University Relations and Marketing

Contacts:
Judy Chapman, Financial Aid and Scholarships, 657-2188
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269

April 2, 2010

Financial aid workshops planned for students

Staff will help current students understand, maneuver through changes in direct lending process

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — With the changes made recently in the federal student aid program, current college students may have questions on what those changes mean to them and what they need to do next.

In order to provide guidance to those students and their families, a series of workshops have been set for next week by the financial aid staff of Montana State University Billings.

The free workshops, which are designed so students can drop in at their convenience, are scheduled for:

  • Tuesday, April 6, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Room 421 in the College of Education.
  • Wednesday, April 7, 4-7 p.m., in the Petro Hall computer lab.
  • Thursday, April 8, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., in room A21 at the Technology Building at the College of Technology.

Judy Chapman, director of the financial aid and scholarships office at MSU Billings, said the workshops are designed for current students who have loans so that they can sort out requirements under the new direct lending program.

“This is just our way of saying we can help you get through this process,” she said.

The Federal Direct Student Loan Program was signed into law last month by President Obama. It was approved by Congress in the reconciliation process that also brought about health care reform legislation. MSU Billings will participate in direct lending program beginning with the 2010-2011 academic year.

What it means for current students who have a federal Stafford or Plus loan, is that their funding will come directly from the U.S. Department of Education instead of from private lenders as in the past. The funding flows from the federal government to colleges and universities for students and when they graduate or leave school, they will now be repaying the loans to the government instead of a private bank.

In expectation of the change, Chapman said that the financial aid office has made some adjustments internally and has updated its website with links to information to help students navigate the changes. The biggest change current students will have to address is a basic one: signing a new Master Promissory Note.

The Master Promissory Note (MPN) is the document that allows students to receive loans over the course of their academic career. It will be used for all Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans over multiple academic years. For example, if once a freshman signs the MPN under the Direct Loan Program for all years of study, he or she will be able to borrow under this one MPN for all years.

Getting that process done is straightforward, Chapman said, but is something that needs to be done in order for current students to receive a federal loan. All borrowers, regardless of whether they have borrowed a federal Stafford loan from MSU Billings in a previous year, must take four steps to receive a Federal Direct Stafford Loan.

As Chapman explains it, it can be done by following four steps:

  1. Apply for financial aid for 2010-11 by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  2. After receiving the Award Letter, accept the Federal Stafford Loan.
  3. Complete the Online Entrance Counseling for Direct Loan Borrowers.
  4. Complete a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note. (MNP)

Financial aid staff will be at the workshops next week to help students get through the process, but much of it can be done online. For those who need help with each step of the process, staff will be at the workshops to provide assistance. Students should make sure they bring their driver’s license and addresses of two references that don’t live with them at home.

Once that process is done, students should not see any differences. They will still have to do the FAFSA form each year, the interest rates will remain the same, the loan limits will remain the same and the funds will flow into student accounts the same way.

“This should all be seamless for students,” Chapman said.

Students who will be new to MSU Billings for the 2010-2011 academic year who are receiving federal loans will automatically be a part of the direct lending program. A cohort of students who enrolled for summer classes have already gone through the process, Chapman said, and it worked well.

For more information about the direct lending process and links to federal Department of Education resources, go to www.msubillings.edu/finaid/ or call 657-2188.

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