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

New Year, New (Financial) Beginning

InfographicFor many, a new year represents an opportunity for new beginnings. Some make New Year's resolutions; some plan future vacations or dream of home renovations; and some simply set small, achievable goals for the near future. However you choose to ring in the New Year, it's never a bad idea to use this special time to think about who you are, where you are and where you're headed in the upcoming year and beyond.

For those who carefully watch their budget, now is a great time to review last year's expenditures and develop a spending plan for the new year. Take time to evaluate areas where you need to cut back, or decide if there are any areas where you can afford to splurge a little. If you haven't previously tracked how you handle money, visit for budgeting information, including the new budget calculator.

If you're thinking of taking a vacation this year or making any other large purchases, such as buying a car or making home improvements, start saving now. Determine the final cost, including tax and contingency items, and divide that amount by the number of months you have to save. That way, you won't have to reshuffle your budget or rely on credit when the bill is due.

Another smart move for 2014 is to create a will and review your estate plan. Unfortunately, many people either don't want to (or don't think they need to) plan ahead in this way. Some think that it's too complicated or time consuming, and some feel that there's not much point if they don't own many assets or if they're in good health. Here's the kicker - you never know when your circumstances may change. Writing a will and reviewing your estate plan doesn't have to be complicated. According to an article published at, there are simple options for creating a will. There are certain steps necessary to make a will legal and, while consulting with a lawyer may be helpful in ensuring you've met these requirements, it's certainly not obligatory. Do a little research; the peace of mind is worth the investment of time and energy.

Check out this month's personal finance article to learn about more OKMM's online tools that can help you achieve your financial goals in 2014.

Program Spotlight: Ready Set Repay

Ready Set RepayReady Set Repay is the expanded default prevention initiative of the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP), an operating division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. OCAP has served Oklahoma families and educators' ()for nearly 50 years, providing essential support services that benefit students, parents, schools and community partners.

Through Ready Set Repay, OCAP works with student loan borrowers in all stages of the loan cycle - in school, in repayment, or in default - and Oklahoma higher education institutions to provide the information, tools and resources students need to make smart borrowing decisions and successfully repay their student loans.

The centerpiece of Ready Set Repay is the student loan management website,, which features easy-to-navigate channels that allow borrowers to access helpful information and tools based on where they are in the student loan process. Campus financial aid personnel also benefit from a dedicated section of the site, which offers OCAP's wide selection of publications, instructional materials and operational resources to enhance campus default prevention efforts.

Student loan borrowers can also stay up-to-date on student loan news and resources through Ready Set Repay's Facebook profile at

Featured Tool

Featured Tool: FAFSA Toolkit for Counselors

FAFSA-ToolkitWe know that getting your high school seniors, renewing college students and their parents engaged early in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process can be challenging. However, many financial aid deadlines are rapidly approaching, so it's essential for students to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible.

To make it easier for you to communicate key FAFSA information, UCanGo2 is pleased to offer the FAFSA Toolkit for Counselors. The toolkit is jam-packed with ready-to-use FAFSA completion publications and presentation materials, including:

If you're already on our counselor mailing list, you'll receive a complimentary FAFSA Toolkit for Counselors within the next few weeks. If you'd like to join our mailing list, contact us at (405) 234-4239, (866) 443-7420 (toll free) or Visit for additional college planning publications and tools.

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Who's Who

Do You Know Shannon Presti?


Meet Shannon Presti, Teen Leadership Initiatives coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City.

Tell us about your background, including people in your life who helped influence your decision to pursue your degree(s) and your current career.

I grew up in a small town in Kansas and did not even know that nonprofits existed! My first real experience with a nonprofit was in college when I worked for the University of Kansas men's basketball program and got to help a Make-A-Wish kid's dreams come true through his wish with the team. I was hooked and knew that I wanted a career helping other people in some way. Four years as a basketball manager cultivated my current passion of helping underserved teens achieve higher education. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend a university and I knew how difficult it was for me. I became close with the players' families and saw that so many of them did not go to college because they did not receive an athletic scholarship. I knew there had to be another way; and there is! In addition, when I look back at my childhood, most everyone in my family is extraordinarily generous with their time and any resources they might have. My step dad, especially, provided an incredible example of helping others.

