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Innovative Connections
April 2012: Financing Your Education
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Tip of the Month:Stay on Top of Your Student Loans
School Funding Opportunities
Misha's Advice: How to Make Time for School and Life
Student Loan Repayment Plans
More About Student Loan Repayment!
IC$ Matched Savings Accounts!
Sign up for ACH
For Our Borrowers
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Upcoming Events
Student Loan Seminars

- Tuesday, June 5th at the Albina Library from 6:30-7:30pm


- Saturday, June 9th at the Kenton Library from 12:30-1:30pm. 

IDA Orientations


Tuesday, May 15th from 5:30-6:30pm

2025 Lloyd Center Mall, Portland, OR 97232 



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May is right around the corner. For some of us, this means school is out. This can be exciting and stressful at the same time. 50% of recent college graduates have student loans, with an average student loan debt of $10,000. Graduation can mean pressure to start paying back student debt right away. However, as long as you are aware of all options you have in terms of paying back your student loans, you should be fine; student debt does not have to be stressful! See our tip of the month for information on tracking your student loans and putting them in deferment or forbearance if need be.


Deciding to take the leap and go back to school can be an amazing opportunity to further your career, grow and feel more fulfilled. Similarly, preparing your children to go to college for the first time is life changing. With all the good, comes the burden of financing education. It's important to take advantage of community resources such as matched savings accounts, scholarships and grants and be sure to get your FAFSA in on time. Having an idea of how much education will cost you in advance give you more time to plan so you can take on as little debt as possible. 


In addition, plan for a change in lifestyle. Spending time with family or relaxing may not be as easy as it once was when you weren't in school. In Misha's column this month, she brings you tips on how to stay sane and keep a balanced lifestyle while succeeding in school.


Once it's time to pay back your debt, if you have federal loans, take advantage of different repayment plans like the Income Based Repayment plan which can have you making $0 payments! Staying current on your loans can help you build credit and access other assets in the future. Also, if you have any questions about yours student loans come to our student loan seminar on Tuesday, June 5th at the Albina Library from 6:30-7:30pm or Saturday, June 9th at the Kenton Library from 12:30-1:30pm. And you're always welcome to meet with us- just give us a call to set up an appointment!


Happy reading!

Innovative Changes

Tip of the Month: Stay on Top of Your Student Loans!tipofthemonth

Send us your tips! Each month we will collect your innovative money management tips -- these could be about resourceful ways you've saved money, thrifty activities you enjoy, helpful 
insights into living on a tight budget, etc. We will enter these tips into a pool and if selected, your tip will be featured in the next Innovative Connections and you will win a $20.00 Fred Meyer gift card.


Are you part of the 15% of the population that has student loans? It's important to stay on top of your student loans, and with a few resources, it's easy to do so! Here are some tips for staying current with your loan payments (even if you decide you can't make payments at all).


Know What You Owe

It can be difficult to keep track of who manages your loan (the servicer) especially if you went to more than one school or took out different types of loans. Before anyone can start to pay back their loans they need to know what they owe. One easy way to find out what you owe is to visit the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), You will be asked to enter your personal information, so be sure you have reached the correct website. Once inside you can see all your loans on one page. If you click on the loan it reveals the details such as interest rate, principal (the original amount you borrowed), the outstanding balance, and the servicer. Knowing your servicer allows you to know who to contact about the particular loan, and interest rates can help you decide which loans to pay down first. 


Deferment and Forbearance

Now that you know what you owe, you can select a repayment plan or chose to enter deferment or forbearance, which can be good options if you are having trouble making your payments.


Deferment can be granted if you are in school, actively serving in the military, are unemployed, or are facing economic hardship. So if you have lost your job or are receiving public assistance this can be a good option to help prevent default (being late on your loan). During deferment loans that are subsidized will not have interest added to the principal; however, if a loan is unsubsidized interest will accrue. The benefit of deferment is that no payments are due but the loan stays current. The downside of deferment is that the amount you owe will not be reduced, and if loans are unsubsidized they will have interest added, which will increase what you owe.  


