Student Loan Payment……Options?

September 12, 2019

This time of year is definitely a time of change.  Kids are back in school.  Maybe they’ve just headed off to college.  Football season has begun.  Perhaps a new career for recent graduates.  Oh yeah, and if you finished attending college this last spring, your first student loan payment is coming due at any time now.

Yay!  A new payment to start making too!

Ok, so my ‘yay’ is a little sarcastic.  Unfortunately, as unexcited as we may be about it, that first big payment and a whole bunch more after it are going to be due.

Or are they?

If you just finished college this spring, you may well Shocked Girl.pngstill be settling into your new normal.  What the new normal means for your student loan payments could be a few different options.

First, if you have private student loans, you really only have two options.  Pay according to the schedule you agreed to when you took out the loan, or don’t pay (and maybe a refinance into a different private loan).

Federal loans, on the other hand, give you a number of options depending on your situation and loan types.

Standard Plan – This is a ten-year payment plan with level payments, meaning they will stay the same over the life of the loan.  As indicated by the name of this plan, it’s pretty much the default that your loans will end up in.  This is also an amortized loan, meaning that by the time you are done with payments, you will have paid the debt in full.

Extended Plan – Still level payments, this can extend your payments over the next 25 years.  The monthly payments are much smaller, but the total interest paid will be higher.  This is also an amortized loan.

Graduated Plan – Another amortized plan, this one starts with lower monthly payments that gradually but steadily increase over time.  The thought behind it is that as you move forward in your career, your pay will increase and you will be able to afford the higher payments that come later in the term of the loan, keeping low payments while you are still new in your field.

empty pocketIncome-Driven Plans – All right, there are a few of these out there, but they all work basically the same.  Every year you have the loan, the loan servicer looks at how much you make, your family size, and where you live to determine how much of a monthly payment you can actually afford for that year.  These can be stretched 20-25 years and payments can be as low as $0 per month while still being considered current.  So what if you don’t pay off the full loan amount by the end of the term?  Well, the remaining balance gets forgiven.

So which one is right for you?

Well, that depends.  Maybe you have a good income and a low enough payment that you can just knock that thing out in 10 years or less.  After all, the longer you pay, the more you pay due to interest.  But maybe you need the extended plan to be able to afford the other pieces of life that you need or want.

If you are looking at the public service loan forgiveness program (yes, that really is a thing), you will need to be in an income-driven repayment plan.  If you are looking at the TEACH forgiveness program, you will need to be in an income-driven plan.  If you have a large family and lower income, an income-driven plan may be right for you.

Now, this income-driven plan sounds great.  But what’s the catch?  Well, at the end of the term, if you have student loan debt that is forgiven, that forgiven amount will be considered income.  As our tax laws stand right now, you will actually have to pay income tax on the forgiven amount in the year that the loan is forgiven.  Sure, 25% of the debt as a tax is a lot less than 100% of the debt as payments.  But all of that 25% in a single year might still be a burden for many people.  It can work; just be ready for the tax bill.

So where do you start?  Well……

The National Student Loan Data System is the place to go to find all of your federal student loans.  One login will show you all of the loans you have, what type they are, and all other pertinent information.  This knowledge is the beginning of the process.

StudentAid.gov is a great website that will explain your options as far as payment plans and consolidations.  There is also a repayment estimator.  You can provide your FSA ID information and it will load all of your loans for you or you can wing it and manually enter them.  It then shows you all of your options and the other terms that come with them, like length and interest paid.

Oh yeah, that’s what we do.  At the Center for Financial Resources, all of our counselors are certified student loan counselors.  We can help you figure out what you have, what you owe, and what might be the best option based on your own unique situation.  You can schedule that appointment by going to our website or calling is at 605-330-2700.

So to sum it all up, you do have options.  You just need to own your situation, be proactive, and find the best option for you.  There is no single right answer, just the one that fits you best.