We understand you currently administer several programs you developed to help youth explore potential college and career choices.

When I was asked to start the Teen Leadership department in 2008, my first order of business was to design programming that created experiences and exposure for young people to learn about life outside of their neighborhoods. We have five programs that address the needs of helping low-resource teens go to college, but one of the programs I am most proud of is our Career Exploration program. One Saturday each month, I take a group of 30 students on career tours to various vocations in Oklahoma City. The students learn about prominent careers in the OKC metro, get a firsthand look at job opportunities and build relationships with local business professionals. The students usually begin the year with a narrow scope of knowing what they want to do after high school. At the end of the year, they usually have a clear idea of a specific field or career they would like to pursue, which college they will attend to receive the appropriate degree, and often gain internship or job shadowing opportunities. In addition, we also started a unique cultural competency program, Youth LEAD OKC, which was adopted from a program in the Boston area to help kids connect with teens across cultures, reflect on the similarities/differences and act together in the community to make a difference in their city. There are so few programs that bring together students from all walks of life, and this program does it in such an intentional and real way. The students grow significantly through concentrated communication and management trainings as well as community service with a diverse group of teens.

What do you find to be most challenging and most rewarding in your efforts to help students pursue their dreams of postsecondary education?

There are many challenges in this area of education, but the rewards certainly outweigh them. The most difficult aspects of working with urban youth revolve around lack of transportation or last minute cancelations due to unforeseen circumstances in their lives. I have found that the greatest deterrent to both is to build strong relationships with the students and to be intentional about teaching time management. If a student is invested, he or she will do whatever it takes to find a ride or choose to skip a conflicting engagement to be present at a program. The rewards are abundant, but I am never more proud than when a former student contacts me while in college to share about his or her experiences, a great job opportunity or sends me a graduation announcement!

If you had two identical clones, one who had all the time in the world to do what she wanted and one who had the money to do anything she wanted, what would they do?

That's a tough one! In my current role, I have actually discovered that time is more valuable that money. We have developed impactful programs that do not cost anything except for volunteers' time (and some basic printing). So I will address the time wish first. My Time Clone would never have to sleep (wouldn't that be amazing!) and she would be able to spend time in our current program areas to organize and train volunteers how to intentionally work with teens to put them on a path to a successful future. My Money Clone would build a community center in each low-resource neighborhood and pay excellent salaries to passionate people who are incredibly gifted with young people, but choose other careers due to higher salaries. She would also have multiple modes of transportation at each site to reduce transportation issues. My final requests would include a strong scholarship program and a staff to track students throughout high school, college and beyond to be a continued source of support and guidance.

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College Planning

Upcoming Counselor Training Workshops

As a counselor or mentor, your influence on students' choices can be significant, especially when it comes to helping them determine the educational path they'll take after high school.

To help you inspire students to continue their education, OCAP and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE) would like to invite you to join us this spring for our National Training for Counselors and Mentors (NT4CM) workshops in Ardmore, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. These free workshops will provide the information and materials you need to help guide your students through several important steps, including:

Registration is now open for these free, one-day workshops. Seating is limited so reserve your spot today by clicking links below.

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Financial Aid

Ask the Expert: FAFSA and the Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act

The Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the United States v. Windsor hearing on June 26. DOMA defined "marriage" only as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and defined the word "spouse" only as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. Under DOMA, federal recognition of same-sex marriage was prohibited, even if the marriage was legal in the couple's state of residence.

Dear Colleague Letter GEN-13-25, published Dec. 13, provides guidance on the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the wake of the Windsor decision.