Forbearance is for borrowers who don't qualify for deferment, but are unable to pay their loans or need to reduce their payment amount. During forbearance interest accrues so the total you owe will increase, but the loan will stay current.


 Written by Cassie Russell

School Funding Opportunities: Scholarships, Grants, and IDAsfundingopps

studentSo, you are thinking about going back to school.  Where do you start? How do you pay for it?  What do you want to go to school for?  And do they have class schedules that will work for you?  


First thing to do is figure out what you want to go to school for.  Will it expand on the career you're already in?  Or do you want to do something completely different?  If the courses you want to take compliment the career that you are already in, you may want to talk to your employer.  In some cases, and if the budget allows, your employer may be willing to pay for part or all of your schooling.      


Now that you have figured that out, you need to find a school nearby that has the courses that you are interested in taking.  Will the schedules work around your work, or life?  Is an online course more ideal for you?  The thing to remember with online courses is that they are usually accelerated courses that require a lot of discipline.  So if you have a lot of distractions at home, such as children, you may want to look at getting somebody to watch the kids while you do your school work.  Or maybe going to a campus school will be easier for you.  


Another factor in picking a school, are there book fees, graduation fees, application fees?  Will there be lab fees for a campus school?  If you are taking an online course, will they require you to be there to receive your degree?  Is the school feasibly close enough for you to get there without breaking the bank?    And now for the messy part, paying for it.  The first thing you want to do is go and fill out your FAFSA.  What is a FAFSA you ask?  FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  To learn more about FAFSA, click on this link:  


There are also a host of scholarships and grants available for those who qualify.  A great online tool for helping you find the right school and the funding to pay for it is  You may also want to look into an Education IDA matched-savings program, such as the one Innovative Changes offers (see below for more details)  You can also check with your bank to see what kind of college savings programs they have or partner with.

When deciding to go back to school there are a lot of factors to include in your decision.  Do some research and self-reflection, some budgeting, bounce some ideas off of your friends and family, they might be able to give you some advice. No matter what you decide, it is life altering and a commitment, so make sure you know what you are getting into, and how you are going to pay for it. 


Written by Misha Staggs   

Misha's Advice Column: How to Make Time for School and Lifemishacolumn


One of the hardest things as a parent, a wife, and full-time employee, is also making time for school.  Unfortunately, there is not one tried and true way to keep these things manageable, but here are a few guidelines to get you started:


1. calendar Get - and use - a calendar.  It can be a paper calendar, your cell phone, or an online calendar through your email.  No matter what kind of calendar you use, though, make sure you have one. 


2.  Write down everything in one place. Schedule when you plan to sleep, when you're going to do your homework, when you are going to do your laundry, when you're going to play with the kids, etc. The crazier your schedule gets, the more important this becomes. 


3.  Schedule time to relax.  Just because your calendar goes from 7am to 10:30pm, doesn't mean that you can.    


4.  Keep trying new systems.  If your cell phone calendar isn't big enough, buy a paper one.  If your paper one keeps getting torn, try a online one.  If you have too many things written down each day, try color coding to help simplify.  Very few college students make it through their programs without some kind of calendering or organizational system; keep trying until you find the one that works for you.


fam sillohuet5.  Allow for flexibility.  Things inevitably come up that you weren't expecting.  Your child may get sick, in-laws show up unexpectedly, or you have a giant project due at work.  Leave room in your calendar so that you can move things around a little when needed.


6. Plan Ahead.  Do you have a large research paper due the last week of the semester?  Work backward in your calendar and figure out how much time you need to write it, how much time you'll need to research it, and how much time you'll need to pick your topic.  If you think you'll need six weeks for the entire project, work backward from the due date and schedule the time into your calendar before it's too late. 


