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

FAFSA Fundamentals

Are you combing through paperwork, websites and emails to familiarize yourself with the 2012-13 FAFSA regulations? Does trying to get the new FAFSA scoop make you want to flip out, fly the coop, flee the scene? No need to run for the hills. Help is right here!

Did you know the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP) offers updated tools to meet your FAFSAeducation needs? OCAP's Outreach Team has been working hard to Slides from FAFSA Fundamentals compile the new 2012-13 FAFSA Fundamentals (PPT), a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation that provides answers to frequently asked questions and explains why students should complete the FAFSA, what it's used for, and what happens after the college receives the student's data.

The 2012-13 FAFSA Fundamentals presentation can be found under the Resources tab at We've provided speaker's notes on each page of the PowerPoint presentation so you can easily conduct a financial aid workshop at your school or in your community in January or February. This presentation can be customized to meet your needs … if you'd like to include your contact information, notes about local scholarships or the deadline for graduation fees at your school, you can add it! We also offer financial aid and college planning handouts you can share with the students and parents you serve. Check out the tools listed below, which are also available for download at

Feel free to make as many copies as you need to distribute at school or during financial aid events. We also offer posters you can use to help students remember that completing the FAFSA is a crucial - and time-sensitive - step to secure federal aid for college (see the Featured Tool segment in this newsletter for more information ).

We've almost completed the 2012-13 edition of the FAFSA Fundamentals Presenter's Guide, which will be available very soon on the UCanGo2 website. A companion to the PowerPoint presentation, the presenter's guide will help you host a successful workshop or event. Keep checking for the updated version.

Remember, the FAFSA should be completed by your seniors as soon after January 1st as possible. Encourage your college-bound students to visit (external class)  now to complete the online application!

Counselors who'd like to learn more about the 2012-13 FAFSA are invited to join us for the NT4CM Focus on the FAFSA Counselor Workshops, which will be held:

Times and specific location information are available on the UCanGo2 site. Register for a counselor workshop today! (external class) 

The OCAP Outreach Team is also available to present FAFSA and college planning workshops for your students, their parents, and peer educators. We're currently taking requests from schools to attend their events. Contact us at, 405.234.4239 or 866.443.7420 (toll free) for more information.

Let the College Countdown Begin!

Last month, we shared that OCAP is coordinating a series of campus events in February to promote FAFSA completion and early college planning. It's the perfect time to plan a College Countdown event on your campus to help local high school students (and their parents, too!) get serious about completing the FAFSA and college campus directional signcollege applications. For many, the opportunity to ask questions and get practical advice earlier in the senior year will determine if they’re college-bound this fall.

To help offset the cost of your event, sponsorship funds of up to $1,500 may be available for participating institutions. OCAP’s Outreach Team can also help with materials, presentations and event planning tips.

For more information, contact Theresa Battles at, 405.234.4315 or 800.247.0420, x4315 (toll free).

Verification Changes for 2012-13

Financial aid administrators, the Department of Education (ED) outlined in GEN-11-13 (external class)  the items to be verified for all students selected for verification in 2012-2013. This includes a new requirement - a tax transcript to verify taxes reported in the 2012-2013 FAFSA.

Please note that copies of any other tax documentation will not satisfy the verification requirement with very few exceptions by ED (such as circumstances in which the institution determines it's not possible to secure a tax transcript; in that case, the institution may accept a signed copy of the student or parent's taxes and document that acceptance and rationale). See GEN-11-13 (external class)  for more information on this important new verification requirement.

January is Data Privacy Month

Jan. 28 is Data Privacy Day, an annual international celebration designed to promote awareness about privacy and education about best privacy practices. In our digitized world, our personal data is often requested or required. Who has your data, with whom are they sharing it, and how can you protect your personal data from misuse?

caution tapeIn addition to monitoring use of our private data, we share the responsibility of protecting our students', borrowers', and employees' personal information. Data Privacy Day encourages all stakeholders to embrace protective measures and encourage use of privacy practices that protect personal information.

EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology, is expanding Data Privacy Day to include the entire month of January. They're offering free Webinars and simple tips to increase data privacy awareness; visit the EDUCAUSE website (external class)  for details. For more information about protecting personal information, check out the National Cyber Security Alliance’s site, (external class) 

question marks with one red exclamation mark

Uncommon Resolutions to Kick-Start Success

Tired of the same old New Year's resolutions that are failed and forgotten by Valentine's Day? We all have a long list of changes we believe will make us better people, but change is hard. If you keep tackling the same problems with little success, perhaps you need to consider some different goals to refresh your resolution spirit.

Here are a few ideas for uncommon 2012 resolutions:

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Featured Tool

UCanGo2's FAFSA Posters

FAFSA postersAre you a school counselor, financial aid administrator or community partner who encourages students and parents to complete the FAFSA for federal financial aid? UCanGo2 offers free FAFSA posters to hang in school hallways, on office doors or at community venues to encourage students to complete the FAFSA, tell them where to find assistance and the online form, and remind them how important it is to submit the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible.

These posters are available for free download at, or you can email to request copies. For more information about the posters and OCAP's many other FAFSA tools for educators, call one of our Outreach Team members at 405.234.4239 or 866.443.7420 (toll free). Read more about our FAFSA tools in the FAFSA Fundamentals article in this newsletter.

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College Planning

Exploring Careers

Do you know a middle school or high school student who’s trying to decide what to do after high school? We can tell students over and over again that their options are endless, but most need a little guidance to kick-start the process of learning about potential vocations. Fortunately, free resources are available to help you engage students in career exploration.

To get the conversation started, try asking these questions:

  1. What do you like to do? What are you good at?

    When students focus on their current interests, they can start thinking about what they’d like to do in the future. Any talent or strength can be translated into a career they might enjoy. Remind them if they have a knack for something that comes easy to them, they’ll most likely excel in a career that utilizes that natural ability.

  2. What’s a good fit for your personality?

    This question’s a little tougher than the first. Many students will bounce the question right back to you - “How would you describe my personality?” – so after you’ve given your positive feedback, point them to tools that will help them sort it out on their own.

  3. Where do you want to go? How will you get there?

    We know that the majority of U.S. careers now require some form of higher education. It’s likely a high school graduate will need specialized training and/or a degree to land a career that’ll provide higher income potential, access to better benefits and increased job security.

    • The Explore Careers section at offers a Student-Career Matching Assistant tool, and students can browse occupations by career cluster, search for specific careers by keyword and find helpful links to other career resources.
    • Research the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, (external class)  which details hundreds of career fields, including the training and education requirements for each field, income ranges and job prospects. The handbook is now available in Spanish, and you’ll find job search tips and job market information for each state and a page dedicated to ‘green’ careers.
    • Review the 'Where Am I Headed?', 'How Do I Get There?' and Programs of Study sections at (external class) 

  4. Where do you want to go to college?

    Remember, “college” can mean any education beyond high school, whether it’s at a career technology center, trade school, community college or university. It’s important for students to research and compare campuses based on the criteria that mean the most to them, such as cost, size, location and academic programs.

Whether you need a FAFSA workshop, free educational materials, free student tools or general guidance about college planning, the UCanGo2 Outreach Team is here to help. You can reach us at, 405.234.4239 or 866.443.7420 (toll free). We look forward to hearing from you!

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Who's Who

Do You Know Jo Ann Murray?Jo Ann Murray

Meet Jo Ann Murray, Project Director for Invest Ed®. Invest Ed® is a multi-component financial and investor education program made possible by a contract between the Oklahoma Securities Commission and the University of Oklahoma Outreach division.

Tell us about your work.

I manage STARS (Students Tracking and Researching the Stock Market), a free high school investment portfolio program. I train high school teachers to implement STARS within existing curricula and integrate the project with organizations they sponsor.

Throughout the year, STARS offers eight, one-day training workshops around the state and four summer training workshops in Norman. We offer ongoing support to all participating teachers and evaluate student reports. We plan two annual Awards Ceremonies to honor student report winners, their teachers and school administrators. In addition, we present and exhibit at numerous state and national conferences and continually research and update resources. Beginning this month, our program will start implementing pre- and post-event student assessments.

What do you like most about your job?

