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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Summer 2014
(Email for availability)

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.

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View UCSB Graduate Student Resources in a larger map

Monday
Aug042014

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Student-Loan Debt-Relief Companies

Credit: McCarthy LawPayday loans. Nigerian princes. Ponzi schemes.

Almost everyone knows about these common financial scams. Another potential fraud scheme to add to the list is student-loan debt-relief services. These companies claim to help individuals navigate the "complicated" process of consolidating their student debt, which may or may not be the best choice for every borrower but which is, in fact, a relatively easy and free thing to do on your own. Chronicle intern Dan Bauman called four of these student loan consolidation companies and wrote an article fact-checking the information in their sales pitch.

Here are some red flags that he reported:

  • The companies claim to work closely with or be tied to the Department of Education. In reality, the Department of Education does not officially sponsor or partner with any of these companies. In fact, they offer their own simple and free process through their website.
  • The representatives at these companies liken themselves to tax preparers, such as those at H&R Block, helping customers navigate through a complex process in order to avoid costly and time-consuming errors. In reality, those interested in consolidating their student loan debt can fill out a simple three-page application and send it in to a government servicer to see if they qualify. And if any errors are made, all you have to do is reapply the next day.
  • The companies use the prospect of loan forgiveness to entice customers. In reality, not many people qualify for public-service loan forgiveness, but if you do, you can fill out the two-page application for free.

It is important for borrowers to carefully consider the pros and cons of student loan debt consolidation. While consolidation can simplify and sometimes lower your monthly payments, it can result in the loss of some benefits or end up costing more over the long term.

The bottom line is that student-loan debt relief companies charge huge fees for a service that is free and easy through the government.

For more information:

Wednesday
Jul232014

Credit or Debit Card? 

Credit CardCredit: openclipart.comWhich is the best type of card for you, credit or debit? The answer depends a lot on how you handle money and what you need to purchase.

The following information comes from CashCourse.org, a great financial literacy site you can register to use for free.

Credit Cards:

Pros:

  • Personal liability limitation of $50 for identity theft.
  • Convenient purchase method.
  • Build up your credit history.
  • Source of money for emergencies.
  • Accepted by most stores.
  • Benefits such as frequent flier miles or rental car insurance.

Cons:

  • Too convenient to use and easy to accumulate debt.
  • Fees:
    • Late payment fees (up to $30).
    • Annual use fees.
    • Cash advance fees.
  • Interest:
    • High interest rates.
    • Rate increases for late payments.
    • Floating interest rates that go up without notice.
    • Cash advance interest.
  • Buyer Beware:
    • A "free trip" can require you to spend $10,000 or $15,000 – often on a dollar-per-mile basis.
    • Low interest rate introductory offers and balance transfers that suck you in, leaving you with a high interest, high fee card months later.

Debit Cards:

Pros:

  • Faster than writing a check, and your money is directly debited from cash or checking account.
  • Have access to cash from ATMs all over the world.
  • Provide a receipt to check your balance.
  • Can buy postage stamps at some ATMs. 
  • Can make deposits or transfer funds between accounts.

Cons:

  • Personal liability of up to $500 for identity theft, and you may lose all the money in your account if you do not report the theft within sixty days.
  • Fees:
    • Quarterly or annual-use fee.
    • "Point-of-sale" fee when swiping the card through a reader and entering your personal identification number.
    • Fees for using card at an ATM not owned by your bank.

So, which should type of card should you use?

If you can handle paying off your credit card balance every month (i.e., treating your credit card like a debit card), I would suggest using a credit card for its convenience and benefits. However, if you need to control your spending more, I would advise using a debit card so that you only spend within your means. Remember, credit is not cash; credit is a loan you have to pay back, often at high interest.

What does the Funding Lord do? 

I have both type of cards, but I only use my debit card to withdraw money. For everything else, I use my credit card, since I pay off the balance in full every month. My credit card also has no annual fee and a low interest rate (it's from USAA). USAA also provides my debit card and reimburses me for fees for withdrawing from other banks. USAA is the best deal for me, but it may not be the best one for you.

Where can you find the best deals?

Shop around for the best credit card deals using Bankrate, CardRatings or NerdWallet, which all offer good information and advice. They even have information on prepaid debit cards and reward offers for credit cards.

