Financial Literacy Tip #9: Continued Group Effort Required to Address Texas Student Debt


Kammi Contreras, Program Manager, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Kammi Contreras, Program Manager, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

The good news in Texas is that student debt has not reached national levels. The bad news is that Texas student debt is on the rise at a rate of eight to nine percent annually. At this pace, student debt will become a deterrent to much larger numbers of Texans making decisions about pursuing higher education.


To help address this issue, Texas launched 60x30TX, the state’s 15-year strategic plan that has four student-centered goals, including a goal to better manage student debt. In alignment with 60x30TX, the College Readiness and Success (CRS) Division of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is developing a program to provide financial literacy resources to students and parents. CRS will identify and promote the best financial education resources already available at no cost to the user.


Today there are more financial literacy information options available than ever before. However, getting the available information to the appropriate audiences when it is most needed remains a challenge. An even greater challenge is getting the recipients of the information to translate the messages into behavioral change. CRS would like to collaborate with institutions of higher education, public schools, education service centers, and other community and business partners to meet these challenges.


You have probably heard the saying, “A penny for your thoughts.” CRS would like you to share with us your favorite financial literacy resources and the delivery methods you have found to be most effective. Please also indicate the audiences (parents, high school students, college students, educators, etc.) you believe benefit most from the resources you recommend. Some no-cost financial literacy resources identified thus far include:

Recommendations may be sent to:


About the College Readiness and Success Division of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board:

College Readiness and Success fosters access, preparation, participation, and completion of a higher education credential of value for all people that reside in Texas.


About Kammi Contreras:

Kammi began her career at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 1993, working in the division responsible for the administration of Texas student loan programs. Currently, as part of the College Readiness and Success Division, Kammi’s responsibilities include oversight of the State’s student complaint process, support of the Apply Texas online application program, and development of the financial literacy initiative. Kammi earned her BA in Radio -Television with an emphasis in Interpersonal and Public Communication from Purdue University.


Financial Literacy Tip #8: FAFSA and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Rebeca Gonzalez, Program Manager, cafecollege

Financial aid season is in full swing! High school seniors and current college students are in the throes of gathering their financial documents and trying to submit their financial aid applications. While the FAFSA has become more streamlined over the years, it is still a challenge for unfamiliar eyes. Students and families may be seeking your expert guidance to complete a FAFSA. As you ready yourself to help, keep in mind that the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which just became available for use on February 6th, is an extremely useful option. Let’s take a closer look at the tool and its importance in the FAFSA completion process.

What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows applicants who have already filed their federal income tax returns to prefill the answers to some questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by transferring data directly from their federal income tax returns. This can save the family some time in completing the FAFSA.

Who can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and when?

Aside from having filed their income tax returns, the student and one of his/her parents (if a dependent student) must also have a valid Social Security Number and an FSA ID Username and Password to access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Students and parents must use the tool separately for their respective income tax returns. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be available for use 2-3 weeks after their respective tax returns have been filed electronically. (Data from 2015 paper tax returns will be available 6-8 weeks after the return has been filed.)

How is the Data Retrieval Tool accessed?

While completing the 2016-2017 FAFSA, the student and parents (if a dependent student) will be given the option to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if they indicate that they have completed their 2015 tax return and can answer no to all eligibility questions. When the student clicks ‘Link to IRS,’ he/she will temporarily be taken to the IRS website, where they will answer a few authentication questions, transfer the tax data, and then be returned to the FAFSA website to complete the rest of the FAFSA. In some tax filing situations, students and/or parents may be unable to use data retrieval.

Why use the Data Retrieval Tool?

If students and their parents are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, we highly recommend using the tool for several reasons:

  1. It’s the easiest and most accurate way to provide tax information.
    2. If students use data retrieval for themselves and their parents, they won’t need to provide copies of tax return transcripts to their college.
  2. Using the Data Retrieval Tool will greatly reduce students’ chances of being selected for verification.