That’s a tough question because I love so much about this job! What I love most is impacting students’ financial futures. Previously, I was a high school teacher; meeting students’ needs is what I do!

From our inception in July 2005, nearly 17,000 students have participated in our program. I love working with amazing, dedicated teachers and our passionate, committed sponsors. I also love the quality and integrity of our program and the opportunity to show high school students that they have financial choices.

What are some of the unique services STARS provides?

Our program requires students to write a report and teaches securities fraud awareness and prevention. Numerous stock market portfolio simulation projects exist, but no other projects require these components. Students win the competition by writing the best report, not by making the most money. We intend to teach patience, goal setting, delayed gratification, and creative (critical) thinking.

Participating teachers receive a stipend to attend a training workshop and have immediate access to STARS staff for support. Our teachers have the opportunity to attend a free, two-day refresher workshop each summer. This session is conducted by a subject matter expert, a finance professor who was formerly a stock broker and branch office manager for a financial services company.

Our program is customizable for every school schedule, whether semester, trimester, quarter, or other specialized plan. We offer in-service and professional development presentations to high schools. Also, everything about our program is free!

How can people take advantage of the resources you have to offer?

Information about all Invest Ed® programs and services is available at (external class) 

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Financial Aid

ED News for Aid Officers

At the recent FSA Conference, aid officers were encouraged to enroll in IFAP. If you don’t already have an IFAP log-in (external link)  or user account (external link),  visit link)  to set your preferences. Once you’ve logged in or created your user account, click on My IFAP (left-hand column), then Subscription Options to select how you’d like to receive direct information updates. Be sure to click Submit to establish your preferences.

Additionally, if you haven’t already subscribed to ED’s listservs for aid administrators, you may want to consider joining the following distribution groups:

To join, visit the Getting Started section on the IFAP website (external class)  and select Mailing Lists/Listservs. (external class) 

New Credit Requirements for PLUS Loans

The Department of Education (ED) recently modified the criteria for determining that a Parent PLUS or Graduate PLUS loan applicant has an adverse credit history. A change was implemented in COD with the October 21, 2011 release to treat unpaid collection accounts and charge-offs, regardless of age, as adverse credit.

The FAQs section at (external class)  currently lists the following conditions for a denied credit check:

Aid administrators, if your school advises applicants when they may need to obtain a PLUS loan endorser, you may need to update your publications. If a collection account or charge-off has a balance greater than zero, the applicant could pay the balance before applying for the PLUS loan or, if the date of first delinquency was more than 7.5 years ago, the credit bureau can be asked to remove it.

FSA Conference Presentations Available for Download

The Department of Education has posted most presentations from the 2011 FSA Conference (external class)  on IFAP. Copies are available for download in PDF or PPT form.

More Financial Aid News

What's New on IFAP?

Application Processing

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 CapPublisher Signet Classics is hosting the 16th annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest, (external link)   through which five high school juniors or seniors can each win a $1,000 scholarship plus a Signet Classics library for their school. Entries must be submitted by a high school English teacher on behalf of students who write an essay on one of five topics for this year's competition book: Emma, by Jane Austen. Submissions will be judged on style, content, grammar and originality.

The contest is open to 11th and 12th grade full-time matriculated students who are attending high schools located in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, or home-schooled students between the ages of 16-18 who are residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. To be eligible, all entries must be postmarked by April 13, 2012 and received on or before April 20, 2012.

Find information about more scholarship programs on our Scholarship Opportunities page.

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Financial Literacy

Are You Ready for Tax Season?

Most people put off thinking about their taxes until they get their W-2, but there are some simple steps you can take now to ensure your tax season goes smoothly.

Purge and organize your filing system. Unfortunately, there are no firm rules when it comes to keeping and organizing financial paperwork. However, experts recommend the following general piles of paperguidelines for getting and staying organized:

  • Keep all important documents with sensitive personal information in a fire-proof lock-box so they’re protected from prying eyes.

  • Keep loan paperwork, deeds or other hard to replace documents in a safe place that can be accessed quickly in an emergency.

  • Tax records and supporting documentation, like W-2 forms, investment statements and donation receipts, should be kept for seven years.