Tuesday
Jul222014

What You Need to Know About Simple and Compound Interest

Grad Sense LogoDo you know the difference between simple and compound interest? Knowing the difference might just help you save money on paying loans or earn you more money through investing.

First of all, some basic terms.

  • Principal. Principal is the amount of money you originally deposited into a savings or checking account.
  • Interest. Interest is the money you are paid for lending (i.e., depositing) money to a bank. For most people, interest accumulates through a savings or checking account.

Now, let's look at the two types of interest: simple and compound.

  • Simple. Simple interest is the money paid to you on the principal alone of your deposited funds.
  • Compound. Compound interest is the money paid to you on the principal plus any interest you may have earned with your savings account over a designated period of time. Some interest is compounded monthly, some yearly, or with bookies, compounded weekly. Compounding is based on a "simple math formula" you can check out here. On the other hand, compound interest can be what you pay back to the government or a private lender on your original student loan amount, plus whatever interest that has compounded weekly, monthly, or yearly.

Finally, knowing the difference between these two types of interest can save you, or even earn you, money. Not knowing the difference can cost you a lot of money--especially with credit card debt.

  • Save money. When borrowing student loans, you accumulate compound interest. Lots of it, in fact, over the duration of the loan. Credit cards are even worse for compound interest since they charge higher interest rates and encourage small, minimum payments. This compound interest is added to your principal (or original borrowed amount), where it continues to compound and increase your existing debt and lasting anxiety.
    • Therefore, if you pay your interest on your student loan while a student, your will not suffer from compound interest, thereby saving you money.
    • When paying back the overall loan (or credit card bill), you should increase your payments above the minimum to decrease the total principal, so you will have less compound interest. You will also save money and decrease the amount of time to pay off the loan.
  • Earn money. You can also earn more money by taking advantage of compound interest.
    • Make regular deposits to your savings or investments. Use automatic banking features to have money deposited to an interest bearing or investment account.
    • You can also cut out unnecessary expenses, like eating out, and add those savings to an interest bearing account and watch it increase over the years.

For more information on simple and compound interest, see the GradSense articles on Loan Repayment and Add It Up.

Tuesday
Jul222014

25 Tips to Stretch Your Dollars

Credit: CashCourse.orgWant to find more ways to make your grad funding go further? Then browse the list below for 25 ways you can stretch your dollar for food, rent, transportation, communication, entertainment, and shopping.

Food:

  1. Learn to cook.
  2. Buy food and supplies in bulk.
  3. Use your freezer to store bulk and leftovers.
  4. Avoid buying sodas and snacks out of vending machines.
  5. Buy generic.
  6. Order vegetarian.
  7. Kick the habit: stop smoking.
  8. Limit your coffee runs.
  9. Drink less alcohol. 

Rent:

  1. Add another roommate. 
  2. Negotiate rent increases. 
  3. Turn down the heat.

Transportation:

  1. Walk or bike when you can.
  2. Use public transportation. 

Communication:

  1. Pick a cellphone or landline, not both.

Entertainment:

  1. Consider cheaper entertainment, like Redbox, Netflix, or Amazon Prime.
  2. Sponsor a game night. 
  3. Use the library.

Shopping:

  1. Use the Web for comparison shopping, such as Google Product Search or www.pricegrabber.com.
  2. Shop around for clothes.
  3. Avoid clothes that require dry cleaning.
  4. Use your student discount.
  5. Buy less-expensive gifts.
  6. Avoid credit card pushers.
  7. Use online discounters, such as www.groupon.com and Living Social

For more details on each item, check out the CashCourse article "25 ways to stretch your dollar" (requires free registration. Click here to learn more).

Monday
Jul212014

Loan Sources for Students Struggling Financially

MoneyAre you struggling financially? Have you run into financial problems due to an emergency, family crisis, or changing financial circumstance? Then there is help for you in the form of emergency short-term loans or a Request for Review (RFR) from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Emergency Short-Term Loans

If you have experienced a health or family crisis or some other emergency, there are several places where you can apply for short-term loans.

Amount: Varies from $100-$3,500 depending on the situation and lender (see below).

Repayment: Anywhere between 30 days and before graduation.

Lenders:

Changing Financial Circumstances

If you have been adversely affected by extraordinary circumstances that reduce your ability to pay for college expenses, you can ask the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships for a Request for Review. Circumstances might include expensive medical procedures, employment layoffs, divorce, or the death of a parent or spouse.