7.  Plan for the unexpected.  Sure, you may be able to pull off two papers for school, a presentation at work, and taking the kids to soccer practice and dance lessons during midterms week.  But what happens if you catch the flu the night you're supposed to be pulling an all-nighter?  Expect the unexpected so you don't have to spend more unplanned time trying to fix your mistakes.


8.  Schedule rewards in.  Your midterms week is a nightmare, but it willall be over Friday by 5.  Schedule a fun afternoon and a nice dinner out with some friends; your brain will need it, and you can relax knowing that you're not supposed to be doing anything else. 


There is a great personal time survey at  They also have a lot of great tips on how to be more successful in college, even if you do have a full-time job and family. Just remember that these are some tips to try out. The best time management strategy is the one that works for you.    


Written by Misha Staggs. 

Resource Highlight: Student Loan Repayment Plansrepayment


Once your loans are in good standing, you have your choice of repayment plans! There are several options to choose from depending on your goals and budget. Contact your loan officer to find out next steps for enrolling in any of these plans.


IBR Calc

a) Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is designed for borrower's who need their loan payment to be based off their income and family size. This plan may be more affordable than other options and any remaining debt is cancelled after 20 years. If your income is low enough, you could make $0 payments a month and your student loans would stay current. See what size payments you would make through the IBR by checking out an IBR calculator here


b) Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) is similar to IBR in that your income and family size is taken into account, but the monthly payment amount is also based off your total student loan debt, so this may be helpful if your debt that is greater than your income. ICR payments cannot exceed 20% of your discretionary income so it is often an affordable choice, but again you pay more in interest.


c)      Graduated Repayment is a great option if you think  your income will increase in the future. Recent graduates and others who will see pay increases start out by paying a small amount each month which then increases over time.


d)     Extended Repayment allows you to pay back loans in 25 years versus 10 years, making your monthly payment smaller. When thinking about extended repayment remember you will pay more in interest and need to have more than $30,000 in loans to qualify for the program.


e)      Standard Repayment is designed for borrowers who are able to pay off their loan in ten years. If you chose standard repayment your monthly payment amount will be the highest of all the repayment methods, but you will pay the least amount of interest possible.


*This article provides information for federal student loans, based off information found on the Direct Loans website. If you have private student loans visit your servicer's website for more information.

Written by Cassie Russell
More About Student Loan Repayment!!kidgames


sl imageIn case you haven't gotten enough yet, we have yet some more basics on the importance of staying current with your student loans. When thinking about how to repay loans here are the basics to keep in mind:

  • The longer you are in repayment the more interest you pay. So choosing smaller payments now may end up costing more in the long run.
  • Student loans are on your credit report. Making student loan payments on-time helps your credit score. If you fall behind, first you are considered delinquent (late). If you are delinquent they will report your being late to at least one credit bureau, but choosing the right repayment plan can help you prevent this. After being delinquent if you do not bring your account current your account will be considered in default. Default should be avoided at all costs, because once student loans are in default the servicer will request the entire amount of the loan in full! Be sure to contact someone for help as soon as you have trouble making payments to prevent default.
  •  Calculate before you decide on a payment plan. Enter your information at to find out how much your payment will be on each of the repayment plans, to ensure you will be able to make your payments each month.
  • If you have multiple loans consolidation may help. Consolidation is a process in which existing debt is paid of and a new loan is created. So if you have ten student loans consolidation creates one new loan for the total amount. This can make staying on top of payments easier, but your interest rate will increase. For more information on consolidation and for a calculator to see how consolidation would affect your situation visit
  • Think about forgiveness and education awards. If you work for a non-profit, are a teacher or librarian, or other positions that benefit the public you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness in which a portion of your debt is forgiven. For information on PSLF visit Other programs such as AmeriCorps and PeaceCorps also offer loan repayment or forgiveness.
  • There is no one-size-fits all. As you can tell by the number of options everyone's situation is different. If you have questions about which repayment plan is right for you contact Innovative Change$, your school's financial aid department, or visit the Direct Loans' website for more information

*This article provides information for federal student loans, based off information found on the Direct Loans website. If you have private student loans visit your servicer's website for more information.