For purposes of the Title IV student financial assistance programs, a student or a parent is considered married if the student or parent was legally married in the United States or its territories, or any foreign jurisdiction having the legal authority to sanction marriages, regardless of where the couple now resides or where the aid will be used. This guidance does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law. Consistent with long-standing policy guidance, persons considered to be married under a state's common law are considered to be married for purposes of the Title IV student financial assistance programs.

For the 2013-14 award year:

Any changes to marital status will require corresponding updates to income, family size and other information. Revised guidance on FAFSA marital status questions will be posted at and will be available through the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4 FED AID (1-800-433-3243).

Beginning with the 2014-15 FAFSA, parental information collection will no longer rely on gender-specific terms, such as "mother" and "father," but will be refer to "parents" of dependent students. The parental labels of "Mother/Stepmother" and "Father/Stepfather" on the current FAFSA will be replaced with "Parent 1/Stepparent 1" and "Parent 2/Stepparent 2." In addition, the 2014-15 FAFSA will include an option of "unmarried and both parents living together," and will require the reporting of the incomes of both parents, as well as listing both parents in the household size, if the parents live together. Dependent students will continue to include the income of a stepparent who is married to the custodial parent, regardless of gender.

There are other provisions of the Higher Education Act that may be impacted by the Windsor ruling, including the calculation of loan repayment amounts under the Title IV income-driven repayment plans and the eligibility of a stepparent to apply for a Direct PLUS Loan. Any such changes are currently under review and will be announced in separate communications.

Questions regarding this guidance may be directed to Federal Student Aid's Research and Customer Care Center at 1-800-433-7327 or

What's New on IFAP?

Dear Colleague Letters



150% Direct Subsidized Loan Limit Electronic Announcements
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 Compliance department at 405.234.4432, 800.247.0420 (toll free) or

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Scholarships and Other Aid Opportunities

Graduation CapAs your students continue to apply for scholarships, be sure to remind them to research institutional scholarships. Institutional scholarships are offered directly from individual colleges and universities for students planning to enroll there. Scholarship award amounts and requirements vary. Contact an institution's financial aid office to learn more. Visit UCanGo2 for more information about scholarship search options and download the Scholarship Success Guide, which offers tips to help students successfully apply for scholarships.

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Financial Literacy

Expand Financial Education with OKMM's Online Tools

You know that Oklahoma Money Matters (OKMM) offers a wide range of direct services for students, parents and partners, but did you know that OKMM's website,, features excellent online tools to strengthen personal finance skills in the home, at school, on campus or in the workplace?

OKMM also provides financial tips and resources on both Facebook (OklahomaMoneyMatters) and Twitter (@OKMoneyMatters). For more information about OKMM's online services, contact us at 800.970.OKMM or

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Student Loan Management

OCAP's New Partnership Expands Default Prevention Counseling Options

The State Regents recently approved a new partnership between OCAP and Student Outreach Solutions, Inc. (SOSi) to provide loan repayment counseling for many Oklahoma student loan borrowers. OCAP and SOSi are working together to expand OCAP's existing default aversion initiatives to ensure that both Direct Loan and Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) borrowers receive effective default prevention and grace period counseling.

Through the partnership, SOSi will deploy multifaceted student outreach campaigns during the six-month grace period and delinquency period occurring within the cohort default rate time frame. Trained counselors will answer students' questions, review payment plan options (including specialized solutions based on the borrower's income level) and moderate joint communication with FFELP and Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP) loan servicers.

State system schools and career technology centers with three-year cohort default rates greater than 10 percent are encouraged to utilize SOSi's direct student contact services at no charge, courtesy of OCAP. Other Oklahoma institutions will also have access to SOSi services at reduced rates. These services are in addition to the default prevention services OCAP already performs on our FFELP portfolio.

Oklahoma schools interested in learning more about these services should contact Wayne Sparks, OCAP's Default Prevention Manager, at (405) 234-4358 or

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