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

20 Years of Oklahoma's Promise

Did you know the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program turned 20 this year? We're celebrating 20 years of Oklahoma's Promise and nearly 50,000 promises kept (so far!). Oklahoma's Promise logo

Oklahoma's Promise, originally designated as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), was created in 1992 by the Legislature to help more Oklahoma families send their children to college. At inception, participation in Oklahoma's Promise was limited to students from families with an annual income of $24,000 or less at the time of application in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade. The family income limit was increased to $32,000 in 1999 and to $50,000 in 2000. Recent changes now require a second verification of family income for students receiving the scholarship for the first time in 2012; a student's family income must not exceed $100,000 at the time the student goes to college. Students are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to simplify the new income verification process.

Applicants to the Oklahoma's Promise program must be Oklahoma residents in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade (homeschool students must apply at age 13, 14 or 15) whose parents earn $50,000 or less per year at the time of application. Participants must complete a 17-unit core curriculum, achieve at least a 2.5 GPA in the core and a 2.5 GPA overall, attend school regularly and refrain from drug abuse and delinquent acts. Upon completion of the program's requirements, students will earn:

Oklahoma's Promise is recognized by many as America's best college access program and is considered a model that combines emphasis on academic preparation and support for college. Oklahoma's Promise students have:

Additionally, 94 percent of Oklahoma's Promise graduates are employed in Oklahoma one year after graduation. Isn't that fantastic?

Since 1992, almost 50,000 students have received the scholarship. In 2007, the Legislature approved a significant funding change for Oklahoma's Promise, dedicating a permanent funding source from the state's general revenue fund beginning in 2008-2009. This means the program will be fully funded each year, ensuring many more years of promises kept.

For more information about the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program, contact the team at 800.858.1840 (toll free) or, or visit

Obama's 2013 Budget Blueprint

The President's recently released 2013 budget blueprint (external class) includes several provisions of interest to the financial aid community. The plan provides for:

The President also included provisions to reform campus-based aid programs by shifting funds to colleges that keep tuition down from those that fail to do so. However, specific information about how this distinction would be defined was not included in the budget request.

What's next?

The proposed budget request is subject to Congressional approval. Next, the proposal will be reviewed by the House and Senate budget committees, which are to issue their separate budget resolutions. Once the budget resolutions are drafted, the House and Senate appoint conferees to work toward an agreement. Congress is expected to reach agreement by April 15; however, that target date is often missed.

After a budget resolution is approved, funding levels for government programs are debated and set by the 12 appropriation subcommittees. Congress is expected to complete all 12 appropriation measures by Oct 1, but again, often fails to meet the deadline. If the deadline is missed, either a short-term continuing resolution or omnibus spending bill must be passed to keep the federal government from shutting down.

OCAP will continue to monitor the complex budget process and keep you updated as developments unfold. More helpful information about the President's FY2013 budget request is available on the NCHELP website. (external class)

Reinvent Spring Break

Can't make it to Cancun this year for Spring Break? No ski trip to Vail? Not even Space Camp? Don't worry, you're not alone. Families and coeds alike are choosing to stay close to home this year to save money. That doesn't mean you're doomed to a week of spring-cleaning or channel surfing! Check out our list of fun and affordable local activities to amp up your Spring Break experience.

For more ideas, visit, (external class), (external class) and (external class) See you out there!

1Oh My Goodness; an expression of shock or disbelief
2In Real Life; the way people used to communicate with other people
3Laugh Out Loud; an acknowledgement that something was supposed to be funny

Go Green this St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here are a few simple ways to be "green." (These ideas may not keep you from getting pinched, but they will help you pinch some pennies.)

For more green ideas, check out the Go Green, Save Green section in OKMM’s Your Bottom Line newsletter.

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Featured Tool

Updated Default Prevention Flyers

OCAP has redesigned two signature flyers that help schools target borrower groups that largely impact cohort default rates.

DP withdraw flyer

OCAP’s flyer for withdrawn students answers frequently asked questions about loan responsibilities after withdrawal from school and provides helpful information about deferment and forbearance options. Financial aid officers are encouraged to coordinate closely with the campus registrar so they’re notified quickly when students withdraw and can DP Unable to Pay flyercontact the borrowers immediately.