If you have additional financial aid questions, visit


About the San Antonio Education Partnership

The goal of the San Antonio Education Partnership is to close the college graduation gap for San Antonio by helping its students graduate from high school, enroll in college, and earn a college degree and/or certificate. To achieve this goal, the Partnership delivers its key services through three programs: Road to Success, the San Antonio Education Partnership Scholarship and cafécollege. Rebeca González is the Program Manager for the cafécollege program.


About Rebeca Gonzalez

Rebeca Gonzalez oversees the day-to-day operations at cafécollege. She has spent the last ten years working with middle and high school students, which serves her well as cafécollege Program Manager. Rebeca is dedicated to promoting college access, readiness, and success among San Antonio students. Ms. Gonzalez is a native of the Rio Grande Valley, and is fully bilingual. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Yale University in 2005 and completed her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health in 2010. She enjoys spending time with friends, running and cycling, and spoiling her two nephews in her spare time.


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Financial Literacy Tip #7: Got FSA ID Problems? Resources for Helping Students with FSA ID

Carrie Warick, Director of Partnerships and Philanthropy, National College Access Network (NCAN)

Carrie Warick, Director of Partnerships and Policy, National College Access Network (NCAN)

NCAN advocates for a more simplified FSA ID process.

In January, Josh Logue of  Inside Higher Education quoted NCAN Director of External Relations Elizabeth Morgan in its story, “FAFSA Troubles,” outlining many of the issues with FSA ID that you, our members, shared with NCAN throughout the fall. In the article, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education stated that they had received no official complaints even though NCAN sent a memo with the problems our members experienced and suggested solutions. As we enter peak FAFSA season, it is important for Federal Student Aid to know when and how low-income students are struggling to access the aid they need. NCAN strongly encourages our members to file any comments or complaints using the Federal Student Aid email form: If time allows, please do so for EACH STUDENT who encounters a problem.

NCAN will continue to advocate for our members and students regarding the new FSA ID system put in place on May 1.  The issue came up repeatedly at our National Conference in September and in replies to the inquiry to the NCAN Rapid Response Policy Team. In the fall, NCAN sent a cover letter along with an outline of problems and possible solutions to officials at both the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Student Aid. Our staff also continues our outreach to members of the media about this issue. Members should continue to monitor problems and report them at the comment link. Additionally, any tracking that you can do to show how FAFSA completion times have increased for your students or that FAFSA completion rates are declining due to the additional barriers of the ID, please record them and share them with NCAN by emailing me and Federal Student Aid.

Federal Student Aid responded to NCAN’s letter and shared the areas where they are working to improve the FSA ID experience. Additionally, FSA outlined some areas that cannot change as they are in place to meet security requirements needed to protect student information. There are three areas for possible improvement: reducing the number of challenge questions, reducing the 30 minute time-out window, and reviewing the 18 month password expiration time frame.


Resources for FSA ID

Throughout the fall, the members of NCAN have brought attention that the change to an FSA ID from the previous PIN to access Federal Student Aid related websites creates additional barriers to complete the FAFSA. NCAN brought these issues to the attention of Federal Student Aid. FSA has provided the following resources to aid in creation and use of the FSA ID:

Overview of FSA ID Creation Process:

This six minute You Tube video serves as a helpful overview of the process for creating an FSA ID. FSA strongly recommends that individuals create an FSA ID before they begin their FAFSA.

This blog post offers helpful tips for setting up an FSA ID.

Additional Information on FSA ID:

Blog Post: Why Students and Parents Need to Create Their Own FSA IDs

Blog Post: Goodbye, Federal Student Aid PIN. Hello, FSA ID!


What’s an FSA ID and Why Do I Need One? – Send this PDF to students before they create their FSA ID, so they know what information they will need.

FSA ID Digital and Social Outreach – Sample posts for social media that counselors, financial aid professionals, and others can use to educate students, parents, and borrowers about creating and using their FSA ID.

