Tax Time! Benefits for Students

It’s officially tax season! Have you received a 1098-T form from Parkland and are wondering what to do with it? If you are a college student who files taxes, there’s a good chance you can benefit from one or more tax programs for students. Read on to find out how you can save some money (and maybe even get a bigger refund!)

There are two main types of tax benefits available to students: tax credits and deductions.

Tax credits reduce the amount of income tax you pay. If you are receiving a tax refund because you had excess funds taken out of a paycheck for taxes, an education credit can increase this refund. Alternatively, if you owe money for underpaid taxes, a credit can reduce or offset this balance. Tax credits are a great way to offset what you pay for school (including payments that you make with money borrowed as student loans). There are two education credits available to college students: the American Opportunity Credit (AOC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). The AOC is available for students who are in their first four years of college (at least half time), and the LLC is available to students who may not meet the qualifications for the AOC. Students who are part time, already have a degree, or who have already used four years of AOC may benefit from the LLC.

Deductions reduce your total income for the purposes of calculating your tax bill. If you don’t qualify to receive an education tax credit, you can deduct the amount of money you paid for school (again, including money that came from student loans) from your income, which in turn will reduce the amount of income taxes owed to the government. Deductions result in proportionately smaller tax savings than credits, but can still increase your refund.

Speaking of student loans, if you made any student loan payments last year–even if you were just paying the interest accruing on an unsubsidized loan–you may be eligible for the Student Loan Interest Deduction. This allows you to deduct the amount of student loan interest paid from your income, resulting in a lower tax bill. Your loan servicer (the company that collects your student loan payments) should provide you with a statement indicating the total loan interest you paid in 2016.

For more information about each of these benefits, as well as a list of all eligibility requirements, check out this article:

Are you a new tax filer? Learn how to file your own taxes with SALT. Parkland has partnered with SALT, a nonprofit organization that helps student take control of their personal finances. They have informational articles, videos, and even an entire course on how to file your taxes. Get your free account at

[Julia Hawthorne is an advisor with Financial Aid and Veteran Services at Parkland College.]


Parkland, Lewis U.: New Flight Transfer Accord

Parkland College Aviation graduates have gained a new bachelor’s degree opportunity through Lewis University.

Representatives of Lewis University and the Institute of Aviation at Parkland College signed an articulation agreement Feb. 3 at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to continue their studies and complement their flight training in other aviation fields.

The agreement allows Parkland graduates the opportunity to transfer into one of Lewis University’s seven aviation undergraduate programs to complete a bachelor’s degree. These programs include Aviation Administration, Aviation and Aerospace technology, Aviation Maintenance Management, Air Traffic Control Management, Aviation Flight Management, Transportation Administration, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Dr. Stephany Schlachter, provost of Lewis University, said his school “welcomes graduates of Parkland College as they continue on their flight path to success.”

Lewis University has the oldest aviation program among universities in Illinois. It is the only aviation program in the state that has an airport on campus. The university also offers a graduate degree in Aviation and Transportation on campus and online.


New Flight Agreement: Trans States Airlines

Parkland College flight students will soon get a great new option for advancing their training toward commercial flying.

The Institute of Aviation at Parkland College will sign an agreement with Trans States Airlines, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, that would accept our qualified flight students into its Aviators Program.

Parkland will sign the agreement during a ceremony at the institute this Saturday (Feb. 25) at 11 a.m. Join us for this important event.

Created last June for aspiring commercial pilots, the Trans States Airlines Aviators Program is a long-term internship for student pilots enrolled professional pilot training programs. The program identifies promising pilots early on in their flight training and begins preparing them for the Trans States Airlines flight deck while they are still in school through immersive, real-world experiences.

Students completing the program are eligible for a $10,000 tuition reimbursement as well as any recruiting bonuses offered by Trans States. These funds can be used to offset the cost of earning their certified flight instructor (CFI) designation.

This new agreement will help create certified flight instructors for Parkland’s Institute of Aviation and pilots for Trans States. We will join a selected group of aviation programs that will have this partnership, which allows our current students a pathway to commercial flying. The idea is that students complete their certified instructor training with the Institute, and then they continue to work for the Institute until Airline Transport Pilot certification minimums are met but still are very involved with Trans States.

[Wendy Evans is the aviation recruiter for the Institute of Aviation at Parkland College.]

Drunk Driving: Get the Facts

****This post has been edited to provide the most up-to-date information.***
FACT:   An estimated 32% of fatal car crashes involve an intoxicated driver or pedestrian. *

FACT: Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver. **

FACT: On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.*

Alcohol, drugs, and driving simply do not go together. Driving requires a person’s attentiveness and the ability to make quick decisions on the road, to react to changes in the environment and execute specific, often difficult maneuvers behind the wheel. When drinking alcohol, using drugs, or being distracted for any reason, driving becomes dangerous—and potentially lethal!

