:

Mark your calendar and register (external class)  to join us for a free, half-day workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. at one of these locations:

Come freshen up your knowledge and gather your tools to get your students and parents on the FAFSA path quickly in 2012. Seating is limited so don't wait - register today! (external class) 

Host a College Countdown Event on your Campus!NSU campus

February is typically the month most students begin working on the FAFSA, and OCAP is coordinating a series of campus events throughout the month. Partner with UCanGo2 to host a College Countdown event and invite students and families from surrounding high schools and communities to participate in workshops, meetings and planning sessions dedicated to preparing for education beyond high school.

Similar to the College Goal Sunday program, UCanGo2 College Countdown events are planned by a host campus that will advertise, promote, schedule and conduct informational opportunities for students to receive planning materials, ask questions, and learn firsthand about the necessary steps to take, such as FAFSA completion.

Sponsorship funds may be available for participating institutions. If you’d like more information about hosting a College Countdown event, contact Theresa Battles at 405.234.4315 or

Photo provided by Northeastern State University

Serving Homeless Unaccompanied Youth

According to the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE), each year more than one million young people in the U.S. can be considered homeless, and a subset of those young people are “unaccompanied homeless youth.” In addition to facing homelessness and the everyday challenges faced by peers, these youth don’t have the support of a caring adult.

The McKinney-Vento Act, reauthorized in 2002 as Title X, Part C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is the primary federal legislation dealing with the education of students considered homeless. These provisions include higher education and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and address the assistance and connections that higher education institutions can provide to affected students.

McKinney-Vento defines homeless children and youth as individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including:

When considering who meets this definition, NCHE suggests we ask ourselves, “Does the student go to the same place (fixed) every night (regular) to sleep in a safe and sufficient space (adequate)? If the answer is no, the student is considered homeless.

Students who meet the above definition and the definition of homeless unaccompanied youth have many barriers to education at all levels, including acute family conflict (physical, verbal, sexual or mental), absentee parents (physically unavailable or disengaged) and living in high-risk environments. Unaccompanied homeless youth who want to attend college often face:

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, each state must appoint a state coordinator for homeless education, and the Oklahoma’s State Department of Education has set-up a website for implementation of the McKinney-Vento Act. (external class)  The state is charged with implementing the Act in all school districts across the state, and each school district must appoint a liaison to ensure district implementation. These state coordinators and district liaisons can be valuable resources for determining independent student status and understanding the needs of these students. In addition to state contacts, the NCHE provides technical assistance, educational materials and information to help students via a website, (external class)  a helpline (800.308.2145) and e-mail address (

If you have questions about the McKinney-Vento Act and how you can work proactively to serve homeless unaccompanied youth in your school or on your campus, visit the NCHE website. (external class)  Additionally, a session presentation at the recent FSA conference in Las Vegas (PDF) focused on supporting unaccompanied homeless youth as they pursue higher education may also be helpful.

For more information about efforts within Oklahoma and state-based resources, visit the State Department of Education’s website (external class)  or contact your district liaison. (external class) 

Holiday Traditions – Our Family to Yours

door opening into a holiday celebrationHot cocoa, gingerbread men, wrapping paper and bows … ready or not, the holidays are here. We hope you’re already feeling festive, but in case you need a little help to get merrier, we’ve asked some of our treasured campus and community partners to share their favorite holiday traditions.

From our extended OCAP family to yours, we wish you a very happy holiday season!

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Featured Tool

UCanGo2’s 2012 College Planning Calendar

2012 College Access CalendarIt’s hard to believe another year has nearly passed us by, isn’t it? OCAP’s annual college access calendar will soon be available to help you get a head start on organizing for 2012. The calendar highlights our UCanGo2 products and services, and each month includes handy information about planning, preparing and paying for college. In addition to all the major holidays, our calendar lists the dates of various state and national conferences that support the work of K-12 counselors, campus financial aid administrators and TRiO programs, among many other key players in student access and success.

If you’re already on our mailing list, you’ll receive your calendar in the next few weeks. To subscribe and request a copy, contact OCAP Outreach Services at 405.234.4329, 800.247.0420, x4239 (toll free) or Here’s to a happy and productive new year!

