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Late Fall 2009 • Volume 4 • Issue 2
Smart About College
Year-End Tax Considerations That Can Save Students
Tax day will be here before you know it. If you had higher education expenses in
2009, or in some cases, saved money for future higher education expenses, you’ll
Helena, MT 59601 want to keep reading to learn how you might be able to beneﬁt when you ﬁle your
Tax Credits for Higher Education Expenses
— CONTRIBUTORS — Students and parents will want to research a variety of attractive tax credits –
Jim Stipcich a reduction in the amount of income tax – this year.
President and CEO In the past, taxpayers may have beneﬁted from the Hope Tax Credit. With the
passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Hope Credit
Vice President Foundation Activities was renamed the American Opportunity Tax Credit. It applies for higher education
expenses paid in 2009 and 2010. The changes, however, extend beyond what the
Development Ofﬁcer name would imply. Among the changes:
email@example.com • The credit now extends beyond the ﬁrst two years of college to include the
ﬁrst four years of college.
Darbie Hess • The maximum value of the credit has increased to $2,500 – a $700 increase
Grants Manager from the Hope Tax Credit maximum.
Rhonda Safford • Course materials are now eligible for consideration under the tax credit, and
Programs Manager in some cases, computer expenses are eligible.
Mary Howard • Eligibility for the tax credit has expanded to include families with higher
General Manager incomes and families who do not owe taxes.
Kalie Porter If you have not yet ﬁled your 2008 taxes, you may still be eligible for the Hope Tax
Outreach Manager Credit for that year.
MSU - Billings
Yet another option for taxpayers to consider is the Lifetime Learning Credit, which
Emily Flemming has no limit on the number of years it can be claimed. The Lifetime Learning Credit
Outreach Manager generally covers up to $2,000 in higher education expenses, although students in
Montana State University
some states are eligible for up to $4,000.
Shauna Savage While you cannot claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime
Montana Tech Learning Credit, or the tuition and fees deduction (see below) in the same year, one
may be more beneﬁcial than the others in your unique case. Consult with your tax
advisor or visit the Internal Revenue Service Web site (www.irs.gov) to make the
MSU Great Falls College appropriate determination.
Marti Johnson Tax Deductions for Higher Education Expenses
Outreach Manager Unlike tax credits that reduce the amount of tax you actually pay, tax deductions
UM Helena College
of Technology reduce the amount of your income that is subject to tax.
Tax deductions are available for qualifying tuition and fees expense, student loan
Josh Sloan interest, and certain work-related education expenses.
Miles Community College
2009 Contributions to 529 Savings Plans
Outreach Manager If you are a parent or grandparent and are looking for a tax-advantaged option for
The University of Montana higher education savings, you’ll want to check into 529 Savings Plans. Montana’s 529,
the Montana Family Education Savings Plan, has a variety of options for growing your
Media Relations Coordinator/ college savings. Contributions are deductable from state income taxes, up to $3,000
Copy Editor per individual or $6,000 for those ﬁling married, joint returns. Earnings in a 529 plan
Wendy Brenden grow tax free and distributions used for higher education expenses are also tax free.
Creative/Graphic Design Learn more at www.Montana.collegesavings.com
Smart About College • Late Fall 2009
Top Ten Financial Aid Tips NSLDS: Know What You Owe
1. Start now! High school choices affect college To repay student loans successfully, borrowers need
success. A rigorous core may qualify you for addi- to manage their ﬁnances. An integral component of that
tional grants and entry into more desirable colleges. money management process for students is to understand
2. Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after Jan. 1 their debt load before taking on more student loan debt.
of your senior year. One method of tracking this information is through the
3. Don’t pay to have someone complete the FAFSA for National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) — a nation-
you. Contact your local Student Assistance Foundation wide database maintained by the U.S. Department of
ofﬁce or ﬁnancial aid ofﬁce for help. Education to house federal student loan and grant infor-
4. Explore scholarships. Apply for institutional scholar- mation.
ships ﬁrst. Use free scholarship searches online. Check NSLDS provides students with information about their
local resources (service clubs, churches, employers). outstanding student loan and grant balances, status, loan
5. Apply for admission the fall of your senior year and lender/servicer/guarantor, awarded amounts, and
submit your ACT/SAT scores and grade transcript. disbursements.
