Student Loan Debt Collection Assistant


Know your options

This tool provides information and advice for optimizing how you pay off your student loans based on some basic information about your situation. While we can’t give you advice for your exact situation, we hope it can point you in the right direction and help you learn about some of your options.

Get started by answering a few questions below.

Your situation

Are your student loans federal or private (non-federal), or a mixture of both?

Federal loans

Federal student loans are loans made or guaranteed by the Department of Education. They typically have names like Direct Loan, Stafford, PLUS or Perkins. They are the most common type of student loan.

Private loans

Private or non-federal student loans are any other type of student loans. They can be made by a bank, a credit union, a state student loan agency or a college or university. They may have names like “alternative” or “institutional” loans.


Many student loan borrowers have both private and federal student loans. Because repayment options for each type of loan are different, start by selecting the loan type that you are most concerned about. You can always return to the beginning of the tool and select the other loan type here in step one.

For more info please visit Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)


What is a Degree Audit?

DegreeAuditLogo_rgbDegree Audit

A degree audit is a computer-generated analysis that enables the student and his/her adviser to assess the student’s academic progress and unfulfilled baccalaureate, associate degree, or minor requirements. The audit is a valuable tool for academic planning and course selection, because it matches the courses that the student has taken with the requirements of his/her degree program or anticipated program.

Audits are available for anyone who has enrolled for credit as an undergraduate and has at least one graded semester record in most cases (situations differ based on institutions.) This includes undergraduate students in any classification (degree, degree-seeking provisional, or non-degree) and former students.


When reviewing an audit, the student should consult with an adviser for several reasons. If the audit identifies unfulfilled requirements, there are often several alternatives for satisfying these requirements. The student and adviser should discuss which courses to schedule based on the student’s abilities, interests, and plans. Advising may also be helpful in determining the best combinations of courses to schedule each semester in order to meet requirements. In addition, advising is necessary because changes to the student’s audit may be appropriate. (For example, when a course transfers from another institution and does not have an equivalent Penn State course, it is listed on the audit as an elective. When reviewed, it may be found to meet a degree requirement.)

The degree audit is not the student’s official University academic record. The transcript is the official record of completed work.


Seven Questions To Ask Before You Hire That SAT or ACT Tutor

Teenage Boy Studying With Home TutorPosted by Robert Kohen

With summer fast approaching, this is the time many parents begin to look for an SAT or ACT tutor. If you’re one of those parents, chances are you may have already heard from a friend or teacher about a tutor in your area. Before you sign your child up for tutoring, however, you’ll want to make sure the tutor is worth the investment.

Here are seven critical questions that you should ask any SAT or ACT tutor before making the hire:

1. Do you use real test questions?

Some tutors and tutoring companies produce all of their teaching materials in-house. No matter how great the questions they write may be, they will never match the authenticity of official questions written by the test makers themselves. While it’s great to supplement official questions with additional materials like math and grammar guides, it’s critical that real test questions play a substantial role in the tutoring process.

2. What kind of results do your clients see?

Great tutors produce great results. On the SAT or ACT, that means substantive score gains over time. Be wary, however, of tutors who claim to raise scores significantly within very short periods of time. For the vast majority of students, truly significant score increases require hard work spread out over a number of months.

3. What makes you a great teacher?

Many SAT and ACT tutors boast impressive credentials like high scores and Ivy League degrees but lack teaching expertise. Find out how much teaching experience the tutor has and if they work well with high school students.

4. What makes you an SAT or ACT expert?

While some tutors know the exams they teach inside and out, others may have only a superficial knowledge of them. Leading tutors have typically sat for the exam themselves, often as adults, and scored highly. They should be able to explain to you what is unique about a particular test as well as the most effective methods for preparing for it.

5. Are your lessons personalized?

A great tutor doesn’t teach the same material or use the same methods with every student, but instead adapts to your teen’s needs. See if the tutor will diagnose your teen’s weaknesses and adjust his or her lessons accordingly. To get a sense of how personalized the lessons are, ask the tutor to share stories about how he or she adapted lessons to the specific needs of former students.