If you have concerns about how student loans are affecting your credit ask for help before contacting your servicer. 


Written by Cassie Russell

Innovative Changes Matched Savings Accounts for Post Secondary Education!IDAs


Speaking of financing your education, did we mention that we are offering matched savings accounts for those pursuing higher education or vocational trainingThe IC$ matched savings or Individual Development Account(IDA) program offers a 3:1 match for those saving to attend an institution of higher education. Participants must meet IDA criteria specified below to be eligible to apply. Spots are limited and we expect they will go fast, sign up for the next orientation asap!


Who qualifies for an IC$ IDA?

  • Must be at least twelve years old
  • Household net worth must not exceed $20,000, excluding one vehicle and a primary home
  • Adjusted gross annual income of the household must not exceed one of the following by household size: 80% of area median income by county of residence, 80% of state median income, 200% of poverty.
  • Pre-savings: IC$ requires that applicants demonstrate their ability and commitment to the savings program by maintaining their own savings account and making deposits of at least $25 a month for two months in a row, without withdrawals.   
  • Potential Savers who are borrowers in IC$' loan program must be in good standing with their loan(s) in order to apply. Being in good standing means that their loan is not in default.
If you meet the criteria above and are interested in learning more about our IDA program, sign up for an orientation today! The IDA orientations will be at 2025 Lloyd Center (on the 3rd floor between the food court and Nordstroms) on:
  • Tuesday May 15th from 5:30-7:30pm. 

To register for a orientation click here or call Misha at 503-249-5205.


For more information on our IDA program please visit our website or contact Talia,

We Can ACH Your Loan Payments! ach                             

You can have IC$ automatically withdraw funds from your bank account to make your loan payment.This is called Automatic Clearing House (ACH) and is an electronic network that allows you to set up regular withdraws of your loan payments that gets sent to our account. If you would like to sign up for this, please fill out the form on attached here and send or fax it back to us (please do not email for security reasons). ACH is a good idea if you have a bank account and a reliable balance in your account on your monthly loan due date. If this does not fit you, ACH is not the best option.  If you have any questions, as always, feel free to give us a call: 503-249-5205.

For Our Borrowers

Money treeAre You Receiving Your Payment Reminders?

If you chose to receive your payment reminders by email, make sure that they are coming to your inbox and not your junk mail. If you would like to change the way that you receive reminders (by mail, by email, or by phone call) let us know! Call Misha at 503.249-5205.

How to Make Your Loan Payment
  • You can mail your payment by check or money order to: Innovative Changes, 4610 N. Trenton St., Portland, OR 97203 or 2011 Lloyd Center, Portland, OR 97232.
  • You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the New Columbia Opportunity Center Front Desk- Mon- Fri, 8am-5pm    
    • The front desk person has envelopes and is authorized to collect payments on our behalf if we are not in. If you are paying in cash and need change, you must contact Talia in advance to arrange a meeting time.    
  • You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the Lloyd Center, 3rd Floor, Suite 2011 (2011 Lloyd Center Mall, Portland, OR 97232) Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm or drop it through our mail slot on other days/times. 
  • You can also pay via pay pal by following directions on our website here. Please note, it asks you to fill in a donation amount, but this is not a donation, it will go towards your loan payment.             

We Are Here to Help!  


Are you having trouble making your payment this month, or afraid that it might be a little late? Let us know! We understand that unexpected events and expenses can make it hard to keep your finances on track, and Innovative Changes wants to be there for you in such cases. Innovative Changes is flexible and willing to work with our borrowers to satisfy loan obligations, and in return we ask for honest and timely communication. Remember, if you know your payment is going to be late, let us know ahead of time and we might be able to avoid charging a late fee, or sending out a late notice.