Some freshman recruiting/academic scholarships Federal loan information includes subsidized and
are awarded based solely on early application. unsubsidized Stafford, Perkins, and Parent or Graduate
6. Create college savings. Pre-pay tuition, make a dorm PLUS.
room deposit, purchase a college computer. Antici- Federal grant information includes Pell, Federal Supple-
pate costs and “spend down” student savings before mental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Academic
completing the FAFSA. Competitiveness Grant (ACG), National Science and
7. Create choice. Apply to your dream school, a second Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grant, and
choice, and a “safety school” closer to home. Teach Education Assistance for College and Higher
8. Special circumstances can increase your awards. Education (TEACH) grant.
Notify the ﬁnancial aid ofﬁce if you have a disability, NSLDS will not show students information on other
job loss, divorce or death in your family. non-federal types of aid such as private and nursing edu-
9. Meet all your deadlines to maximize your awards. cation loans. Nor will they ﬁnd information on other types
10. Borrow only as a last resort. Federal student loans of consumer debt such as car loans, home mortgages, or
must be repaid. credit cards.
Students can access NSLDS at www.nslds.ed.gov using
their federal student aid PIN. To obtain a PIN, request one
Going Green with your Finances:
Automatic Bill Pay
A little typing, a few clicks, and done! Bills paid, no
paper exchanged. Clearly, automatic and online bill pay When in College, Watch Your Spending
systems are better for the environment. Without making
any extra effort, you signiﬁcantly cut down on the amount According to the Corporation for Enterprise
of paper being wasted on monthly statements. That Development, about 70 percent of Montana graduates
alone is terriﬁc, and Mother Nature will surely give you leave college with debt — an average of $17,869. Much
bonus points. of that debt involves student loans that were borrowed
Here are a few more reasons you should check out in order to help cover living expenses in college.
automatic bill pay: The example below illustrates why it is so important
• No stamps necessary! That saves you money to carefully consider how you are spending your money
(and trips to the post ofﬁce). while attending school:
• No late fees! Most online bill pay programs If you drink four lattes a week during college at the
automatically deduct your payments on the due cost of $4 per drink, you would spend about $576 during
date. Thus, you always pay on time. a typical, two-semester college year. This is money you
• A 0.25 percent interest rate reduction! In many could have been spending on essential living expenses.
cases, if you pay your federal student loans through But, to understand the true cost of “borrowing coffee
a Direct Payment Authorization, you’ll qualify for money,” consider the total cost of the loan. If you took out
an interest rate reduction. an Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for your coffee bill
So, talk to your bank and ask about easier ways to pay at 6.8 percent, and you didn’t make any interest payments
those monthly bills. throughout your four-year degree program, your total
And don’t forget to log on to www.safaccount.org balance upon entering repayment would be $752. That
and sign up for Direct Payment Authorization. Keep our means the full, 10-year repayment will be $1,038 — about
planet, and your pocketbook, a little bit greener! $8 per latte. That’s an expensive habit!
Smart About College • Late Fall 2009
MCIS Feature FREE Online ACT and SAT Practice Tests
College application due dates Nonproﬁt Student Assistance Foundation (SAF) offers Montana students
are just around the corner and high the opportunity to prepare for their ACT and SAT exams at its www.Smart-
school seniors will soon be thinking AboutCollege.org Web site for free!
about where they want to attend After creating an account, students may complete three Peterson’s practice
college. However, hand-in-hand with ACTs and three practice SATs each year.
their dreams of becoming a college Each exam is divided into a series of timed sections designed to mimic the
student comes the worry of how to actual ACT and SAT. The sections take between 10 and 60 minutes to complete.
pay for postsecondary education. Students have the option to pause while testing, then returning to the exam
In order to answer many of the later.
questions new students and their Upon completion of a section, students can review their answers to see
parents have regarding this topic, which questions were answered incorrectly.
the Montana Career Information Once an entire test is ﬁnished, the scores are revealed in order to help
System (MCIS) has developed a new students identify areas in which they excelled, and those in which they need to
section called “Paying for School.” improve.