Information Night” – This PowerPoint presentation was designed for counselors to use during financial aid nights and other events.

Training on FSA ID Set Up – This webinar includes a walk-through of the process to create an FSA ID. The webinar is one hour long. Here are some helpful shortcuts:

  • Linking a PIN at 6:41
  • Beginning the process to create an FSA ID (e-mail address and password) at 13:24
  • Selecting and entering challenge questions at 16:22
    Demo how to continue without verifying an e-mail address at 20:26
  • What to do if you forget your username at 26:53
  • What to do if you forget your password at 29:04
  • What to do if you forget your username, password, AND challenge questions at 33:50
  • FSA ID resources (the FSAIC phone number, link, and a link to an IFAP notice about the FSA ID) at 40:27

FSA Training Conference Presentation – This presentation was a training session from the FSA Conference for Financial Aid Professionals in December. It contains the most up-to-date information about resources to help students, parents, and borrowers. It also has a troubleshooting segment, covers enhancements based on feedback, and a Q&A segment.


Carrie Warick, Director of Partnerships and Policy

Ms. Carrie Warick is the Director of Partnerships and Policy for the National College Access Network (NCAN). She coordinates NCAN’s policy and advocacy work to promote policies that support low-income, first-generation, and minority students access to and success in higher education. Ms. Warick also collaborates NCAN’s relationships with statewide and regional college access networks and other NCAN partners.

Joining NCAN in May 2008, Ms. Warick began as a Program Associate and then became the Director of Member Services beginning in September 2008. In this position, she developed and disseminated resources and training to NCAN members as well as managing membership events, communications, recruitment, and renewal. Ms. Warick holds a Masters of Public Policy, with a concentration in education policy, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and History, both from The George Washington University. While pursuing her Masters, Ms. Warick was a Presidential Administrative Fellow and worked in various areas of communication within GW.

National College Access Network (NCAN) is a growing network of nearly 400 college access and success professionals and organizations. In the last decade, NCAN’s membership has grown more than 500 percent, elevating their voice and building the field of college access and success into a national movement. NCAN believes all students, regardless of income, age, race, or ethnicity, deserve an equal opportunity for a college education. Underrepresented students often must navigate the college pathway without adequate financial resources, guidance, or a strong college-going culture in their high schools. NCAN works to overcome these barriers so students can gain the postsecondary credentials they need to embark on successful careers and build America’s future.

Twitter: @CarrieWarick @2CollegeNetwork

This blog was created from two NCAN posts: Got FSA ID Problems? and Resources for Helping Students with FSA ID. Reposted with permission.

Financial Literacy Tip #6: Student Loans

Ashley McKelvy and Josh Newby, College Access Program Managers, College Forward

Ashley McKelvy and Josh Newby, College Access Program Managers, College Forward

Students will begin receiving financial aid packages from colleges and universities over the next couple of months.  Some students will find that they have a gap in the amount of money they have been awarded and the amount they need in order to attend the school of their choice.  In order to fill this gap, you may need to consider taking out student loans.

What am I getting myself into?

Loans may seem scary, but most college students will borrow money in order to pay for their college education.  Used responsibly, they can be a way to help you earn your degree and secure a professional job that would allow you to repay your loans.  The key is to do some research so that you know what your options are and to borrow responsibly.  Here are some questions that will help you figure out what you need to know when it comes to taking out student loans.

What loan options do I have?

There are three main types of loans – federal, state, and private. Federal loans are available through two separate loan programs offered by the U.S. Department of Education.  The William D. Ford Direct Loan Program is the main program, but there is also the Federal Perkins Loan Program. Direct loans are borrowed directly from the U.S. Department of Education, while Perkins loans are borrowed from the recipient’s school.  There are four direct loan options:

  1. Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan – Interest will not accrue on these loans while the student is in school, grace, or deferment status.
  2. Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan – Interest will begin to accrue on these loans while the student is in school, grace, or deferment status.
  3. Direct Parent PLUS Loan – These are loans made to the student and Unlike other Direct loans, parents must complete a credit check. Repayment of these loans begin immediately after the full amount is dispersed.
  4. Direct Consolidation Loan – This program allows you to combine one or more federal loans into one loan in order to only make one monthly payment.

