Funding Distance Learning at a Foreign School Made Easy

Many universities, including foreign ones, are beginning to offer Distance Learning courses that qualify for Federal Stafford Educational Loans (Stafford) because the sponsoring institutions are Federally qualified and have signed appropriate agreements with US Department of Education. Many people are unaware of the fact that Stafford will loan Federally appointed funds for study in foreign colleges and universities (schools), even if the course offered is a Distance Learning course-although the school itself may impose some restrictions. But the road to funding Distance Learning is a little tricky to navigate, if you don’t know what you’re doing ahead of time. There are four important things to know for successfully funding Distance Learning through a foreign or domestic school.

But first, there is a distinction between Online Learning Courses and Distance Learning. One of the characteristics of Distance Learning is that all course materials are sent to you in the mail. No course materials are available online. You study over the distance, not over the Internet. Although, communication with the professor may be conducted electronically, through email or Instant messaging, or it may be conducted over the phone or even through letters that are posted.

The first thing to be aware of in attempting to acquire Stafford funds for Distance Learning is that a student can’t apply for funds until proof of enrollment is provided, and proof of enrollment cannot be provided until funds are paid. Yes, something is definitely missing here. That something is called the School Certification. Certification is the school’s promise to the Federal government that you will be enrolled as soon as the funds are disbursed and that the school authorizes said amount of money to be disbursed to the student – that that amount of money is within the definition of acceptable education related expenses, including living expenses.

The next thing you need to know is that the student is responsible for acquiring both a lender and a guarantor. The guarantor backs ups the funding of the loan in case of something unusual and untoward happens. States have their own guarantor agencies with more or less experience in handling overseas Stafford applications, and probably less experience when it comes to the new but growing option of Distance Learning. One possibility, the one I have come to like best, is to use Sallie Mae for a lender (Sallie Mae International/AMS) and to use an affiliated group, US Funds Guarantor, as the Guarantor.
The other thing you need to know is that the student is responsible for acquiring, properly filling out and signing the Federal Stafford Loan Master Promissory Note (FSLMPN or MPN). If you’re doing Distance Learning through a foreign school, an originally signed copy of the MPN must go to the school, and another originally signed MPN must go to the lender – with my preference, that would be Sallie Mae. It is meant to work out that the reliable guarantor communicates with the school on your behalf and sends and retrieves necessary documents for the school and the lender.

Now comes the School Certificate (SC). It is meant to be that the guarantor sends the MPN and the blank SC to the school and then receive it back from them. Then the guarantor is meant to forward the documents on to the lender. Sometimes things may go awry. In that case you may ask your lender to FAX a SC directly to the school (the guarantor may not like that, but – hey – its your education the needs funding). You may ask your lender to do this, bearing in mind that they may say no – I doubt it, but they may.

You’re now in the home stretch. Once the lender gets the SC, that constitutes an agreement about your status as enrolled. Once the lender gets the MPN, that constitutes an agreement of your application for the Stafford loan. Disbursement dates will be set according to your statement, and the school’s concurrence, of the starting and ending date of your academic year. If you are studying in a Distance Learning course, then the academic year start and end dates will depend on what you and your school agree on. Some allow commencement of studies on any date you choose.

With the originally signed MPN and the signed and sealed SC in the hands of the lender – and safely out of the hands of the guarantor – and the disbursement dates set in accord with your academic year, you are “good to go.” Everything you can do then is done. And then your Stafford loan will be disbursed and made available to your school and to you, if you are borrowing for Federally approved education related living expenses. Additionally, it is good to keep in mind that the process of disbursement is faster if the funds are sent first to the school and then – your requested approved living expense amount – sent from them to you.

The last thing needing mention is the thing that has to come first. In January or February of any given year, fill out your Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) (the FAFSA deadline is later than February, but the sooner, the better). When you get your Student Aid Report (SAR), request the eight-page version – which is different from the version available to download online – and send it to the university, foreign or domestic, through which you will be doing your Distance Learning (or otherwise).

So there you have it: Funding Distance Learning at a foreign (or domestic) school made easy.
�· FAFSA and SAR

�· SAR to the school

�· Acquire a Lender and a Guarantor

�· Acquire, fill out and sign the FSLMPN

�· Send an originally signed copy to the guarantor (and through them to the school and to the lender) remembering that for foreign schools, both the school and the lender may need originally signed copies

�· Wait for word that the school has returned the signed and seal-embossed School Certificate, and make certain that you are informed of when that SC reaches the lender (the sooner the better), also make certain that you are apprised of why there is any delay.

And that should be that. Enjoy your foreign or domestic Distance Learning.

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