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College Planning

Testing, 1 – 2 – 3: ACT/SAT Preparation Resources

Forget sugar plums … high school juniors and seniors will likely have something else ‘dancing in their heads’ this month: tests. Undoubtedly, students are focusing on final exams before the holiday break, and this month is also a great time for students to plan for the ACT or SAT.

When it comes to college admission, these tests play a big role. Luckily, free resources are available to help students prepare for both exams. (external class) 
Under the Test Prep tab, students can find free practice tests to help them prepare for both the ACT and SAT. Students can also use this site to complete college admission applications online. Creating an account is free, and students can authorize their high school counselor to help them complete various online features. (external class) 
In addition to learning more about the ACT, students can view practice questions for the English, math, reading and science portions and receive immediate verification of their answers. Students can also view sample writing prompts to prepare for the optional writing portion. (external class) 
This site contains helpful resources for students preparing to take the SAT, including full practice tests and free study guides.

Remind your students that they can—and should—take the exam(s) as many times as possible to increase their score. It’s also helpful for students to remember that although these scores are important, colleges do take other factors into consideration when making admission decisions.

Holiday Scholarship Hunting

Did you know this time of year is prime time for scholarship searches? Many websites offer free searches with several deadline dates as early as January or February. Encourage your students to take advantage of free time over the holidays to step up their search for college scholarships. young women looking through field glasses

In addition to academic sources, many retailers also provide scholarships to students preparing for college. Businesses such as Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Talbots and Target offer scholarship applications on their websites. A few have early deadlines and some aren’t even available until after the first of the year. If your students have a favorite store, encourage them to inquire about college funding opportunities.

UCanGo2 is also a valuable resource for your students to use when searching for scholarships. Check out the Resources tab at to find the following helpful materials.

Scholarship Success offers tips for researching online scholarships, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and writing scholarship essays. It also lists several free scholarship websites.

Tribal Scholarships provides links to the scholarship programs offered by several Native American tribes in Oklahoma.

UCanGo2’s Tracking My Classes & Achievements worksheet helps high school students keep track of classes, activities, awards and volunteer experiences from freshman year through graduation. Volunteerism and participation in extracurricular activities are important elements of successful scholarship applications; encourage your students to get involved in the community as school and family obligations allow.

Students can learn about featured scholarships on UCanGo2’s Facebook page, too, which also provides helpful college planning information. Ask your students to ‘like’ us at (external class)  today. We hope you’ll ‘like’ us, too!

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Who's Who

Do You Know Patricia Kaseca?

Patricia KasecaWe do, and our Outreach Team has been so impressed by her passion for helping Oklahoma students choose higher education, we’re excited to tell you more about her.

Patricia, who serves as Admissions Recruiting Counselor at Bacone College in Muskogee, was born in Claremore and raised in Tulsa. The oldest of seven children, she comes from a rich Native American lineage (Muscogee-Creek and Cherokee). Her parents emphasized the value and importance of education. Her father would often say, “You can accomplish almost anything in life if you don’t give up.” When Patricia started college at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, she was the first member of her family to go to college.

Her first year in college was a challenge. She struggled academically and felt unprepared. After her first year, she transferred to a community college and sought out a tutor to help her with the more difficult subjects and improve her study habits. In 2000, Patricia enrolled at Rogers State University to complete her degree. Patricia remembers the strong desire she felt to finish school. “Returning to school as an older student and working full-time made me more determined to finish my education since my son, Russell, also started his first year at college. Some evenings we were both in our books or writing papers. It felt a little weird getting algebra help from my son, but then he could rely on me to help with the essays.”

Patricia’s experiences in higher education have given her a real-life perspective when relating to students. “What I like to share with students is that they must become a person of perseverance to attain their dream of completing college. Persistence and determination come from within, a strong desire or motivation that allows one to keep moving forward regardless of the circumstances in life,” she says.

Before coming to Bacone, Patricia worked in the education field, where she encountered many students from elementary school age and up. Whenever she saw a movie or read a story that inspired her personally, she enjoyed passing its message on to the younger children she worked with.

Since joining Bacone in March, Patricia has made it her mission to steer as many students as possible toward higher education. She finds that a majority of the students she works with are just like her—“first generation” college students with a Native American heritage. She credits the others on her recruitment team—Kindle Holderby, Terrance Roby and Amanda Catcher—with helping to keep her passion for education and getting more students involved in the college experience alive. If you see Patricia at a college fair, you’ll see her making the rounds at various tables, handing out business cards to other recruiters and networking as much as she can. She’s also reached out to community partners through OK-CAN, the Oklahoma College Access Network, using the resources available there to spread the word about various tribal college fairs and events and making more recruiters aware of those opportunities.