6. Do you assign homework?

Substantial score improvements on the SAT or ACT are nearly impossible without hard work on the part of the student. Good tutors will provide weekly assignments, such as timed practice tests, that they will then review with students. If a tutor promises to raise your child’s score without assigning homework, that’s cause for suspicion.

7. Can you provide references?

A successful tutor will be able to provide you with references from families that he or she has worked with. This might be less important, of course, if you’ve already received the tutor’s name from a trusted source who can vouch for the tutor.

DSC_0006Written by Robert Kohen.
Robert Kohen is the director of Kohen Educational Services, a test prep firm offering personalized SAT and ACT prep in person and online. In addition to helping students master the SAT and ACT through one-on-one tutoring, Robert publishes free testing advice, lessons and strategies through his website’s Test Prep Tips Blog. Robert holds a Ph.D. from Harvard, where he formerly taught.


A big step on my entrepreneurial journey

April 28, 2015 By Brian R. King, LCSW

open-4-bizWhy did you decide to go into business for yourself?

Were you sick of working for someone else?
Did you experience an unexpected loss of employment that you turned into an opportunity to become self-employed?

Whatever the reason, each of has our entrepreneurial origin story.

I was raised by entrepreneurs, but after a lifetime of watching them work hard, long hours, I’d thought it wasn’t for me.

So I graduated college with a master’s in social work, got a job and started a family. It was when my oldest son Zach was diagnosed with a form of autism after entering first grade that the foundation of my journey was solidified.

I had to quickly become an expert on autism, available resources, and best practices for parenting a child with such unique needs. It was in helping Zach, and later his brothers to navigate the complex waters of the autism spectrum that I discovered my lifelong struggles could be explained by undiagnosed ADHD and Dyslexia.

I became so skilled at raising my own children that other parents began clamoring for my advice. A small group strongly urged me to open my own practice and after about 18 months of prodding I did it. Now 9 years and 5 books later, I have an international following of those who seek my advice.

As a fellow entrepreneur, you know that the journey doesn’t always stay pointed in the same direction. This lifestyle teaches us, grows us and transforms us. Over the past nine years I’ve learned so much about myself, most importantly, that raising a child on the autism spectrum doesn’t require you to be an expert on autism per se‘, you will do any child a greater service if you simply learn to model the importance of simply being human.

You teach them (through your example) that:

  • Perfectionism isn’t a strategy for success, but trial and learning is.
  • Delegating isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s the realization that your personal and business growth depends upon your opportunity to focus on your core genius, the gift that differentiates you from your competitors.
  • Succeeding in partnership instead of alone allows you to go further, faster and impact more lives.
  • This is just the tip of the iceberg

Why am I telling you all of this?

A few years ago I realized that I had effectively painted myself into a corner (entrepreneurially speaking). When I started my practice nine years ago I chose the name, I’m An Aspie, Inc., (NOTE: ‘Aspie’ is a colloquial term coined by the adult community of those with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, to depathologize their experience) as it captured my close identification with the autism community and my commitment to them.

But as I grew as a parent, an entrepreneur, and most importantly as a person. I realized that I had so many other talents, talents I really enjoyed using, but could find few opportunities to express as long as I was known solely as “The autism parenting guy.”

I realized, that if I was going to become the change I wanted to see, I needed to make some changes, one of the biggest was the name of my business. With that, I am happy to announce that as of today, the legal name of my business is Brian R. King International, Inc.

What does that mean moving forward? The special needs community has been an important part of my life for the past nine years, as I’m raising children with special needs, that community will always have a place in my life. But I know I can do more.

Over the years, I’ve discovered a gift for helping people learn to see their lives as an empowering story of trips, triumphs and opportunities to bring value to the lives they touch every single day. Little did I know that this ability would be attractive to businesses looking to more authentically connect with their customers.

One company in particular called Microshare Intl, approached me with an opportunity to joint venture with them on several long term projects that will allow me to use my gift for storytelling to help its clients better connect with their customers. This is a very exciting time for me and my business, I hope you’ll come along for the journey.

Remember, the journey of our lives is more a maze than a highway. It can feel like there are more falls than forwards and more stops than goes. But you know what, if that’s how your life feels then it means you’re doing it right. The journey of an entrepreneur is about perseverance, resilience, creativity, passion and vision. It’s also about humility, partnership and humanity. Here’s to your journey, may it lead you to the place where dreams and reality meet.

