An array of massage oils set against a backdrop of flowers

All Posts by Stephanie King

About Stephanie King

Stephanie King is the Assistant Director and Finance Administrator at SSMT.

Open House Discovery Experience

Please join us for our Open House Discovery Experience on Friday, December 13th from 1:15 to 4:00pm.

Meet and mingle with graduates, current students, faculty, administration, and potential employers as you enjoy complimentary chair massage and refreshments, as well as a complimentary class on Treating Headaches and a short informational session. Discover more about our massage therapy program and the opportunities that exist for LMT’s.

RSVP by calling us at (941) 957-0577. We hope to see you there!

November is National Scholarship Month!

Scholarships and grants are gift aid; money that does not need to be repaid. Sarasota School of Massage Therapy students may qualify for a variety of scholarships and grants.

SSMT offers need-based scholarships to students who qualify, and the US Department of Education offers two types of need-based grants to SSMT students who qualify.

You can find out if you qualify for any (or all three) of these grants with a single, free, online application, the FAFSA.

These amounts are based on several things, including your income (and parents’ income, if you’re a dependent student), family size, and other factors. Just enter the SSMT school code (016937) when you complete the application, and SSMT will receive the information we need from the Department of Education to determine the amounts of any federal aid you may qualify for (including the two grants). It will also allow us to determine the amount of SSMT’s need-based scholarship you may qualify for.

Identifying Student Loan Scams

Graduates and students often receive phone calls, emails, and mail about loan forgiveness. While it sounds great, how do you know if it’s a scam? As it turns out, most of the time, it is.

We’ve heard horror stories about students paying for help with their loans, only to find out what they paid is lost money, and their student loan balance didn’t change. Or worse, their student loan balance increased and the payment is now late, because they were working with a scammer and not their real loan servicer.

Some recent false claims the Department of Education specifically mentions include:

“Act immediately to qualify for student loan forgiveness before the program is discontinued”. The Department of Education and loan servicers will not participate in aggressive advertising like this.

“Your student loans may qualify for complete discharge. Enrollments are first come, first served.” While there are discharge options due to a total and permanent disability, it’s never first come, first served.

If it sounds like you have to hurry or you’ll miss out, it’s a scam.

“Student alerts: Your student loan is flagged for forgiveness pending verification. Call now!” Again, the Department of Education does not aggressively advertise. If it sounds like something a used car salesman would say, it’s likely to be a scam.

If you receive communication like this, always call your servicer directly. Call the number listed on your monthly bill or when you log in to your online account; do not call the number listed in that particular solicitation.

If you don’t know how to reach your servicer, call SSMT! We can provide you with an accurate phone number.

Never call a number. or click a link, in a solicitation email. Call your servicer or SSMT.

Always verify the authenticity of any solicitation you receive about your student loans. Most of the time, if you received communication via any method, there will be something in your online account as well. If you received an email or regular mail, but there’s nothing related when you log in, it might be a scam.

Your loan servicer, and the Department of Education, will never ask you to pay for help. If you’re eligible for loan forgiveness, a discharge due to disability, or anything else, while you may have to provide documentation, it’s the law that you’re eligible. They cannot and will not charge a fee to determine if you’re eligible. And if you are eligible, they cannot and will not charge you fees to process the request.

They also cannot and will not charge you any fees for processing a deferment or forbearance request or for changing your repayment plan. Under the law, borrowers may be eligible (under certain circumstances) for a deferment, forbearance, or changing their repayment plan. While it’s not guaranteed that you are eligible, your servicer will never charge to give you information, or to process your application, for any of these things.

We’re here to help! If you need information or just want a reassuring “second set of eyes” to check out the communication you received, just ask us. We’ll help you determine if it looks like it might be a scam, and we’ll help you reach out to your real loan servicer.

Back To School

Heading back to school can be stressful for both kids and parents. Scrambling for school supplies, shoes, backpacks and uniforms; meeting teachers; hauling multiple boxes of crayons, scissors, and paper to classrooms – all take a toll! Yet, while the slower pace of summer is enjoyable, the consistency of the school year can provide relief for some families, and allow time for new projects.

So what about going back to school yourself, even if you have your own kids in school? The majority of SSMT students have children under 18 at home, and they not only find it manageable, but many also say their kids are inspired by seeing their parents studying and pursuing their dream. Our next classes start in September, so you can get through the August rush with your kids before focusing on your own education.

Our massage therapy students who attend day classes either take advantage of a Before-Care Program at their child’s school or they have a family member drop the child off in the mornings. Many schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties have low-or no-cost Before School programs. SSMT day students finish class at 1:00 – before their children have been dismissed for the day. Most evening students have help with their kids from family members while they attend classes – just three evenings per week.

Your children can also affect your own financial aid eligibility. The number of children you support is reported on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and impacts your grant and scholarship eligibility. The SSMT administration and staff want to see every student succeed. We want to help you figure out if this is the right path for you and make sure you’re set up for success, whatever your situation may be. Having kids go back to school can be a great time to consider enriching your own life as well.

Forbearance

If you’re having trouble making your student loan payments, there are many ways to find relief. The Department of Education provides a variety of repayment plans to keep you on track without causing you hardship. Sometimes that’s not enough, and you need to stop payments altogether for a period of time. That’s called forbearance.

There are two types of forbearance: mandatory and discretionary, and it can last up to 12 months. You will find that your FFELP or Direct Loan lenders are not like your auto loan lenders or credit card companies, in that they often want you to succeed and will try to help you through difficult times.

Lenders are required to provide a mandatory forbearance if you meet certain qualifications, which include:

  • Your monthly loan payment is 20% or more of your gross monthly income
  • You are serving in a medical or dental residency and meet specific requirements
  • You are teaching in a program that qualifies for teacher loan forgiveness
  • You are serving in an organization such as AmeriCorps
  • You are called into active military duty
  • You qualify for partial repayment under the U.S. Dept. Of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.

A discretionary forbearance is one that is granted to you by your lender, even when they aren’t required to do so by regulations. It’s smarter for lenders to grant you a discretionary forbearance and reevaluate your situation in 6 or 12 months than to let you go into default and send you to collections.  Most lenders will approve forbearance for illness, unexpected expenses, or financial hardship, even if your loan payment is less than 20% of your gross monthly income.

Your loan interest, on both Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, continues to accrue while you’re in forbearance, but (unlike going into default) forbearance status will not affect your credit score. The interest will be added to your principal balance and then you’ll be charged interest upon interest as time passes. If you can afford to, make interest-only payments on your loan during forbearance.

Start the process by contacting your loan servicer. If you’re an SSMT grad and don’t know who to contact, just ask us and we’ll be happy to look it up for you.

 

How Life Changes May Affect Financial Aid

Have you recently been laid off?  Changed jobs?  Got divorced?  If any of these life events (or a few others) have happened since you filed your 2015 tax return, then your real-world financial picture may be different than what appears on your financial aid application (FAFSA).  Maybe you’re only making half of what you did in 2015.  Maybe you’re unemployed.  Maybe you’re now separated or divorced which has resulted in a loss of income for your household.  Whatever the situation, your financial aid office might be able to help you. Continue reading

Applying for Federal Financial Aid Just Got Simpler!

There are two new important changes to the 2017-2018 application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Both should make filling out the application easier and give you the ability to see your entire financial aid package sooner!

Student Aid ApplicationFirst, the 2017-2018 financial aid award year doesn’t start until July 1, 2017, but now you can fill out your FAFSA as soon as October 1, 2016.  We used to have to wait until January!  This means you can see your entire financial aid picture sooner.

The second change is that you’ll use your 2015 tax return Continue reading