This in-depth feature includes in- This online resource can help students to:
formation about the cost of college, • identify areas of study in which they need more practice.
how to pay for school, ﬁnancial aid • ease anxiety about taking important tests.
and how to receive ﬁnancial aid. • reduce the chances of having to re-take the exam.
College may be expensive, but
the knowledge you will receive And, like most things in life, practice makes perfect! According to research
through higher education is truly an conducted by ACT, 55 percent of students who took the ACT more than once
investment in your future success. increased their composite score.
For ofﬁcial SAT dates visit www.collegeboard.com. For ofﬁcial ACT dates
National Training for Counselors and Mentors – NT4CM
A robust group of guidance counselors, teachers, and college access program staff attended the inaugural session of the
National Training for Counselors and Mentors (NT4CM) on Sept. 16.
NT4CM offers counselors, educators, and others professionals working with college bound youth the opportunity to
learn about current ﬁnancial aid practices. Financial aid changes almost annually, and this year is no exception.
Attendees learned more about SMART and ACG grants, and resources like the FAFSA4caster that helps families plan early for
higher education costs. In addition, they heard from ﬁnancial aid professionals about how ﬁnancial aid is packaged for students.
The Montana College Access Network has a cadre of NT4CM trainers all across Montana. If you’d like to schedule an
NT4CM session, contact Cory Chenoweth at Montana GEAR UP, (406) 444-0350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This training is offered free of charge, and generally lasts from four to ﬁve hours. Continuing education units are available.
MCAN Education Call: Education of Homeless Children and Youth
The Montana College Access Network’s November education call will
feature Barbara Dufﬁeld, policy director for the National Association for the
MONTANA COLLEGE ACCESS NETWORK
Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY). That call will take
place on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009 at 3:30 p.m. MST.
NAEHCY, a national membership association, serves as the voice and the
To participate, visit social conscience for the education of children and youth in homeless situa-
Dufﬁeld’s involvement in homeless issues began in 1990 when she was a
ning.com/ and register under tutor for homeless children in Washington, D.C. She subsequently joined the
“Events.” All the dial in and National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and served as director of Education
Webinar instructions will be for NCH from 1994 to 2003. In that position, she worked closely with educators,
posted on this Web site. If you service providers, federal agencies and Congressional ofﬁces to strengthen
need assistance signing up for the policy and practice on children’s issues.
Dufﬁeld has conducted trainings around the country for school districts,
Webinar, e-mail Rhonda Safford
community organizations, and local, state, and national groups to assist in
at email@example.com or call the implementation of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance
(406) 495-7750. Act. In addition, she has published several academic articles on policy and
advocacy issues relating to the education of homeless children and youth.
Smart About College • Late Fall 2009
Donor Proﬁle: Shalon Hastings
It’s no secret that Helena resident and businesswoman Shalon Hastings “I was impressed with how the foster care camp seemed to be such a
is invested in making sure her customers enjoy the highest quality food and simple, yet effective way to guarantee success for these participants who
customer service possible at her popular downtown restaurant, Taco del Sol. might not normally even consider college,” Hastings said. “I really felt that
It’s a lesser-known fact, however, that Hastings is just as invested in ensur- my donation would go directly to these young kids and make an improvement
ing that Montana students have the opportunity to realize their dreams of in their lives and an impact on our society as a whole.”
postsecondary education. In fact, Hastings would like to see the college prep camp program grow to
Hastings, a 1993 graduate of Helena High School, earned her bachelor’s reach more foster care students in Montana, and maybe other states as well.
degree in Business Management from The University of Montana, and doesn’t In addition to supporting SAF’s efforts on behalf of Montana students, Hast-
want to see any Montana student fail to reach their potential. ings volunteers her time to serve on the board of directors for the Myrna Loy
That’s why she contributes to nonproﬁt Student Assistance Foundation’s Center and is one of the founders of the Helena Young Professionals.