Texas also offers a state loan:

  1. Texas College Access Loan Program

For more information on state loans please refer to TG’s helpful resource.

Private loans may need to be considered after the student has exhausted all federal and state loan options.  These loans often will not provide the option of low, fixed interest rates, income driven repayment plans, or loan deferment plans.  They also may have additional requirements like a credit check or a cosigner for the loan.

How do I get a loan?

All federal loans are received through completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Students will be notified of the loan amount they qualify for on a school-by-school basis upon receiving financial aid award letters.  State loans (Texas) are received by applying through the Hinson-Hazlewood Student Loan Program.  State loans do not have a citizenship requirement, but may require a cosigner with citizenship or permanent residency.  Private loans are offered by various lenders, such as banks.

How much money should I borrow?

While it may be tempting to include money for pizza or a night out with friends into the amount of money you borrow, it is important to borrow only what you need.  Not only is this money that will have to be paid back, but it may be collecting interest while you are in school.  The recommended amount of money to borrow for your college education should be roughly equal to the amount of money you can expect to make in the first year after you graduate.

What if I have to take time off from school?

Several federal loans offer a grace period after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.  Most federal loans offer a six-month grace period, however the PLUS loan does not offer a grace period.  After the grace period is over you must begin repayment.   Interest will begin accruing on most federal loans during this grace period.  If you return to school before your six month grace period is over, your six months will begin again the next time you stop attending school.

Josh Newby is a College Access Program Manager at College Forward.  He began working at College Forward in August 2014 as an AmeriCorps member and College Access Coach.  Josh has a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas.

Ashley McKelvy is a College Access Program Manager College Forward.  Before coming to College Forward, she taught for Florida State, ACC, and Manor New Tech.  She has a B.A. in English from the University of Arkansas and a M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Florida State University.

College Forward’s Mission:

College Forward coaches underserved, motivated students to achieve the benefits of a higher education and a college degree.


college forward logo

Financial Literacy Tip #5: The Future of FAFSA – FSA IDs and PPY

Kirsten Delay, Program Analyst, Educate Texas

Kirsten Delay, Program Analyst, Educate Texas

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, has been around since 1992, and has experienced myriad changes over its lifetime. In the past decade, the FAFSA has been moved online and linked to IRS tax returns in an effort to simplify the process.  More recently, two big changes have been announced: the Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, which rolled out for the 2015-2016 school year, and Prior-Prior Year (PPY) applications, which will start in October 2016 for the 2017-2018 school year.



The FSA ID was designed to add security to the log-in process. Previously, the student and/or parent needed their social security number and a four-digit PIN to login to the FAFSA. With the FSA ID, the student and parent go through a registration-type process and end up with a username and password to log in.

The benefit of this system is that FAFSA filers no longer need to use personally identifiable information to log in. However, the registration process is fairly lengthy. I went through the process myself to identify snags that students would most likely hit. It took me about 10 minutes to complete the process. Here are a few items to keep in mind while supporting students and parents through the FSA ID creation process:

  1. Password requirements are intense. The password has to have three out of four designations – numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and special characters – as well as be more than eight characters long and not contain name, birthday, or social security number.
  2. It requires multiple challenge questions. Two questions can be chosen from a list and two questions can be made up. Tip: have the registrant choose questions that are not transient. “What is the nickname of your younger sibling?” will be more difficult for the student to remember three years from now than “What city where you born in?”
  3. Save the date: The last question – required to access information over the phone – requires a special date that is not the registrant’s birthday. Again, a special date for an 18-year-old college applicant may vastly differ in upcoming years. Tip: It may be helpful for registrants to store their passwords and challenge question answers in a secure, but memorable, place.