Consuming alcohol prior to driving greatly increases the risk of car accidents, highway injuries, and vehicular deaths. The greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the more likely a person is to be involved in an accident. When any amount of alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires—judgment, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time—become impaired.

Being convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can impact your life in ways you may not be aware of, including loss of employment, prevention of employment in certain jobs, higher insurance rates, serious financial setbacks, personal and family embarrassment, and possible incarceration.

Americans know the terrible consequences of drunk driving and are becoming more aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Drugged driving poses similar threats to public safety because drugs have adverse effects on judgment, reaction time, motor skills, and memory. When misused, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal drugs can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Roadside Survey, more than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medications (11% tested positive for illegal drugs). In 2009, 18% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one drug (illegal, prescription and/or over-the-counter).

*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
**Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
     Administration (SAMHSA)

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

The passing of notes

This story was previously published in the Feb. 12 edition of The News-Gazette.


We didn’t have Facebook or even email; rather, we ’80s teens communicated through written notes passed in class, slipped into lockers, and mailed to homes over the summer.

I feel sorry that kids don’t write notes now; recently, text-generation students of mine gave me the “What the heck?” look when I asked if they had passed notes in school when they were young. Nope. They didn’t have to. Electronic fairies did it for them.

Those students, however, did reminisce with nostalgic “do you remembers” about the ancient, bygone system called MySpace!

Too bad for them, because I still remember the way a note with a girl’s handwriting — maybe neatly folded in a triangle — tingled my fingers when it fell into my hands from an open locker or geometry book. A note was a kiss, really — maybe on the lips or on the cheek (depending on the contents) — or maybe even a slug in the stomach — if the author were really mad. Whatever — a note meant human touch. I don’t think I would say the same of a text. What vivified notes was the human contact needed to create them.

A note in the locker meant warm hands pressed pen to notebook paper, trimmed paper tabs neatly off, folded it cleverly, and slipped it — perhaps with a tremble — into an orange locker in eighth grade hall. A note took commitment. Letters even more so.

I remember long summers far away from home living with my divorcee Dad and coming in the house to see a letter — a letter! — with Jenny’s handwriting on it, hanging from the top trim of a bedroom door by a 2-foot piece of tape, dramatically placed by my stepbrother who knew I would be ecstatic to receive it; I was. A letter! A note!

Every single word could be analyzed because someone had taken the time to find a pen, some stationary, an envelope, a stamp — because someone meant business: If a girl signed the letter “Love Dana” or “Your Friend Dana” or just “Dana” it made a BIG difference, because likely she had taken the time to think it through.

You see, you can punch out a text and press send with a shaky hand and frowny emoticon, and quite reasonably claim later you didn’t really mean it. But, a letter? How could you not mean a letter! You could rethink it a hundred times as it sat in the mailbox waiting to be picked up the next day. A letter? The medium itself was a message, to paraphrase McLuahan.

Even opening a letter was a ritual: I would savor the envelope, flipping it over in the hands (the best letters even had messages on the back), unwrap it slowly like a Christmas present, read it over and over, and then place it in a shoebox for later. Over time the shoebox would grow full.

My favorite school note I ever received may have even given me a break. A girl slid a note to me in Algebra class, with the question, “Do you know what ‘ubiquitous’ means?” scribbled on it. My breath stopped. She was a brainiac, and this was a chance to impress her, and — not actually knowing the word — I decided to go with humor, so I wrote: “It means ‘You look like a French pastry dish: pronounced U — Be — Quicheous!'” She returned, “Gee, I thought it meant ‘omnipresent’ or something!” All this with the math teacher’s back turned. I missed the word, but I won her heart for a few months with that one.

Years later, one of my grad-school professors off the cuff asked us, “Does anyone here know what the word ‘ubiquitous’ means?” I called out, “OMNIPRESENT!” and I had a friend and a note passed daringly up and down the aisle by four people to thank for it. That professor later served on my dissertation committee, and you just never know.

Life has moved on, and a few years ago I had to clean out my mother’s condominium and there in a closet like it had been waiting for me, tapping its fingers, sat a large box filled with my notes and letters from junior high through college: Some were from girls I hurt; others from girls who hurt me. One was even an unopened Dr. Pepper can two girls had given me because they thought I was cute. A type of note.

I gazed at the cardboard box, unsure, and then … I threw them away. All of them. Just gone. Why? Because they didn’t mean anything to me? Because the whole thesis of this piece is wrong, and that notes and letters are just as erasable as a crowded in-box? No. Quite the opposite. Because these words — carved by sharp number two pencils — still cut me to the quick. I realized, I didn’t want or need them anymore. They had to go.

The few notes I cared to remember, I knew by heart, anyway. It was time now to write new chapters to my wife and children, new friends, and a few old friends I have managed to keep up with. In fact, after drafting this piece, I wrote my wife an honest-to-goodness, sent-through-the-mail letter, because a letter means love.

[Steve Rutledge is a lifelong resident of Champaign-Urbana and teaches developmental English at Parkland College. He can be reached at]

Go ahead, get ahead.