You will need to provide documentation to verify your changed circumstances, such as employment termination letters, paycheck stubs, or medical billing statements.

Information in this article was adapted from the web page If You're Struggling Financially.

Wednesday
Jul162014

Do You Know Your Money Management Basics?

Do you know your money management basics?

Here are nine tips from the Money Matters guide to get you on the right track to organize your finances and get the most out of your student budget.

1. Figure out your income sources

Is your income coming from work, financial aid, parents, or fellowships? Each year assess how much you will need, how much you are receiving, and how much you will need to raise.

2. Get clear on your priorities, needs, and wants

Prioritize your tuition and fees since your primary goal is to get an education at UCSB. The remainder after paying tuition and fees should cover your living expenses and educational supplies. Consider changes in lifestyle: make coffee at home instead of going to Starbucks; pack a lunch instead of going out; get a reduced calling rate plan, etc.

3. Create a budget

Use your information from assessing your income sources and your priorities to help you track your income and expenses and to set your spending limits. Plan your budget using these templates from the Office of Financial Aid. Then refine your budget so you're breaking even every monthly or, ideally, saving a little money.

4. Get organized

  • Paper filing system: create a system that works for you (Even if you are mostly paperless, you will still have receipts and other papers you will need for your files; for example, you need to keep tax files for seven years). Create useful categories and store this information in a safe place.
  • Financial calendar: create a calendar to know important dates for payments with reminders at least a week in advance.
  • No-stress plan for paying (see below).

5. Create a no-stress plan for paying your bills

  • Billing: choose how you want to receive your bills: paper mail or paperless (ideal for paying electronically and being more environmentally friendly).
  • Payments:  choose how you will pay your bills: by mail (send at least a week in advance), autopay (through a regular website and set a payment date), or payments through your bank.
  • Roommates: if you have roommates and have common utility bills, create a common system for collection so you are not responsible for the entire bill.
  • Updated information: keep your contact and billing information up-to-date with your creditors, so you don't miss any payments.

6. Bank smart

  • Do your homework. Choose a bank or credit union that has low to no fees and provides the services you need. (Credit unions tend to have lower or no fees, but may not provide as many services).
  • Set up online or mobile banking. Choose to go paperless, which protects against some identity theft and reduces paper waste.
  • Check if your bank offers autopay options so you can pay your utilities and other bills online.
  • See if your bank offers low account balance notifications, so you never have an overdraft.

7. Keep it secure

  • Log out of banking websites when you are done.
  • Use encrypted websites for online purchases (e.g., https).
  • Never share passwords.
  • Shred old financial documents with personal information like credit card and Social Security numbers.
  • Monitor your online accounts regularly to check for suspicious activity and call immediately if you notice any.
  • Lock your windows or doors to protect your financial documents.

8. Avoid credit card debt

Have only one credit card with the lowest interest rates and no annual fees. Use it sparingly and pay in full at the end of each month to avoid being charged interest. Make your payments at least a week ahead of the due date to ensure you make no late payments.

If you have credit card debt, make sure you at least pay your minimum balance. Ideally, you should pay a little more to get ahead. Contact the credit card company if you have problems making payments to make arrangements before you run into credit difficulty.

9. Get help fast when you need it

When you run into difficulty, get help quickly. Contact creditors to make arrangements.

For emergency situations, there are also campus resources and campus experts. Contact them before taking any drastic actions.

Also see the Web page, If You're Struggling Financially.


Note:
This information was adapted from the Money Management Basics Web page created by the UCSB Division of Student Affairs.

Wednesday
Jul162014

DOE's Office of Science Taking Applications for Graduate Student Research Program 

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science is now accepting applications for the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program.

The SCGSR program supports supplemental awards to outstanding U.S. graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE national laboratory in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist for a period of 3 to 12 consecutive months—with the goal of preparing graduate students for scientific and technical careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission.

SCGSR Program

Deadline: September 24.

Eligibility: U.S. graduate students who have advanced to candidacy and have a defined thesis project.

Areas: Physics, chemistry, material sciences, biology (non-medical), mathematics, engineering, computer or computational sciences, or specific areas of environmental sciences that are aligned with the mission of the Office of Science.

Benefits: Up to $3,000 monthly stipend for living expenses; up to $2,000 to reimburse travel to and from host laboratory.