Let’s say you have a student who is interested in enrolling in college for the 2016-2017 school year. They can fill out the FAFSA starting in January of 2016. Realistically, though, she and her parents probably have not gotten their tax information right away, so let’s say she files her FAFSA in February. She and her parents had to scramble to get their financial information entered into the FAFSA before they even do their taxes for the IRS – and then they have to remember to update the FAFSA after they do file their taxes. The school she applied to receives her FAFSA, processes it, and offers her a financial aid package in April. That only gives her and her family a few months to make sure their finances are set for her August enrollment.

This student experienced multiple problems – not having tax information in time to file the FAFSA, not having their taxes completed before they file, and having a short turnaround time between the financial aid package and matriculation. The new changes to the 2017-2018 school year FAFSA are designed prevent all of these problems.

The biggest change is in the financial information required. The current model is called prior year – financial information is required from the year prior to matriculation. In this case, the student needed 2015 financial information to enroll in school the fall of 2016. The new model is called prior-prior year – financial information will be required from TWO years prior to matriculation. When the student files her FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year, she will need her financial information from 2015. Here’s what that means for her:

  1. Taxes are already filed. Using prior-prior year information means that the taxes will have already been filed. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool should make it incredibly easy to auto-fill in the information.
  2. The FAFSA can be filed earlier. If taxes are filed by April of the year prior, why not open the FAFSA earlier? Now, the FAFSA will be available starting in October of the year prior – almost a full year before enrollment.
  3. Financial aid packages are offered sooner. Earlier FAFSA filing means earlier financial aid packages. This will allow students and families more time to prepare to finance their college education.
Photo source: Posted with approval.

Photo source: Posted with approval.


About Kirsten Delay

Kirsten Delay is a Program Analyst at Educate Texas, with an emphasis on supporting post-secondary programs.  Prior to joining Educate Texas, Kirsten worked in an urban high school, teaching science and college planning.  She holds a bachelor’s in Spanish and anthropology from Vanderbilt University.

Financial Literacy Tip #4: After the FAFSA – Understanding the Award Letter


Holly Morrow, Vice President of Training & Technical Assistance, uAspire

Holly Morrow, Vice President of Training & Technical Assistance, uAspire

As we enter into peak FAFSA season it is critically important to remind students, parents and practitioners that the FAFSA is the starting line and that the actual finish line is careful review and comparison of award letters (with of course many hurdles along the way such as verification!). When the award letters start rolling in the decision-making process begins. For most students, this is a huge financial decision that is often challenged by a lack of clear information and understanding of next steps. Here are uApsire’s top 5 considerations for award letter review and comparison.


#1: CELEBRATE the acceptance letters THEN DECIDE Following Receipt & Review of Award Letters.

Once accepted to the college(s) of their choice, it can become very difficult for students to focus on the looming financial decisions in front of them. It is critical for us as practitioners to caution students from making these decisions or submitting tuition deposits until they fully understand what each college is offering them in financial aid. We must prioritize award letter review with our students as a critical deliverable during their senior year.


#2: Be prepared for a shocking lack of consistency when it comes to all things award letter related.

First, award letters arrive in many ways. Encourage your students to be on the lookout for them via their email, postal mail and within each college’s portal. Secondly, the award letter format can greatly confuse students. Some colleges list costs, some don’t. Some colleges group different types of aid separately, while others haphazardly throw loans, scholarships, grants and work study all together. Comparing apples to apples is extremely difficult and most students will need support in understanding exactly what each award letter is offering.


#3: Understand that award letters may not be final.

Letters may be “Estimated,” “Tentative” or “Pending” and therefore may be changed! For example, aid packages can and will change if the estimated taxes on the FAFSA do not match the updated taxes. Students should be encouraged to complete all verification tasks in a timely manner.


#4: Determine the actual costs for each college.

It is mission critical to understand the cost of attendance for each college in order to accurately predict what the student’s estimated bill and net costs will be. It is important to break down indirect vs. direct costs and to support students in adequately planning for those indirect expenses.