Our repayment flyer encourages borrowers experiencing difficulty making payments to contact their lender, servicer or OCAP for help identifying their deferment and forbearance options.

To order a free supply of OCAP’s default prevention flyers, contact our Communications team at 405.234.4457, 800.442.8642 (toll free) or

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College Planning

Give Juniors a Jumpstart

Bring Their Bucks in Line

Senior year is just around the corner. Are your students ready? Between senior pictures, prom, senior trip and college visits, it’s enough to break the bank. Some advance planning can take the stress out of senior year expenses. Encourage your juniors to brainstorm all the expenses they’ll have next year, then estimate how much they’ll cost. Here’s a sample list to get them started.

Senior pictures


Cap, gown, graduation announcements


Prom dress/tuxedo rental


ACT registration fee; take the exam twice- $34 x 2 =

 $ 68

Fuel for college visits


TOTAL estimated cost


Divide the total amount by the number of months they have to save to get a clear picture of their savings goal. To cut costs, encourage them to shop around, compare prices and consider resale or rental shops for dresses and tuxes. Students who have a talent for graphic design can create their own announcements using store-bought invitations as inspiration. To save on fuel costs, students can carpool with classmates to check out local college campuses.

Get Busy to Get Ready

College may seem like a distant goal, but there are things your students can do today to prepare financially and academically for success after high school.

For more information and free tools to help your students plan, prepare and pay for college, visit We’re here to help!

Compare Colleges to Find the Right Fit

How many of your students know what type of college or university they want to attend after high school? It’s a big decision that many students find overwhelming, and it’s important for them to identify their interests, know their strengths and recognize their needs so they can find the best match in a school and area of study.

The Student-Campus Matching Assistant and Undergraduate Comparative View features at support the exploration process, and the State Regents’ website offers access to a degree program search tool to help students find the best school in Oklahoma to meet their needs and interests. Exploring institutions based on major is one of the many ways to decide where to go. It’s also helpful for students to consider the school type, location and size. It’s not just about finding a college, but finding the college that’s the right fit.

School Type

There are many different types of schools in Oklahoma, and it’s important for students to understand the similarities and differences.

Visit to learn more about the types of schools offered in Oklahoma.

School Location and Setting

Location is a big consideration in choosing a college. Below are some questions students might consider when students on campusmaking that decision.

Another consideration when determining the location is the setting - is the school in an urban, suburban or rural setting? Each offers different options in terms of housing, entertainment and environment.

School Size

Small schools often offer more interaction with professors, fewer classmates per course and more personalized assistance with educational needs. Larger schools may provide more social opportunities such as Greek life (fraternities and sororities) and more classes to build a flexible schedule, but interactions may seem less personal due to the larger number of students. Schools of all sizes and types can be found in all locations. A large, private, four-year school may be located in a rural area near their hometown, or they might find a small, private, technical school in the heart of the city. Fortunately, it’s easy to find schools of all type, location, setting and size to meet students’ educational needs right here in Oklahoma!

Remind your students to keep an open mind and explore all higher education options based on their academic and career goals. Some careful thought and a little research will empower students to make the best individual choice.

Whatever their plans, we want your students to know that education after high school is within reach for everyone! Looking for a tool to help your students navigate the college selection process? Download our Picking a College Decision Tree at

FAFSA Frenzy

If you haven’t seen the YouTube video FAFSA Hooray! featuring Charta Squad, (external class) you’ve got to check it out. Getting, and holding, the attention of high schools students to deliver important information about the FAFSA can be challenging, so OCAP’s Outreach Team recently incorporated the video at the end of a few events as a fun, information-packed closing to our educational presentations. Between January 1 and February 29, the Outreach Team participated in over 40 events, most of which focused primarily on FAFSA completion. During this campaign, we presented information and materials to over 3,000 students, parents and counselors!

The fun doesn’t stop after FAFSA season, either. We already have 22 events booked between March and June! For the adult learner population, we’ll be presenting at the Women of Color Expo hosted by the Perry Publishing and Broadcasting Co. at Metro Technology Center’s Springlake Campus on Saturday, March 3. Additionally, following the launch of our new Middle School Counselor Kit, the Outreach Team will be participating for the first time in KidsFest, an event hosted by Metro Family Magazine at the State Fairgrounds on Saturday, March 24. With an expected turnout of over 3,000 attendees, this event will provide a great opportunity to reach young children and their parents to communicate the message that it’s never too early to start thinking about education after high school.