Thanks, Patricia, for all of your hard work and for your tireless devotion to your students!

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Financial Aid

FSA Releases Complete 2010-11 Handbook with Linked Index

On Dec. 5, the Department of Education announced release of the link-indexed version of the 2010-11 FSA Handbook. When a topic is selected in the online index, the user will be routed to the section of the handbook that deals with that topic.

Aid administrators with questions or comments regarding this upgraded version of the FSA Handbook can contact FSA at

New Disclosure Requirements: Is Your School in Compliance?

The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) contained many new disclosure requirements for schools, which are designed to improve the quality of information provided to students and their families. Disclosure requirements are an element of a school’s Title IV program participation agreement.

A recent study by the Education Sector and American Enterprise Institute reviewed 152 schools to determine the extent to which required information was published or made available for the following five requirements:

Although a high percentage of schools in the study did provide the required disclosures for credit transfer policies, textbook prices and private student loan information, a significant percentage failed to properly disclose placement rates, and only 25 percent could provide Pell graduation rates. A report of the study, The Truth Behind Higher Education Disclosure Laws, is available on the Education Sector website. (external class) 

In addition to the requirements examined in this study, the HEOA created new disclosure requirements regarding:

Learn more and access HEOA resource materials on OCAP’s Legislation Web page.

Determining Last Date of Attendance for Distance Education

With all the changes enacted by the Higher Education Opportunity Act, it appears this one may have been overlooked by some schools. The Oct. 29, 2010 Federal Register (PDF) discussed and made changes to the way the last date of attendance is calculated for students taking online courses.

ED does not consider simply ‘logging in’ to an online course to be a demonstration of academic attendance. To demonstrate the last date of academic attendance for online activity, the school must demonstrate that the student “participated in class or was otherwise engaged in an academically-related activity, such as by contributing to an online discussion or initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a course-related question.” We encourage schools offering distance education courses to review the discussion on pp. 66898-99 of the Federal Register and §668.22(l)(7) to ensure you’re in compliance with these new regulations.

More Financial Aid News

What's New on IFAP?

Gainful Employment Electronic Announcements (GEEA)

Common Manual Update

The latest version of the Integrated Common Manual is available on the Common Manual website. (external class)   As always, if you have questions about the manual, contact our Policy, Compliance and Training department at 405.234.4432, 800.247.0420 (toll free) or

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Scholarships and Other Aid Opportunities

Graduation CapThe Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference program seeks rising high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism and who demonstrate qualities of a “free spirit.” Fifty-one students, representing each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, will meet in Washington, D.C. in July 2012 to participate in an all-expenses-paid journalism conference, which will offer:

Students who are high school juniors in the 2011-2012 academic year are eligible to apply. The deadline to submit an application is February 15, 2012. To learn more, visit (external link)   and select ‘Free Spirit’. Locate more scholarship programs on our Scholarship Opportunities page.

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Financial Literacy

Ask the Expert: What’s the difference between ‘good debt’ and ‘bad debt’?

Going into debt for items that are disposable or lose value is considered bad debt. For example, if you regularly eat out and charge it to your credit card, charge clothes that you want but don’t need, or buy a new vehicle every two years that loses value as soon as it’s driven off the lot, you’re racking up bad debt. Bad debt happens when we use credit to make unhealthy financial choices, creating unhealthy financial circumstances. Clothes, toys and vacations are fun, but they don’t build wealth or earn value over time.

Good debt, on the other hand, gains value, helps builds wealth and adds to our personal well-being. For example, careful borrowing of student loans to help pay for school is a good investment because a degree provides more job stability and higher lifetime earning potential. The mortgage on your home – assuming you bought a home you can truly afford - is another example of good debt. Not only is the equity in your home an asset, but the interest you pay on the loan is tax deductible.

While it’s always a better practice to remain as debt-free as possible, few people can buy a home, car or other big ticket item without using some form of credit. Before you charge it, ask yourself these questions to decide if using credit is a good risk.

If you’ve thought it through and decided it’s necessary to charge a purchase, consider these tips to keep debt under control.