 

written by Breck Miller, Community Relations Coordinator
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

 

LSS Center for Financial Resources
Consumer Credit Counseling Service | Housing Resources | Sharpen Your Financial Focus| Financial Fitness Education
705 East 41st Street, Suite 100 |Sioux Falls SD 57105-6047
605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
www.LssSD.org
Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

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Laughter is a Beautiful Thing

September 10, 2019

laughter2

As I sat in on the advanced level English class, the instructor was teaching about laughter.  Tonight would be her last day of classes, and she informed the students that she wanted to end on a happy note.  Laughter indeed makes life better.  Laughter helps us feel happy, it helps us be healthier.  Laughter helps us relax when we are stressed.  There is no doubt that laughter has many benefits.  As we go through changes, we need to rely on laughter and joy.

In fact, this summer has brought several changes to the Center for New Americans.  We said goodbye to three wonderful instructors.  We changed class schedules.  We moved to a different office space and welcomed a new program into the building.  These changes have been an opportunity to evaluate and enjoy life, to laugh and to grow.  And so we have found that the classroom is a place to laugh here at the Center for New Americans.  We laugh because we are happy.  We are nervous. We are strong.  We are learning.  We share the joys and trials of learning a new language together.  Laughter brings us together and unites us as a class, as a family.

Recently I was able to talk with another instructor.  Here is one of his best laughter memories from class:

One time, when talking about “married” versus “single,” I showed the students a picture of a man on a couch by himself eating popcorn and smiling. All the elderly Nepalese women started chanting, “Freedom!”  It was a wonderful laughter moment.

As instructors, we need to incorporate laughter in our classrooms.  As students relax, they learn more. As students laugh, they remember more.  A third instructor, a veteran of over 20 years, used to watch the clip, Lucy and the Chocolate Factory, as she taught students about job skills and assembly lines.  I could often hear the clip through the partitioned wall as both the video audience and her students laughed.

Our students often come to us scared, nervous, unsure of themselves.  They know how little English they understand, and they worry about trying to learn when the teacher does not even speak their language.  So it is the laughter that brings us together, the laughter that transcends the language barriers.  After sharing laughter, the students become friends, become a cohort.  They can work together and find the common ground.   They find someone else with the same goals and desires even though they have come from so many varied backgrounds.  Laughter brings us, as a community, together.

So it is with heartfelt wishes that we say goodbye to some of our staff this summer, and we say hello to some new teachers.  And we laugh with joy, joy of memories and joy for future successes.  Laughter is, after all, a most beautiful thing.

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103

1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


New Americans Visit the Library!

September 3, 2019

“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”              Albert Einstein

I always knew I wanted to be an English teacher – always. So you can probably guess that one of my most favorite places in the world is a public library. Whenever I moved to a new city, the very first thing I did was go get my library card. Ben Franklin did a lot for our country, but I rank his founding of free libraries as #1.

New Americans Visit the Library!

The gang in front of the Downtown Library.

Imagine my delight, then, in taking a fun and diverse group of students to the Sioux Falls Downtown Public Library, all of them for their very first time! Our school is right on the beautiful river walk, so Teacher Mary, Volunteer Karen, and I walked along the Big Sioux to 8th Street with everyone, and then two blocks later, we were at the library.

FIRST, though, we had to stop and take a picture underneath the “Arc of Dreams.” I sure can’t think of a better group to stand beneath this special sculpture than these brave people who have survived the unimaginable and are now realizing their dream of living in freedom in a safe and healthy community.

New Americans Visit the Library!

American dreamers underneath the Arc of Dreams!

The Downtown librarians greeted us warmly upon our arrival and ushered us into a conference room to explain the day: library tours, getting library cards, and time to explore.

New Americans Visit the Library!

Three smart and helpful librarians took care of us!

I really couldn’t have asked for a better day. I just about burst with pride as I watched them get their library cards—just think of how much their worlds expanded with that little piece of plastic. One student told me, “Teacher, I think I will come here a lot. No more sitting at home with the TV!”

 

Some students found books right away that they checked out; others explored the online learning the library offers. And others really enjoyed the comfy chairs. 🙂

A huge THANK YOU to the staff at the Downtown Public Library. You sure made our day special.