National Education Startup Challenge

The U.S. Department of Education is inviting students to develop an innovative solution to an education problem and design a blueprint for a new company or organization – a startup – to deliver that solution. The National Education Startup Challenge asks students from across the country to submit by May 1 a business plan and a video pitch for a for-profit or non-profit startup that includes an innovative strategy, product or service designed to address one of these four topics:

Middle Grades Matter
Helping middle school students transition to high school and stay on track to graduate.

Skills, Skills, Skills
Providing students in rural, urban, and/or high-poverty communities with opportunities for internships or other work- and community-based learning experiences that help them develop skills for success in postsecondary education, 21st century careers, and civic life.

Education Pays
Making it easier for students and families to find and select high-quality, affordable postsecondary programs – whether colleges, universities, or career training programs – that provide good value.

Finishing Faster
Increasing the likelihood that postsecondary students complete their degrees and decreasing the time it takes them to finish, such as by improving and speeding up remedial education.

Learn more about this and other exciting competitions at (external class) Download a free flyer to promote the National Education Startup Challenge at (external class)

More College Planning News

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Who's Who

Do You Know Pam Charles?Pam Charles

Meet Pam Charles, Senior Stakeholder Relationship Manager with the IRS.

What do you like most about your job?

Helping low to moderate income families with free tax preparation and free electronic filing of federal and state returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). At the IRS, we want to educate the public on the many options available to them, like individual development accounts, debit cards, savings bonds, direct deposit options, and budgeting and counseling classes.

I also have great working relationships with partners through Community Action Agencies, Native American Tribes, universities and other agencies that offer financial education and asset-building opportunities. The various services available through our partners can change lives, like enabling consumers to save for a home, education or vehicle.

What should Oklahomans know about VITA sites?

Millions of taxpayers qualify for free tax preparation assistance through the VITA program. The program offers free tax help to people who earn less than $50,000; most sites also offer free electronic filing. The IRS certifies volunteers to help eligible citizens take advantage of tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the Credit for the Elderly. The IRS also partners with AARP to offer the Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program for those 60 and over.

There are more than 12,000 free tax preparation sites open nationwide, and that number continues to grow as the IRS expands its partnerships with nonprofit and community organizations. Taxpayers can typically find locations and hours through city information hotlines and local community organizations, or by visiting the IRS website (external class) or calling 800.906.9887. To locate the nearest AARP service site, call 888.227.7669.

What should consumers know about working with a tax preparer?

If you pay someone to prepare your tax return, the IRS urges you to choose that preparer wisely. Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their tax return, so it’s important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Always verify the preparer’s qualifications and work history by contacting the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB will be able to tell you if any disciplinary action has been taken against the preparer. Also ask about any service fees they charge and if they offer electronic filing.

Also, never sign a blank tax return. Always review your entire return before signing it and make sure you understand everything it reflects. Only use a service provider who will sign the returns s/he prepares and enter the Preparer Tax Identification Numbers.

What’s the biggest tax-time mistake people make?

One of the biggest mistakes we see is a discrepancy between the primary taxpayer’s last name on the return and the name on file with the IRS or Social Security Administration (SSA). This is usually due to misspelling or using the wrong Social Security number for the primary taxpayer. It can also result if the primary taxpayer has multiple or hyphenated last names, or has changed his last name and hasn’t notified the SSA.

If the primary taxpayer has changed her name but hasn’t notified the SSA, she should call 800.772.1213 to update her records. After the SSA notifies the IRS of the update - which may take up to 10 days - an electronic return can then be resubmitted. If the SSN and name are still rejected, a paper return must be filed.