Application: Research proposal, transcripts, and proof of advancement to candidacy, two letters of support, and an online application.

More Details: See official website.

Questions: Contact the SCGSR Program Manager, Dr. Ping Ge, at sc.scgsr@science.doe.gov

Wednesday
Jul022014

Graduate Fellowship for Science and Technology Policy 

N.A.S. Logo

The Graduate Fellowship Program for Science & Technology Policy is designed to engage early career individuals in the analytical processes that inform U.S. science and technology policy. During the program, fellows obtain the essential skills and knowledge needed to work in science and technology policy at the federal, state, or local levels.

Fellows spend 12 weeks at the National Academies in Washington, D.C., learning about science and technology policy and the role that scientists and engineers play in advising the nation. Each fellow will be assigned to a senior staff member who acts as his or her mentor. The mentor provides guidance and ensures that the fellow’s time is focused on substantive projects and activities within the fellow’s assigned unit.

Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program

Deadline: September 1.

Eligibility: Open to international (with certain visas) and U.S. citizens who are a graduate, postdoctoral, or professional student.

Stipend: $8,500.

Term: 12 weeks. From January 20 to April 10.

Orientation: Mandatory program orientation from January 20 to 23.

Questions: Call 202-334-2455 or email policyfellows@nas.edu

More information: About the program.

Wednesday
Jun252014

Major Predoctoral Fellowships

There are several private foundations and government organizations that offer well-funded predoctoral fellowships. These are great opportunities for undergrads planning to enter grad school or for graduate students early in their PhD programs.

Most of these fellowships are for the sciences except for the NSF and Ford fellowships, which are for the sciences and some other fields.

Government

Department of Energy Science Graduate Fellowship: DOE SCGF DOE Logo

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizen or permanent residents.
  • Fields: Physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, computational sciences, and environmental sciences relevant to the Office of Science.
  • Support: Partial tuition support, an annual stipend for living expenses, and a research stipend for full-time graduate study and thesis/dissertation research at a U.S. academic institution for three years.
  • Deadline: TBA.
  • Note: Website not up as of June 2014.

Environmental Protection Agency for Science To Achieve Results: EPA Star EPA Logo

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • Fields: Environmentally related field.
  • Support: $42,000 per year per fellowship. Doctoral students may be supported for a maximum of three years for a total of up to $126,000, usable over a period of five years.
  • Deadlines: TBA.

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship: NDSEG DOE Logo

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • Fields: Physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, and computational sciences.
  • Support: Full tuition and required fees (not to include room and board). In addition, fellows receive a stipend for 12-month tenures for three years: $30,500 first year, $31,000 second year, $31,500 third year.
  • Deadlines: September.

 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program: NSF GRFPNSF Logo

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Undergraduates who will start graduate study the following fall or only have completed 12 months of a post-graduate program.
  • Fields: STEM, psychology, social sciences, physics, biology, chemistry, geosciences, materials, mathematics, engineering, and computational sciences.
  • Support: A three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution).
  • Deadlines: November.

Private Foundations

Ford Foundation: Achieving Excellence in College and University TeachingFord Foundation Logo

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Membership of underrepresented group. Committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level.
  • Fields: Almost all fields. See list.
  • Support: Three years of a $24,000 stipend, which must be used within five years.
  • Deadlines: November.

Hertz: Graduate Fellowship AwardHertz Logo

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens and permanent residents. College seniors pursuing PhD study or graduate students.
  • Fields: Applied physical, biological, and engineering sciences. See list.
  • Support: Five years, between $32,000-$38,000, and full tuition at participating schools.
  • Deadlines: October 31
Monday
Jun232014

Discounted Bus Passes for the Summer

BusCredit: openclipart.comThe GSA has purchased 96 MTD one-month passes and is selling them back to graduate students for half price ($26). The passes are valid for 30 days from the first time of use. Each graduate student not registered for classes this summer is eligible to purchase one pass. The passes are being sold on a first come, first served basis.

Cost: $26.

Eligibility: Graduate students not registered for classes this summer. Must have Graduate student ID to purchase.

Where: The Associated Students Bus Sticker Window. (The AS Bus Sticker Window faces the Music building on the outside of the same building in which the GSA Lounge is located) 
 
Questions: Contact Sasha Coles, GSA VP of Budget and Finance at gsavpbudget@gmail.com.