By Lindy Obach, LSS Center for New Americans ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free
http://www.LssSD.org


LSS Founders Family & Distinguished Partners Luncheon 2019

August 28, 2019

You may have heard us describe the LSS mission as a ministry of presence. But what exactly does that mean? Our programs are designed to meet people where they are in life – without judgment, to provide hope and healing, and to offer a chance for them to change their future. But the truth is our ministry is brought to life, sustained and performed by you – our supporters, partners and advocates.

On August 16, we paid tribute to those who breathe life into our mission at our annual LSS Foundation Founders Family & Distinguished Partners luncheon at the Sheraton in Sioux Falls.

The LSS Foundation Founders Family was established in 1994 to honor those who have committed to establishing a lasting legacy with either a significant gift to the LSS Foundation or by planning a gift to LSS beyond their lifetime.

Since its inception, the LSS Foundation has disbursed over $3 million to continue the mission of LSS and this fund continues to grow each year thanks to our many generous supporters who make our mission a part of their legacy.

This year we welcomed two such supporters as new members of the LSS Foundation Founders Family, Larry and Marcia Janssen from Brookings, SD. Larry and Marcia were inducted to the LSS Founders Family because they named LSS as a beneficiary of an ELCA Charitable Gift Annuity. The gift annuity allows the Janssen’s to receive a fixed income each year for life in exchange for a gift to charity with the remaining sum.

To learn more about the LSS Foundation Founders Family, please click here.

One of the many blessings of living in South Dakota is living in a community of shared values such as the value of caring compassion for each other. These values are reflected not only in our individuals, but in our corporations, our churches and in our communities. At this event, we also celebrated those relationships and payed particular thanks to our 2019 distinguished partners.

Corporate partner of the year

Grand Prairie Foods

Corporate partner of the year Grand Prairie Foods receives their award.

We recognized and honored Grand Prairie Foods, who has been a strong community partner for the LSS Center for New Americans by partnering to offer job opportunities to newly arrived refugees. For more than 10 years, Grand Prairie Foods has gone above and beyond by not only offering employment opportunities to newly arriving refugees but they take extra steps to ensure the success of their new recruits by helping to troubleshoot barriers that arise, by remaining flexible and adaptive to all skill sets, developing mentoring relationships between the new arrivals and offering training and development opportunities for staff.

Our recognition of Grand Prairie Foods goes beyond just providing a supportive, welcoming workplace. Kurt and Valerie have personally stepped forward as passionate advocates for refugees and immigrants. They do that through their leadership roles in the business community, by contacting state legislators and the Congressional delegation and by making long, winter drives to Pierre in order to testify at legislative hearings. They recognize the value and contribution of diversity in our workplace and in our community.

Distinguished Volunteer of the year

Lori Hofer and Betty Oldenkamp

Distinguished Volunteer of the year Lori Hofer receives her award.

Every year LSS recognizes an individual who has made a distinct and lasting difference in the lives touched by LSS. One such volunteer is this year’s award winner Lori Hofer.

Lori has been assisting with our Life Book Project for over seven years. A Life Book is a collection of information, stories, photos, and memories kept together to tell a child’s life story.  Life Book pages go to youth living in foster care or residential programs to help them put together their life story. Life Books are important because youth who are not able to live with their birth family can have a hard time keeping the information about their life together as they move to different places. A Life Book is a place for youth to collect their information and to add information and pictures as they grow older.

Lori creates themed Life Book pages and she donates over 800 of these pages each year! She has recruited other volunteers and hosts a Life Book Page making event at her house for two days each spring.  And in those two days, her group of volunteers put together the pages from kits Lori has prepared. These hand-crafted pages let the youth know that we think their story is important. Lori’s passion and commitment to helping our families and youth in care is amazing.  She is truly a blessing to the youth she helps to tell their stories.

Distinguished Faith Partner of the year

South Dakota Synod Staff

Distinguished Faith Partner of the year Bishop David Zellmer and the staff of the SD Synod.

LSS is a social ministry of the ELCA.  We believe that God’s love compels us to serve and to value all people. Thankfully we have many partners that walk with us on this journey. For the past 12 years, Bishop Zellmer and the staff of the SD Synod have shared in our journey. They have uplifted our work within the Synod, they have encouraged congregations and individuals to provide financial support and they have been by our side in responding to disasters, they have invited us to be part of their gatherings with pastors and church leaders. All things you would probably expect of the Synod office.