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Financial Aid

ED Releases New IRS Tax Return Transcript Matrix

On Feb. 24, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced release of the 2012-13 FAFSA Verification-IRS Tax Return Transcript Matrix. (external class) This matrix will help financial aid offices understand how to verify IRS income and tax information when an IRS Tax Return Transcript has been submitted by a student or parent. It will also show how the items on the IRS Tax Return Transcript relate to the items on the FAFSA and the ISIR. Questions about the matrix can be directed to FSA Research and Customer Care staff at 800.433.7327 (toll free) or

New Poverty Guidelines

On Jan. 26, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published new poverty guidelines to reflect a 3.2 percent price increase between calendar years 2010 and 2011, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. The new guidelines, effective upon publication, define the annual income poverty line as follows.

2012 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States
and the District of Columbia
Persons in
Poverty guideline

For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $3,960 for each additional person.

2012 Poverty Guidelines for Alaska
Persons in
Poverty guideline

For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,950 for each additional person.

2012 Poverty Guidelines for Hawaii
Persons in
Poverty guideline

For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,550 for each additional person.

Pending Legislation: Federal Student Loan Interest Rate

In 2007, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act reduced the fixed interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans made to undergraduate students in stages from 6.8 to 3.4 percent. Without additional action by Congress, this law is set to expire on July 1, restoring the interest rate to 6.8 percent for loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2012.

Both the Senate and the House have proposed bills to extend the reduced interest rate. Senate Bill 2051 (external class) (PDF) is currently in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and House Bill 3826 (external class) (PDF) is currently in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. No significant action has been taken on either bill since late January.

The U.S. Department of Education addresses this issue in its Feb. 22 Dear Colleague Letter GEN-12-04. (external class)

Negotiated Rulemaking

On Oct. 28, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published a Federal Register notice (external class) announcing its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare proposed regulations for the student loan programs under the Title IV section of the Higher Education Act (HEA), as amended. A list of topics discussed by this committee follows.

For a better understanding of the discussion of these topics, read the Approved Final Student Loan Issue Papers (external class) (PDF) provided by ED and periodically check ED’s website (external class) for updates on these negotiations.

ED also published a Federal Register notice (external class) in Oct. 2011 announcing intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare proposed regulations on teacher preparation issues under Title II of HEA, as amended. A list of topics discussed by that committee follows.

For a better understanding of the discussion of these topics, read the Issue Summaries (external class) (PDF) provided by ED and periodically check ED’s website (external class) for updates on these negotiations.

Verification Forms

Verification worksheets for 2012-13 are now available from Mapping your Future (MYF). Developed in consultation with OCAP’s Policy, Compliance and Training staff, these forms are available for free download from MYF’s website. (external class) For more information, contact Beth Ziehmer at or 573.796.3730.

What’s New on IFAP?

Electronic Announcements

Application Processing



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 mission of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) scholarship program is to provide critical financial assistance that will increase graduation rates among Latino students in post-secondary education. CHCI scholarship opportunities are afforded to Latino students in the U.S. who have a history of performing public service-oriented activities in their communities and who demonstrate a desire to continue their civic engagement in the future.

CHCI scholarships provide recipients with a one-time scholarship of:

Scholarship awards are intended to provide assistance with tuition, room and board, textbooks, and other educational expenses associated with college enrollment. There are no GPA or academic major requirements. Students with excellent leadership potential are encouraged to apply.

The application deadline for 2012 awards is April 16. Learn more about CHCI scholarship programs at, (external class) and find more scholarship programs on OCAP’s Scholarship Opportunities page.

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Financial Literacy

Plan for the Retirement Pot o’ Gold

Are you hoping your retirement savings will be the pot o’ gold at the end of your working rainbow? It takes more than a little luck and leprechaun magic to net a cozy nest egg. Consider these tips for building a better retirement plan.

Understand basic investing principles. Investing in the stock market isn’t a short-term saving strategy. Resist the urge to pull your money at the first sign of a downturn in the market. Pot of GoldHistorically, over the long term, stocks outperform all other investment options.

Know where you are. Look at your most recent investment statements – 401(k), IRAs, mutual funds – to determine how much you’ve already accumulated. Make an appointment to talk with a financial advisor to determine if you’re on the right track to reach your retirement goals.

Max out your employer match. If you’re not taking advantage of your company’s 401(k) plan, you’re leaving free money on the table. Most companies offer some type of match; typically, it’s 50 cents on the dollar up to 6 percent of your salary. That means if you make $40,000 a year, your company could contribute $2,400 to your 401(k) if you contribute $4,800.

