American Opportunity Tax Credit and Other Educational Tax Benefits
There are a variety of tax credits, deductions and savings plans available to taxpayers to assist with the expense of higher education.
- A tax credit reduces the amount of income tax you may have to pay.
- A deduction reduces the amount of your income that is subject to tax, thus generally reducing the amount of tax you may have to pay.
- Certain savings plans allow the accumulated interest to grow tax-free until money is taken out (known as a distribution), or allow the distribution to be tax-free, or both
- An exclusion from income means that you won't have to pay income tax on the benefit you're receiving, but you also won't be able to use that same tax-free benefit for a deduction or credit.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit is available to eligible students during four years of post-secondary education. The maximum credit is $2,500. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels.
Other tax benefits include the Lifetime Learning Credit, Exemption of Employer-Provided Assistance, Exemption of Scholarships and Tuition Remission, and Deduction of Student Loan Interest.
Major Financial Aid Programs
Parkland administers a variety of federal and state programs, along with many special scholarships just for Parkland students.
- Monetary Award Program (MAP). The MAP is awarded by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) and is designed to pay tuition and basic fees at Parkland for Illinois students. MAP Eligibility
- Federal Pell Grant. This grant is designed to help pay college-related expenses. The exact dollar award is determined by the student’s class load and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as calculated by the federal government.
A Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) federal law, effective for the 2012/13 school year, limits the amount students can receive in the Federal Pell Grant awards. All Pell Grant awards received, regardless of location, are included in the LEU limit.
Because the new Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) some students may already be ineligible to receive 100% of the award.
The limit is 6 years of full time attendance and is prorated for part time students. Calculations are based on 600% of annual awards. When you’re awarded a Pell Grant, you are given a maximum annual Pell Grant award. If you attend full time for two semesters you receive 100% of the award. If you attend half time for two semesters you receive 50% of the award. Each semester you receive a percentage. When that total reaches 600% you’re no longer eligible for the grant.
To receive the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant you must also receive the Pell Grant, when you reach the limit you aren’t eligible for either grant.
Check the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) https://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds_SA/ for your student load history. You’ll need your federal PIN to access your history – it’s the same one you use to sign on your FAFSA.
There are no exceptions to the Lifetime Eligibility Used and it isn’t possible to appeal.
- Federal Work-Study (FWS). As a campus-based program, FWS is awarded through the Office of Financial Aid in the form of part-time employment. Students who participate generally work from 10-20 hours per week and are paid twice a month. The actual FWS award is based on demonstrated financial need.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). As a campus-based program, the SEOG is awarded to students who have exceptional financial need. SEOG awards depend on the amount of funds available.
- William D. Ford Direct Loan Program. Students enrolled in either college transfer or vocational/technical programs may apply for this loan. Depending upon demonstrated financial need and academic program length, dependent/independent freshman students may borrow up to $5,500/$9,500. Dependent/independent sophomores may borrow up to $6,500/$10,500 with demonstrated financial need. Repayment begins six months after the student drops below half-time student status, but there are deferment provisions. Monthly repayment varies with the total amount borrowed.
Application for the Direct Loan at Parkland begins when applying for financial aid on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. All applicants must have a Federal Pell Grant eligibility determination made before loan processing can be completed. First-time Parkland borrowers must complete loan entrance counseling and a master promissory note before receiving their first check. Direct loans are made through the U.S. government.
Direct Loan 150% Loan Limit Rule
As of July 1st, 2013, any first-time borrower, (which is defined as someone who has no outstanding balance on a FFELP or Direct loan when receiving a Direct loan on or after July 1, 2013), will only be able to obtain federal Direct Subsidized loans for a maximum of 150% of the published program length in which they are enrolled. Additionally, the subsidized loans that had been borrowed up to the 150% point will lose further government subsidy and interest will begin to become the student's responsibility if they do not graduate by the 150% point (and continue to be enrolled in the same or a shorter undergraduate program). From that point forward, these subsidized loans will become unsubsidized loans.
Here are a few facts that you need to know:
1. Students may receive Direct Subsidized loans for no more than 150% of the length of the current academic program. For example, a student enrolled in a two-year program will have three years' worth of subsidized loan eligibility and a student enrolled in a four-year program will have six years' worth of subsidized loan eligibility.
2. Once a student reaches the 150% mark in a particular program, their future subsidized loan eligibility in that program will end. They may, however, be eligible for unsubsidized loans.
3. A student who reaches the 150% limitation will have their interest subsidy end for all outstanding subsidized loans if the student does not graduate and continues to be enrolled in the same or a shorter undergraduate program. Repayment does not begin, but like unsubsidized loans, the student (rather than the government) would become responsible for interest that accrues from this point forward.
4. Unlike other measures in determining continued aid eligibility, this provision is not affected by the total dollar amount borrowed. Any and all periods of subsidized loan borrowing will count against the 150% time limit.
5. This policy is in addition to, and not in place of, the lifetime aggregate loan limits that are currently in place.
- Direct Parental Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS). PLUS loans are available to parents of dependent students who are enrolled at least half-time. Repayment begins within 60 days of signing a promissory note unless the parent opts to have repayment deferred while the student for whom the parent borrowed is enrolled at least half-time and for an additional six months after that student is no longer enrolled at least half-time.. Application for the Direct PLUS begins when completing a PLUS Application, which is available from the Office of Financial Aid. Direct PLUS loans are made through the U.S. government.
- Perkins Grant The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, provides assistance to students in career and technical education programs. Intended to increase the competitiveness of the U.S. in the world economy by improving workers’ technical skills nationwide, the Perkins Grant provides financial assistance for reimbursement of additional course fees and lab fees; purchase of class supplies, required tools, instructional materials, and uniforms.
All Perkins Grant recipients must be enrolled in one of the career programs at Parkland College. These include all Associate of Applied Science degree and Certificate programs. Call career programs at 217/351-2218 for application information.
- Parkland College Foundation Scholarships/Special Scholarships. Students may also apply for special scholarships and scholarships available through the Parkland College Foundation.