“A Step Ahead” College Prep Camp for Montana foster care youths.
Thank You to Our Donors!
Aimee Mufﬁck Eagle Bend Golf Course Lara Thomas Richard Peterson
Allegiance Beneﬁt Plan Eleisha Leland Latigo & Lace Rick Pyfer
Management, Inc. Sarah Elkins Laura Frost Rob Bird
Allegra Print and Imaging Emily Flemming Lila Taylor Roberta Thennis
ALPS Fiddler’s Green Linda Carlson Rod Sundsted
Amber Osterman Finstad’s Carpet One Linda Knoblock Ron Lee and Sue Clarke
Anderson Zurmeuhlen & Co. First Interstate Bank Lisa Gomes Ron Mufﬁck
Anonymous Donor First National Bank/Missoula Lowell and Linda Wollitz Rose Donohoue
Arlene Williams First Security Bank Lynn Nelson Royal Johnson
Ashley Stark First Security Bank/Roundup Marci Finkelstein Rusty Saylor
Barb Knutson Fred Flanders Marci Heigh Samuel A. Ramirez & Co., Inc.
Barbara LaSalle FutureSync-Wendy Samson Margaret and Jim McLuskey Sarah Morris
Bennett MacIntyre Garry Hicks Marina Cay Resort Sarah Nelson
Big Sky Resort Gene and Kathy Prendergast Mark and Lynn Etchart Saunders Jewelry
Blue Cross Blue Shield George’s Distributing Marti Johnson Schylar Canﬁeld
Bob Carlson Georgia Lindgren Mary Howard Scott and Nicole Todorovich
Breanna Dorseth Glenda Valvoda Meadow Lake Golf Course Seamus O’Neill/Liscarnan Solutions
Brenda Kolb Glendive BN Fed. Credit Union Megan Lunde Shalon Hastings
Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven, Graduate Leverage Michele Burkholz Shauna Savage
P.C. Shareholders Green Meadow Country Club Michele Faure Sheila Lopach
Bruce and Judy McMaster Greystone Bank Montana Broom and Brush Shelby Coover
Candi Preskar Gusto Distributing Montana Chamber of Commerce Sherri Higgins
Candice Ahl Harold and Inez Gaarder Montana Credit Union Silver Star Steak Company
Carolynn Bright Heather Eatinger for Community Development Simon Poole and Erica Keiter
Carroll College Athletic Dept. Helena Motors Montana Gear-Up Stahly Engineering
Cathy Wood Helena OB/GYN Montana Guaranteed Student Starbucks Coffee
Chris Ryan Heritage Propane Loan Program Steelcase
Christine Wise Hi-Heat Industries Montana School Counselor Association Stephanie Chambers
Clay Hanson Independent Record Montana Shares Steve and Lisa Bullock
College Savings Bank Jamie Valvoda Montana State University Sugar Salon
Cross Point Capital Janet Riis Montana State University/Billings Tanja Hulst
Crowley Fleck Law Firm Jay Trepanier Montana Tech Foundation Teresa Blackburn
Damian Briggs Jayme Auer Mr. and Mrs. Cordell Johnson Texas Guaranteed Student
Dan McGurran Jeff Bradshaw Mr. and Mrs. Don Campbell Loan Corporation
Dan Rawson Jerry & Cheryl Berberet Mr. and Mrs. Ed Jasmin Thad Houdeshell
Darbie Hess Jerry Loendorf Mr. and Mrs. Peter Sullivan The Investment Group
David Kiesling Jessica Ritchie Nancy Pinzon Todd Gordon
David Reicher Jim and Peggy Stipcich Nicole Hanni Todd Jones
David Thompson Joan Poston NIKE, Inc. Tom and Sherry Cladouhos
Dawn Dorrington JoAnn Chambers Nina Lococo Town Pump Charitable Foundation
Dean Johnson JoAnn Weber Nolan Glueckert Traci Fladeland
Dean Schechter Jon and Jolene Selby NorthWestern Energy Traci Merzlak
Denise Kuntz Josh Sloan O’Keefe Drilling Treacy Company
Dennis & Phyllis Washington Joyce Day Old Works Golf Course Tricia O’Connor
Foundation Judy Leland Omega Consulting University of Great Falls
Dennis and Lynn Doherty Julie Massaro OmniCap Group University of Montana
Dennis Osterman Kalie Porter Pat Haffey and Mike Billings Valerie Benkie