Stop your “someday” thinking. Retirement planning must be a priority now. Many folks keep snoozing retirement planning, waiting for an upcoming milestone, such as the next raise or a child’s graduation. That kind of thinking can be a big mistake. Give retirement your attention and effort today.

Are you within five years of retirement? Consider these steps as the big day draws closer.

OTC Initiates Paperless Refunds

New this income tax filing season, the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) will issue debit cards instead of paper checks to Oklahoma taxpayers who don’t choose direct deposit for their state income tax refunds. Though the new cards are expected to be convenient, the Oklahoma Society of CPAs cautions users to educate themselves about potential fees before authorizing any transactions.

According to the OTC, fees associated with use of the refund debit card may include:

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Student Loan Management

Ask the Expert: Loan Forgiveness Programs

In these challenging economic times, student borrowers may see loan forgiveness as a potential solution for student loan debt woes. However, it’s important to understand that forgiveness of all or part of a student loan is rare and happens under very specific circumstances. Helpful information about loan forgiveness and repayment programs is provided below.

Corporate Repayment
Many private companies offer cash bonuses designed for student loan repayment in order to compete for skilled workers. Encourage borrowers to ask about employee benefits, including student loan forgiveness. They’ll need to find out how long they have to stay with the company in order to qualify and what portion of the loan will be forgiven.

Federal Loan Forgiveness
The federal government offers loan forgiveness in certain industries that struggle to attract talented employees. All federal forgiveness and repayment programs are subject to availability of funds.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Teachers who work in Title I schools for five years may qualify for up to $17,500 in Stafford loan forgiveness. Learn about qualifications at

Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Individuals who have Direct Loans and work full-time in qualified public service jobs may qualify for loan forgiveness after they’ve made 120 consecutive, on-time full payments. Borrowers with FFELP or Perkins loans may be eligible for consolidation into the Direct Loan program to take advantage of this option. For more information, visit (external class)

Faculty Loan Repayment. Health professions faculty from disadvantaged backgrounds can receive as much as $40,000 toward repayment of their student loans in exchange for educating tomorrow's clinicians. Participants must agree to serve on the faculty of an accredited health professions college or university for two years. For more information, visit (external class)

Indian Health Service Loan Repayment. Commissioned Corps, Civil Service and Direct Tribal Hire employees working full-time for Indian Health Service (IHS), Tribal, or Urban Health programs are eligible to apply for an IHS Loan Repayment Program (LRP) Award. Recipients of a LRP award must agree to work for two continuous years in full-time clinical practice at that facility or in an approved Indian health program from the date an award is made. Learn more at (external class)

Veterinary Loan Repayment. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program will pay up to $25,000 each year toward qualified educational loans of eligible veterinarians who agree to serve in a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-designated veterinarian shortage area for a period of three years. For more information, visit (external class)

Other health profession repayment programs include:

Military Loan Repayment Programs. Individual branches of the military may offer loan repayment incentives for service members. Programs are branch-specific; interested borrowers should contact branch officials to learn more.

Volunteer Service Awards. Borrowers who dedicate a year or more in service to programs such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps or Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) programs could receive education awards to help repay qualified student loans or to pay further education costs. Learn more at (external class)

Borrowers who want to pursue loan forgiveness programs must take an active role in educating themselves about the qualifications and requirements, particularly for programs that require employment in a certain location and/or for a specific length of time. More information and helpful links are available on OCAP’s Student Loan Discharge and Forgiveness webpage.

Know Before You Owe

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a memo (external class) to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) summarizing the feedback received on the “financial aid shopping sheet” prototype, a project of the Know Before You Owe student loan awareness initiative. After receiving over 20,000 comments, the CFPB identified the most important features of the shopping sheet.

ED is interested in developing a common form and will use this information for that purpose. Learn more about the overall feedback received at (external class)

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People News

OCAP’s Communications, Financial Education and Outreach division recently welcomed several new faces … Leticia Barrios, Michelle Britt, and Erin Stelter are now serving on our communications team, and Ava Doyle is joining us as the new OKMM outreach specialist. We’re so happy you’re here!

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