If your debt situation has become more than you can comfortably handle on your own, contact a reputable credit counseling service that’s affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (external link)   ( If you’re in the Oklahoma City metro area, contact Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma at 800.364.2227 (toll free) or visit their website at (external link)  

Smart Phone Apps that Save Moneyiphone

If your extreme couponing adventure ended after the first round of coupons expired, you may need a little help staying on top of the best deals. Smart phone users can find plenty of apps that help save time and money. Some of the top-rated apps are listed below.

Coupon Sherpa

Available for: iPhone, Android
Cost: FREE
Forget the endless coupon printing! Coupon Sherpa lets you list your favorite stores and finds internet coupons for you. Some coupons even have a barcode for immediate scanning.


Available for: iPhone, Android, Blackberry
Cost: FREE
Another couponing app, Yowza uses GPS to send you offers for any of the 10,000 retailers that are near your location.


Available for: iPhone, Android, Blackberry
Cost: $0.99
One of the best ways to curb your spending is to create a list and stick to it. Shopper helps you build a list, search for coupons and add up your total as you make purchases.


Available for: iPhone
Cost: $1.99
Love a great deal, but not mathematically gifted? Larger size doesn’t always mean bigger value; use CompareMe to find the best deal by unit cost. Enter quantities and price, and CompareMe will show you which option is actually cheapest.

Red Laser

Available for: iPhone, Android
Cost: Free
Barcode scanners let you comparison shop right in the store! Scan a barcode and Red Laser will identify your product and search thousands of retailers for the best price.

Gas Buddy

Available for: iPhone, Android, Blackberry
Cost: Free
Find the gas station near you with the lowest price per gallon and help others save money by reporting local gas prices.


Available for: iPhone, Android
Cost: Free
Tired of that pile of messy receipts? Lemon allows you to scan those receipts with your smart phone so you can tag, organize and search them.

There are many other apps designed to help families save time and spend wisely, so it’s worth your time to browse all the options and find the apps that best fit your needs. Put your smart phone to work for you!

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Student Loan Management

Special Loan Consolidation Program: FAQs Available

Recently, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced a Special Direct Loan Consolidation Program to assist borrowers with establishing one payment to one lender at a discounted interest rate. Beginning January 2012 through June 30, 2012, the program is available for borrowers who have:

This program reduces the interest rate of any commercially-held FFELP loan entering consolidation by .25 percent. Borrowers can multiply the total principal amount of their loans entering consolidation by .0025 to calculate their annual savings under the program.

To assist borrowers and schools with determining the ultimate impact of this program on repayment at various debt levels, OCAP’s Default Prevention department has developed a reference chart.

Annual Savings with .25% Reduction*
Principal Amount  $10,000  $25,000  $50,000  $100,000 
     Savings       $25    $62.50      $125       $250 

In addition to the .25 percent annual savings offered by the Special Consolidation Loan program, borrowers are offered the usual .25 percent interest rate reduction by signing up to have their payments electronically transferred from a bank account.

Recently, a workgroup of the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs (NCHELP) and Student Loan Servicing Alliance (SLSA), which included OCAP staff, put together a Special Direct Consolidation Loan Program Q&A (external link)   to help answer questions regarding this program. Please note that this document will be updated as new information becomes available.

In light of this new program, OCAP encourages schools to:

To ensure borrowers receive the necessary information, we encourage schools to remain engaged as ED continues to develop this program and answer questions. For more information, please see ED’s Special Direct Consolidation Loans Web page (external link)   or contact OCAP’s Policy, Compliance and Training department at or 405.234.4432.

Make the Most of Exit Counseling

In higher education, graduation is the sign of a job well done. Beyond the degree, however, students must also find a job, successfully manage their money and repay their student loans.

Exit counseling is a key tool that campus professionals can use to ensure success continues after graduation. This process provides students with information and skills needed to enter the working world with a plan to pay back their education loans.

OCAP offers campuses free customized assistance with in-person exit counseling that will help students understand their federal student loan obligations and prepare for successful repayment. Our exit counseling sessions are interactive opportunities for students to ask questions and learn about the following topics:

Spring graduation will be here before we know it! If you’d like to discuss a personalized exit counseling session for your campus, contact Liz Brandon, OCAP Training Coordinator, at 405.234.4288 or

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