But our recognition of the Bishop and his staff is for more than just being a partner in Lutheran ministry – it is recognition for standing up for people of all faiths and standing against religious discrimination. In January of 2018 we, the SD Synod and LSS, departed from hosting a Lutheran Day at our state capitol and instead sponsored an Interfaith Day. Inviting, not just Protestants and Catholics, but Jews and Hindu, as well as Buddhists and Muslims to join in fellowship and prayer in our state capital.

Thank you to all our distinguished partners, and thank you to our many wonderful supporters who have committed to creating a lasting legacy of Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities.

Tonya Jackson
Development & Foundation Assistant


Why It Is Not a Good Idea to Use a Torch during a Power Outage in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (and Other Musings)

August 27, 2019

However, it is a perfectly sensible idea if you come from that part of the world where British English is spoken. But English is English is English, right?

Well, I’m sure that’s what our students here at the Center for New Americans thought when they landed in their new home. Many of them studied English in their home countries, be it at school or to get prepared for their move to America. Many of their countries were colonized by the British, so their English was influenced by British English as well.

Today, there are more than 80 countries in the world today where the official torchlanguage is English. Most of these are former territories of the British Empire. Over 2 billion people in the world speak English, but word choice and pronunciation vary greatly.

English is the official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other international organizations and businesses. These differences come up in the classroom almost on a daily basis.

When we practice how to write a complete sentence and I explain to the students how important it is to put a period at the end they look at me with a bewildered look on their faces. “Oh, you mean a full stop, teacher.” Yes, that’s what I mean.

When we talk about the possibility of a power outage during a thunderstorm, they tell me not to worry. “We have a torch in our house, we will use a torch to give us light.” An American torch would have a disastrous effect; the term flashlight would be much more appropriate here.

In Sioux Falls, our students may live in a second floor apartment and take the elevator up to their floors. A speaker of British English, on the other hand, would describe the same home as a flat on the first floor and use the lift to get there. In America, a woman might wear a bonnet, whereas in British English this same word describes the hood of a car. Americans eat French fries while the British eat chips. Many American children wear braces on their teeth, but British men wear braces to hold up their pants. And the list goes on.

torch

With that being said, Cheers!

Written by:
Silke Hansen | LSS Center for New Americans ESL Instructor and Interpreter

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 Sioux Falls, SD 57103

605-731-2041 direct, 1-866-242-2447 toll free

http://www.LssSD.org

Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities

Images courtesy of Fluentland.com and Pinterest

 

 


New Americans Take a Field Trip to the Old Courthouse Museum!

August 20, 2019

At the Center for New Americans, we work exceptionally hard to make sure our students feel welcome in our school, but we also work to make sure they feel welcome in the community. A great way to accomplish this is to take a field trip!

Because our little school is downtown, we are within walking distance of a number of fascinating, family-friendly sights to see.

This time, Teachers Heather and Lindy took their upper-level speaking students to the Old Courthouse Museum, a beautiful building in the heart of downtown.

The Old Courthouse Museum checks all our boxes:

  1. it’s free
  2. it’s a short walk away
  3. it’s educational
  4. it’s SUPER COOL!

Enjoy some pictures from our day!

 

Written By Lindy Obach | LSS Center for New Americans
ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free
http://www.LssSD.org

Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities


A Reminder of the Best Advice

August 16, 2019

When we see someone struggling, our natural response is to try to help them. There is no moment more true to that than when we see someone we know or love facing an unplanned pregnancy. The first response is to offer them advice. The problem is, often they are inundated with several “helpers” who want to offer their advice, all with various opinions. It’s very difficult to be struggling with a decision and have people all around you giving conflicting advice but not really providing any resources to follow through with that advice. “You’d be a great mom, I’ll help you!” while someone else says, “but what about college, you’ll never be able to go,” or “whatever you do, don’t just ‘give it up.’” The best advice you can truly give them is to refer them to an LSS Pregnancy Counselor, because everyone around them might have an opinion on what they should do, but a Pregnancy Counselor helps THEM decide what THEY should do. Read the rest of this entry »


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