#5: Check for common incorrect assumptions from students and parents.

We must caution students not to count work study money as available funds right away- they must work to earn it! We must caution them to not only look at the total amount of aid offered -as many students who do this do not notice a parent PLUS loan of $25,000 slipped into the mix! And while we are talking about PLUS loans please caution your families not to assume a PLUS Loan listed on an award letter is guaranteed – they must apply and be approved! And lastly we see haphazard appealing and on the other hand, students not appealing when appropriate – they need guidance and realistic expectations set for them.
Don’t go through this alone! uAspire offers trainings and tools (including our Award Letter Analyzer) that can support you as you navigate the financial aid award season with your students. To see a list of our trainings visit:
About uAspire:

uAspire works to ensure that all young people have the financial information and resources necessary to find an affordable path to – and through – a postsecondary education. We distribute our expertise in college affordability via three impact models, each aimed at positively impacting the lives and educational dreams of students from low-income, first generation backgrounds and the environments in which they live. To achieve student-centered impact, uAspire: Serves Students, Trains Practitioners, & Impacts Systems.
About Holly Morrow:

Holly Morrow is the Vice President of Training & Technical Assistance at uAspire. Over her 12+ years at uAspire, Holly has managed the quality and delivery of our site-based programming. Throughout her time at uAspire and in addition to her program leadership responsibilities, Holly has served as a frontline advisor, navigating the financial aid process with students and families and using this experience to directly inform her broader work. In her current role, Holly manages the creation of uAspire’s broad suite of college affordability training content, tools, and resources. Holly earned her MS in School Counseling from Northeastern University and her BS in Human Development from Binghamton University.

Financial Literacy Tip #3: Help the Undocumented Student Through the TASFA Process

2016.1.19 Chavez

Tania Chavez, Special Projects Coordinator, LUPE

Since 2001, not only has the state of Texas has allowed undocumented students attend institutions of higher education at the in-state tuition rate, but it has allowed undocumented students be eligible to receive state financial aid.

When helping an Undocumented Student navigate the college access process, realistic and truthful expectations are the number one policy when informing students of their options. The TASFA process varies from college to college and it is available on first come first serve basis. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a student who turns in their application before the priority deadline will be able to receive the state financial aid funds, but it is important to remember that many scholarships are available to Undocumented Students.

The first step in getting the TASFA filled out is by making sure parents have the appropriate documentation to show proof of income, for example the Income Tax (Yes, undocumented Immigrants are able to  pay taxes). The second step is locating a financial aid expert who can help with filling out the application. The third step is making sure a physical copy with original signature is turned in to EVERY institution the Undocumented Student is intended to attend college. Finally, it is always important to confirm the financial aid office at every institution has received the TASFA application.

Undocumented students are often not aware of their legal status in the country, until it is time to apply for college. When helping an undocumented student navigate the college access process, not only do you have to make sure accurate information is being provided but that the right support system is in place for the emotional and academic success of an undocumented student. The financial aid process for undocumented students in Texas is difficult but not impossible. You hold the knowledge to make a difference in an Undocumented Student academic success.


About Tania Chavez

Tania Chavez is an immigrant from Veracruz, Mexico who discovered the world of organizing at the Latino Leadership Initiative through the Harvard Kennedy School-Center for Public Leadership. Ms. Chavez founded Minority Affairs Council–a student-led organization that harnesses the talents, abilities and determination of the RGV youth. Ms. Chavez continues to advocate for college access for students regardless of immigration status. Currently, Tania helps implement new ideas in service to LUPE members.

Financial Literacy Tip #2: Employ Wealth Building Strategies Before, During, and After College

Stephen Clayton, Supervisor, Community Engagement, Dallas Fed

Stephen Clayton, Supervisor, Community Engagement, Dallas Fed

Paying for college can have a substantial impact on the finances of students and families. Understanding the basics of building wealth can help families prepare to bear the costs and students succeed in completing their degrees.