Thanks for being you.

About Brian R. King, LCSW

brian_finalBrian R. King, LCSW is the Director of Business Development for Microshare Intl to provide Entrepreneurs and Companies with cutting edge marketing and business building strategies.

As a Professional Workshop Facilitator and Keynote Presenter who has been wowing audiences since he was 17 years old, Brian has become increasingly known for his personal story of resilience in the face of Learning and Physical disabilities to become#1 Best-Selling Author and successful Entrepreneur.

In his popular keynote presentations, Brian reveals key decisions we all must make in order to be consistently successful regardless of our challenges.


Parents: Do This Before Your Student Starts the College Search

Written by Wendy Nelson

The first thing I suggest dGrad-Capoing before your student starts the college search is to truly understand how much you can afford to pay or want to pay.  Most parents can’t afford, or don’t want to pay, full sticker price at any college their student may be interested in going to!  The earlier you establish a maximum college cost, the more you will save time and energy in the college search and guard against potential heartbreak and frustration in the long run.

Step One – Consider Established College Savings

Sit down and make a list or start a spreadsheet with your established pool of money.  Include:

  • Current college savings fund balance
  • A projected amount for future contributions to your student’s college savings fund at the current contribution rate (if you continue to save the same amount until your child starts college, how much extra do you expect to have?)
  • Commitments from grandparents or others to fund a portion of your kid’s college

Step Two – Agree on a Student Contribution Amount

This is the amount you want your child to contribute towards funding his or her own education. Many studies show that the more students are invested in their own education, the more seriously they take it.  It is important to decide what your stance is on this and have a conversation early with your child regarding your expectations.

My husband and I agreed that some amount of student contribution was important and established the following expectations for our girls:

  • A full-time summer job, from the time they are old enough to get one in high school through the end of college, to contribute towards tuition
  • A part-time job during college to pay for spending money and books

Of course these are goals, not absolutes.  Our oldest daughter was not able to find a part-time job during her freshman year so we ended up providing her a monthly allowance and buying all of her books.  Luckily, she is already set with a job for sophomore year!

Step Three – Consider College Funding Through Cash Flow

Are you willing to, and can you afford to, contribute to college out of your monthly cash flow?  We decided we would handle room & board, at least for our first two girls, out of cash flow.  Their established college savings accounts would only be used for tuition.  This decision was primarily because we had not put as much as we should have into their college savings accounts the whole time they were growing up because we had no idea how inflated the price of college had become – what a wake up call that was!  Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize this until our oldest child is in high school and we start looking at college prices.

Every family situation is going to be different with respect to cash flow.  Some will not be able to contribute at all out of cash flow, some will be able to contribute a lot out of cash flow, and many will be somewhere in between.

The amount you decide on in this step could greatly impact the college search.

Step Four – Add This All Together and See Where You Are

Let’s look at an example:

  • $25,000 Current College Savings
  • $0 Committed contribution from other family
  • $4,800 Expected Additional College Savings ($200/month, two years left to save – I kept it simple and didn’t include interest or growth rate)
  • $3,000/Year Student Expected Contribution towards tuition  + room & board
  • Student will work to pay for books and additional living expenses while in college
  • $500/Month Contribution from cash flow while student is in college

That gives this example family $29,800 in savings – divided by four years of college gives us $7,450 per year.  Add in the $3,000 per year from the student and they have $10,450 per year to work with.

Now, taking the cash flow amount into consideration, that’s about an extra $6,000 per year.

Total per year amount = $16,450

Step Five – Assess What You Can Buy With What You Have

Looking only at the money the family can put into college, the student in our example needs to find a school where tuition, fees, room and board can be purchased for $16,450 per year.  If we go off of sticker prices alone, this student is probably limited to in-state public colleges.

Fortunately, there is the whole world of need-based and merit-based  aid to explore.  Exploring these will greatly help you to establish a maximum college cost for your student.  That will be Step Six and I will get into that in my next post!