Diamondback Golf Kay Culp Pat Schlauch Valley Bank
DJ Whitaker Kelly Chapman Payne Financial Valley Farms
Don MacIntyre Kelly Waltz Penny Balcerzak Van’s Thriftway
Donna Erickson Kevin Crabtree Phyllis Atkinson Wells Fargo
Don Kohne/Liscarnan Solutions Kim Cunningham Placer Motors Wendy Brenden
Don Oliver Kim Schaefer Pug Mahon’s Wendy’s of Montana
Dorsey Whitney/Mike Reeslund Kim Varvel Rhet Oligmiller and Nicci Jasmin Women of the Moose
Dr. and Mrs. Bud Kall Kit’s Tackle/Kit Johnson Rhonda Safford
Dr. Paul Melvin Kris MacIntyre Richard Ortega
Smart About College • Late Fall 2009
Montana College Goal Sunday 2010 Foster Care Student
Getting Settled at College
Preparations for the 2010 Montana College Goal
Sunday (CGS) event are well underway and the Establishing a balance
among classes, part-time
excitement is building.
work and homework has
For most families, the process of obtaining ﬁnan- been one of the toughest
cial aid begins annually with the completion of the transitions for Montana
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and foster care youth, Alicia
Student Assistance Foundation and its community Talamentes, in her ﬁrst
partners are prepared to assist with that process. months at Montana State
This year, College Goal Sunday will take place at University-Billings.
18 sites on Sunday, Jan. 31 and Wednesday, Feb. 3. “I spend most of my
Sites have the option of holding the event on one ‘free time’ doing home-
or both days, so participants should visit work,” she said, adding
www.CollegeGoalMT.org or call 877-COLG4ME to check event details that she hopes to make
room in her schedule for
in their communities.
different activities as she hones her time manage-
Participants in the Helena event will see a signiﬁcant change from ment and study skills.
previous years that event coordinators believe will provide better service That said, the freshman from Helena is enjoying
to students and families in the area. Instead of having just one event in living in the dormitories because she is in close
the community, Carroll College and The University of Montana-Helena proximity to campus events and that provides a wide
College of Technology will each host a College Goal Sunday event. Carroll range of social opportunities to round out her college
College will host its event on Sunday and UM-Helena will host its event experience.
on Wednesday. “When classes ﬁrst started, I was conﬁdent that I
In an effort to ensure that we reach our American Indian audience in was ready and prepared,” Alicia said. “But then I real-
Montana, the American Indian Business Leaders (AIBL) group will again ized I had to be 100 percent dedicated to my educa-
be assisting in our endeavor. This will be the fourth year AIBL has helped tion! That was a commitment, but I knew I was ready.”
According to Alicia, her favorite class is Introduction
these students and families complete the FAFSA at CGS.
to Business, despite the early hour at which she must
Plus, we are fortunate to have several site coordinators returning to wake up to attend it. She explains that she appreciates
organize CGS in their communities, along with some new volunteers. the lectures and atmosphere as a whole.
These site coordinators begin their task of preparing for the next CGS On the other hand, her most difﬁcult class is
with their annual CGS site coordinator training in November. Intermediate Algebra.
