Category Archives: Counseling and Advice

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: www.nasfaa.org/2016_tax_year.

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 www.saltmoney.org/parklandcollege.

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

 

Degree Completion Day, Feb. 22

Parkland College’s first Degree Completion Day event is coming this Wednesday, Feb. 22.

But you might ask, “Why should I graduate? I’m getting my bachelor’s degree in a couple of years.”  Here why:

  • Who wants you to graduate? Your parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, favorite Parkland Instructor, advisor—all those that care about you, that’s who. It’s not always just about what you want.
  • You have spent countless hours in class and trip after trip to Parkland. Why wouldn’t you want to graduate?
  • It looks good on your Parkland transcript, shows accomplishment on your resume, and can enable you to move up in the workplace. If you are transferring to a university, it can make for a smoother transition and save you from having to take extra general education courses at that university.
  • If you are completing a career program, graduation may be required to verify with future employers. Probably most important of all, you’ve earned it!

Come out to Degree Completion Day in the U building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and find out more about graduating and how it could benefit you.

[Dennis Kaczor is a credentials analyst in Parkland Admissions and Records.]

 

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

The Parkland College Department of Public Safety is here to provide a safe and secure campus environment conducive to learning. Every week throughout the year, we’ll be releasing a new public safety message, providing applicable information that you can use to stay safe and have a successful experience here at Parkland.

Our message this week:  Teen Dating Violence Awareness.

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, when we collectively recognize that abuse can happen to anyone at any age, and shouldn’t be overlooked. The 16 to 24 female age group experiences abuse at the highest level of frequency, at almost triple the national average, and 43 percent of college-aged women report experiencing violent and abusive dating relationships.

If you or someone you know feels caught up in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and that there are a wealth of resources here at Parkland College to help. Here are a few:

  • Most obviously, you can make a report with the Parkland College Police Department if the abuse is happening here or involves another student. Our officers are also available to talk about it and offer advice, even if it’s not happening on Parkland property.
  • The Parkland College Counseling and Advising Center is staffed with trained counselors who can also provide assistance,
  • You can go to the Dean of Students to get help.

Other resources are available at loveisrespect.org, where you can chat with a live advocate, or call 1-866/331-9474.

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

Are Your Firearms Safe? A Couple of Reminders

 

The Parkland College Department of Public Safety is here to provide a safe and secure campus environment conducive to learning. Every week throughout the year, we’ll be releasing a new public safety message, providing applicable information that you can use to stay safe and have a successful experience here at Parkland.

Our message this week:  Firearm Safety.

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About 1.4 million homes have firearms stored in a way that makes them available to the wrong hands—children, at-risk youth, potential thieves, and those who intend to harm themselves or others, according to a study by the RAND Corporation using statistics from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you choose to exercise your rights to own a firearm, make sure you also keep that weapon safely out of the wrong hands. Proper firearm storage and reporting are essential to keeping you and your loved ones safe.

Storage Options. The most basic options for securing a firearm include a trigger lock, a cable lock, or a locked storage case. When used properly, these will prevent a gun from firing, but won’t keep it safe from theft. A lock box or safe that you can secure to the ground or wall will more likely keep your firearms from walking away, however.

Reporting. In the event that your firearm is lost or stolen, immediately reporting the theft or loss is of the utmost importance. You will also want to have firearm records on hand that you can provide to law enforcement, which will assist in locating and returning your firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) provides a downloadable form that you can use to properly catalog your firearms.

Gun ownership comes with rights and responsibilities, and we hope you will join us in working to ensure that a firearm never gets into the wrong hands. For more information, please visit safefirearmsstorage.org.[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

 

 

Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.

The Parkland College Department of Public Safety is here to provide a safe and secure campus environment conducive to learning. Every week throughout the year, we’ll be releasing a new public safety message, providing applicable information that you can use to stay safe and have a successful experience here at Parkland.

Our message this week:  National Stalking Awareness Month.

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January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affected 7.5 million victims in one year.

The theme, “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.”, challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning more about it.

Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia, yet many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact. In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships.

Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.

Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits. One in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, such as computers, global positioning system devices, or hidden cameras, to track the victim’s daily activities.

Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes. Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime.

As we work more to raise awareness and recognition of stalking, we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies. If you or someone you know is a victim of stalking, please don’t hesitate to approach any of the Parkland College police officers or call us at 217/351-2369.

For further information on this issue, please visit: stalkingawarenessmonth.org/about

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