Teen Teaches Against Violence Through Art

Teen Teaches Against Violence Through Art

Twice a year, The Anti-Cruelty Society offers an anti-violence after school program for Chicago teens. The program culminates in a Showcase for the youth to present something that they are passionate about. On Thursday December 4th,  17-year-old Agnes Parzygnat from Lincoln Park High School presented a beautiful painting during the Showcase.

The painting depicted a faceless image with a gorgeous flowing mane of vibrant hair. Agnes stood before an auditorium of approximately 50 people and spoke about her inspiration.

Agnes was inspired to create a piece that would speak against suicide. The articulate young woman stated that she had been impacted by suicide during

Agnes presenting at the Showcaseher freshman year in high school when two of her classmates took their own lives. Agnes saw the aftermath of hurt and pain in her friends and teachers and she told me that she still sees many of them struggle with their loss today. Grief never truly goes away; it merely softens as the survivors learn to cope.

As a result of her experience, Agnes “wanted to bring awareness and resources and ways to help those struggling through it or affected by it. [She] chose to do a painting because [she] loves art and painting, it is the easiest way to show [her] passion for the subject and believe it would get the message across to all those who would see it.”

Her is what Agnes had to say about the imagery in her piece:

The person sitting in the corner represents those who took their lives and the dog on the other [represents] all animals who have been abused and neglected. Through that I wanted to show the link between animal abuse and child abuse. The black background I chose to represent all the awful things that have to do with suicide, such as bullying, and domestic violence. I chose not to cover the person and dog in order to show that those who took their lives and were hurt cannot be forgotten. For the hair I chose bright colors to show happiness and hope and so that when people look at it that is what they see first and [are] hopefully struck by. All the strands are to show the resources and help out there. The hair looks like a lion’s mane to show strength in getting help and giving help. I chose not to paint a face in order to show that it can be anyone and everyone affected by it as well as being someone who can help another in need of help.

Agnes is an extremely intelligent young woman. Expect to see more wonderful things from her future. If a 17-year-old is able to so strongly see the connection between violence in all its forms and is inspired to advocate against violence – that is hope worth sharing.

Agnes in process

The Anti-Cruelty Society’s after school program, “Exploring the Link”, is designed to teach youth about the researched and documented connection between animal cruelty and other form of violence. Teens meet potential mentors, explore caring careers (veterinarian, social worker, humane educator, etc.), and gain self esteem as they learn how to advocate against violence in their communities. The program is currently accepting teen applicants for the spring semester.

Share this link with any interested teens you may know.

Meet The Blogger

Tatiana’s Tails

Tatiana grew up with dogs, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an iguana… just to name a few pets. She began her professional career with animals in 1995 at Brookfield Zoo. Tatiana has studied wild dolphins in Australia and rescued wildlife in Florida, but she always says that people are truly at the heart of her work. The welfare of people and animals is connected through a shared environment and the same traits of empathy and compassion that make someone a good pet owner also simply make people better neighbors and citizens. If it walks, hops, or slithers, Tatiana cares about it. She currently oversees the Humane Education programs at The Anti-Cruelty Society, hosts “Chicago Tails” on, and is a Guest Blogger for Tails Inc.


The Study Cycle


Consider the process of studying for class as ongoing. Approaching it this way helps you avoid study marathons and allows you to review content in shorter, more frequent sessions.

Spend two to three hours studying outside of class for every hour in class. Listen to the lectures and read the texts, but balance those activities by finding ways to write, speak about, and graph or draw the content you are learning.

  1. Prepare for Success:Study when and where you are most alert and plan your time.
  2. Preview, Read, Recall:Identify relevant text or notes; scan chapter headings, keywords and diagrams; read chapter intro and summary; and formulate questions you want to answer. Read actively, find answers to your questions, take notes during lectures, and synthesize lecture and reading material. Talk with your professor, TA, or other students and consult your textbooks to fill in gaps and correct misunderstandings; put the main ideas of lectures and readings into your own words.
  3. Self-Test:Create possible test questions, keeping in mind different levels of learning. Do practice problems and apply your knowledge to real-world solutions. Trade and discuss your questions with a partner or a group.
  4. Test:Arrive early with all necessary materials, use appropriate test-taking strategies, and analyze returned tests.