In 2009, 986 students completed their FAFSAs with help from Mon- “I know I need to succeed in my math classes to get
tana College Goal Sunday volunteers, bringing the total number of my desired career so I try my hardest to understand
FAFSA ﬁlers served since the establishment of the event in Montana ﬁve what I’m doing and to get the work done,” she said.
years ago to more than 5,000. Alicia said MSU-Billings provides excellent resources for
College Goal Sunday is a national program that was originally created students in need of extra help with their coursework.
by the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association with funding from Lilly Also, Alicia plans to visit nonproﬁt Student
Assistance Foundation’s campus outreach ofﬁce at
Endowment, Inc. and with supplemental support from Lumina Foundation
the college to research scholarships and attain other
for Education. information about furthering her academic ambitions.
Alicia’s visit to the campus outreach ofﬁce won’t
$cholar$hip Hunting mark the ﬁrst time she has turned to SAF for help
reaching her dreams of a college education. She
worked with SAF employees to complete the Foster
Maximizing all of your funding opportunities when paying for a college
Care Education and Training Voucher she used to
education is a smart approach, but in the current economic climate, it is help fund her education, and attended SAF’s “A Step
even more important. Ahead” College Prep Camp for foster care youths to
Scholarships are free ﬁnancial aid that come from a variety of sources prepare herself for college.
including foundations, community organizations, civic groups, religious Thus far, Alicia is pleased with her progress in the
or ethnicity-based organizations, career ﬁelds, or local businesses and college environment.
employers. Often they are based on academic or athletic achievements. “I am helping myself accomplish my goals in life,”
Many scholarship searches are available, but it’s a good idea to use the she said, adding that she wants to prove to herself
FREE ones. Many sites and companies charge for scholarship searches, that she can succeed.
but fail to make the students aware that scholarships are not guaranteed.
Alicia is a thoughtful, 19-year-old foster care student
The Montana Career Information System (MCIS) offers an excellent who attended this year’s “A Step Ahead” College Prep
scholarship search tool. To start your search, sign on to www.Smart- Camp. She has agreed to share her experiences during
AboutCollege.org and click on MCIS. A full section relating to ﬁnancial her ﬁrst year of college. Watch for more in the next
aid is available, including information about 3,000 scholarships. For issue of SAF’s “Smart About College” newsletter.
assistance, please call (877) COLG4ME (265-4463).
Smart About College • Late Fall 2009
Campus Outreach Spotlight - Montana Tech
By some descriptions, Student Assistance Founda- “I’m always amazed at how many visitors have taken my
tion’s campus outreach ofﬁce at Montana Tech of the card to give to another family member who is going to be
University of Montana is a lot like a ﬁsh bowl due to its going to college soon, or is struggling with student loan pay-
prominent location. ments,” she said.
But to Shauna Savage, campus outreach manager
at Montana Tech, the ﬁsh bowl-like setting of her ofﬁce
provides a great opportunity for students to drop in and SHAUNA SAVAGE,
learn more about SAF and the services it provides. campus outreach manager
“My unique location makes me accessible to answer Contact information:
questions like, ‘What is Student Assistance Foundation?’ Student Assistance Foundation
and ‘What do you do here?’” said Savage. “It gives me a Montana Tech
great opportunity to educate people on campus who are Student Union Building, Room 112A
unaware of the services that SAF provides and to spread 1300 W. Park, Butte, MT 59701
our mission statement to those in the community or (406) 496-4890 Ofﬁce
alumni who visit the campus.” (406) 498-8858 Cell
According to Savage, she ﬁelds a wide variety of (406) 496-4891 Fax
requests from the students who visit her, ranging from firstname.lastname@example.org
FAFSA completion help to deferment request assistance.
Defend yourself from identity theft! Monitor your credit report information every year by using the Federal Trade
Commission’s only ofﬁcial, FREE site at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Want to share this newsletter with students and parents? You can get it FREE at www.SmartAboutCollege.org.
2500 Broadway, Helena, MT 59601
Permit No 327
families with the knowledge and tools to ﬁnance and pursue their postsecondary education.
The mission of Student Assistance Foundation is to provide students and their Our Mission