  • Hang on to bank statements for a year and keep loan documents until the loan is repaid. Request a paid-in-full letter for your permanent records if you don’t receive one automatically after repaying a loan.

  • Credit card statements can be shredded once you’ve reconciled the bill and made sure your payments were properly credited.

  • Keep pay stubs and shred them once you receive your year-end statement showing your annual earnings.

  • Receipts for major purchases should be kept until the warranty expires. If the receipt is for a home improvement, hold on to it until you sell the home. Receipts for general purchases can be thrown away once you’ve had a chance to reconcile your bank statement.

  • It’s a good idea to keep three months of utility bills for proof of residence. Other than that, you can toss old ones when you’ve made sure your payment was credited, unless you’re deducting them as a home office expense. In that case, keep them with your tax records.

  • Any documents that are proof of tax deductions should be stored with the proper year’s tax paperwork. That way if you’re audited or need to return to it later, it’s all in one place for easy access.

Destroy the documents you don’t need. All that paperwork you just purged shouldn’t go in the garbage where identity thieves can steal it. Instead, invest in a cross-cut paper shredder and shred anything that has sensitive identifying information, like account numbers, Social Security numbers, birthdates or addresses.

Update your records. Start thinking about the tax deductions you qualify for and compiling the proper documentation. If you’ve been scribbling your mileage in a notebook, transfer the figures to a spreadsheet. If you’ve got a shoebox full of receipts, drag it out of the closet and add up the numbers. With your paperwork in order, you’ll be ready to roll once you get your W-2 – which means you’ll be one of the first to know how much you owe or how much you’re getting back.

Games that Put the Fun in Finances

We know that money management skills are essential for our students. However, we also know that personal finance isn’t glamorous or exciting; few of us are giddy about budgeting or balancing bank statements. Are you looking for creative ways to bring finances to life for the students you serve?

Financial Entertainment, (external link) (external link)   a site featuring a series of online games by the nonprofit organization Doorway to Dreams Fund (D2D), teaches consumers how to better manage money while promoting savings and debt management. D2D promotes financial literacy for low and moderate income consumers by creating innovative and stimulating financial products. Check out their current game selection.

A word of caution: though educational, these games are wonderfully addicting! To find more games and tools that make teaching and learning about personal finance more fun, search OKMM’s online resource clearinghouse.

Debt Solutions, Not Resolutions

Holiday parties are over, the tree is down and the tinsel is packed away. Even though the seasonal festivities are finished, many will continue to pay for the holiday cheer for months to come. If your goal is to work toward a more budget-friendly, stress-free gift-giving experience in 2012, check out these tips to get the ball rolling.

If you got wrapped up in the excitement of the season and went overboard in 2011, acknowledge that changes need to be made and move on. Don’t beat yourself up for decisions you can’t take back. Instead, focus on paying off the debt as quickly as possible and planning ahead for simpler, less expensive holiday season this year.

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Student Loan Management

Ask the Expert: Income-Based Repayment

The Income-Based Repayment plan (IBR), introduced in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, was designed to provide relief for borrowers struggling to meet their student loan repayment and other financial obligations. To be eligible for this plan, borrowers must demonstrate that their student loan debt is high in relation to their income and family size. Borrowers holding either Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) or William D. Ford Direct Loans (DL) became eligible for IBR beginning July 1, 2009. IBR features are detailed below.

Affordable Monthly Payments:

This chart illustrates the monthly payments for a borrower with a family size of four.
Annual Salary  $25,000  $35,000  $40,000  $45,000  $50,000  $55,000  $60,000 
     IBR Monthly      Payment       $0     $18      $81      $143       $206     $268      $331  

Interest Rate Benefit:

25-Year LoanCancellation:

10-Year Public Service Loan Forgiveness:

Borrowers can visit ED’s IBR Web page (external link)   to determine plan eligibility and get a monthly payment estimate. Detailed information, including a list of helpful FAQs, is also available on OCAP’s IBR Web page. Changes to the program could be forthcoming as part of the upcoming negotiated rulemaking process; we’ll keep you advised.

Our Default Prevention team is ready to answer any questions that your borrowers may have about IBR. We’re available Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 405.234.4352, 800.358.5460 (toll free) or

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