Building wealth is the process of increasing your net worth by increasing assets (what you own) and/or decreasing liabilities (what you owe).

If you employ wealth building strategies before, during and after college, you can position yourself to succeed financially and secure your future:

  1. Set goals. Ask yourself why you want to build wealth. These goals are personal and should be realistic. Perhaps you cannot pay cash for college, but you can afford to pay for your meal plan.
  2. Develop a budget and live within it. College is expensive, but without proper budgeting, it can get out of control. Once you understand how much tuition, room, board, books, fees, etc. cost, you can make decisions about working during school or taking out loans.
  3. Determine if there are appropriate investments that can help your money grow. Taking advantage of compound interest can greatly impact not just college savings, but your entire financial life.
  4. Build credit and control debt. Student loans that help students meet their financial needs during school may be appropriate for you. However, taking on loans can have a lasting impact on your ability to save and invest after school. Make sure before you take on loans that you understand the repayment schedules and costs associated.

To learn more about how building wealth can help you secure your financial future and meet your financial goals, visit


About Stephen Clayton

Stephen Clayton joined the economic education team at the Dallas Fed in August, 2010. He is responsible for providing relevant and timely information on the Federal Reserve System, economic concepts, monetary policy and personal finance to audiences across the Eleventh District, including educators, community groups and trade associations. Prior to joining the Dallas Fed, Clayton was a financial advisor at Edward Jones Investments in Carrollton, Texas. He has been published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports and written publications for the Dallas Fed. Clayton has a BA from Austin College with a focus on economics, philosophy and math and pursued graduate studies in economics at the University of North Texas.

Financial Literacy Tip #1: Understand What You Will Earn and What You Will Owe


Kristin Boyer, Director of Philanthropy

With financial aid season now underway, prospective college students are thinking about costs and how to cover them. While many students and counselors have already discovered basic cost calculators and financial aid estimators, at least one important question remains: If I have to borrow for college, how much is too much?

Financial aid experts generally advise students to limit their borrowing so that no more than 15% of their after-tax paycheck goes to student loan debt. To complete the equation, students will need to consider both the field of study and the institution they plan to attend. An easy way for them to explore these variables is through TG’s Major Choices, a calculator that helps students compare debt-to-income information for different majors at the same institution, or to compare the same major at different schools. With more than 400 majors listed, students can see how their decisions about college may affect their ability to repay student loans based on potential income during the first year after graduation.

The calculator also includes links to specific information, including:

  • Scholarship searches tailored to a chosen major
  • Institutional net price calculators
  • Money management tips and student loan repayment options


For anyone advising students about college options, Major Choices can get the conversation going about realistic costs and reasonable borrowing – all part of finding an institution that’s a good “fit” for the student.

To learn more about the research behind the Major Choices calculator, download TG’s publication “Balancing Passion and Practicality: The Role of Debt and Major on Students’ Financial Outcomes” or view the webinar for more guidance on how to incorporate the information into advising sessions with students.


For more online calculators and other college planning resources, visit


About TG:

As a nonprofit corporation, TG (@tgslc) offers resources to help students and families plan and prepare for college, learn the basics of money management, and repay their federal student loans. TG’s philanthropy program, established in 2004, seeks to improve higher education access and completion, particularly for students from low/moderate-income families. To date, TG has awarded more than $48 million in competitive grant funding to support direct services to students and families, organizational capacity building, and educational research. Information on the program is available at

Students, families, and educators can find helpful resources through TG’s Adventures in Education webpage.


About the author:

Kristin Boyer (@kvjboyer) has been an advocate for improving educational access and student success throughout the two decades she has served in the nonprofit and higher education communities. Her professional experience includes public-school teaching, counseling in admissions and financial aid, work in higher education advancement and communications, and grantmaking in postsecondary access and success for low-income students. In her current work, she is responsible for overseeing TG’s primary corporate philanthropic program, which has awarded more than $48 million in competitive funding over the past 10 years.