HomeArticlesFile Your FAFSA Now!

Dear Estelle.  We know that early January is the time to file the FAFSA for financial aid. As much as we need the money we are frankly concerned it will be a waste of time to file since we earn just too much to qualify. John, an honor student, is a strong candidate for admissions at many colleges but our combined income most likely eliminates us from receiving government funding. The Clarks, Centennial

Don’t be swayed by the FAFSA myth.  Many parents don’t apply because they think they won’t qualify. Many qualify who don’t think they will, even those earning over $100,000 a year. Sometimes people get so discouraged when they begin filling out the forms and wondering whether it’s worth bothering, that they quit prematurely.  The Obama administration is making great strides to make the process easier and hopes to give prospective students the funds they need to achieve their goals of a college education.

The FAFSA, the form used to apply for financial aid online has been streamlined, shortened and simplified.  Beginning January 2010, the online
FAFSA will be able to access relevant tax information online from tax returns submitted by families to the IRS. Students will be able to get estimates of their eligibility for Guaranteed Student Loans and Pell Grants.

It is also important to remember that colleges and universities across the country award billions of dollars in financial aid to families who could not otherwise afford the cost. Frequently these schools will require families to complete another form online, the College Scholarship Search (CSS) Profile, which can be found on the College Board website. Frequently this form requires a different estimate of a family’s EFC (estimated family contribution) and includes more stringent assessments of a family’s finances i.e. home ownership and the contribution of a non-custodial parent in cases of divorce or separation.

To clarify the role of the FAFSA, it is important to understand the order of importance of funding as students apply for college and attempt to pay for it. The student’s family is expected to be the first source of funding for college. Then the federal government makes funds available based on a family’s need. The college the student plans to attend will make funds available based on “need” and “merit.” Merit is offered to students that colleges really want and can be determined by legacy, talent, superior grades and test scores.

Sometimes states will provide funds to students who plan to attend college in the state where they live; Sometimes students receive scholarship assistance from places where their parents work or community service organizations.

The FAFSA is used primarily to determine your family’s EFC (expected family contribution) The FAFSA also determines a student’s eligibility for grants, loans, work study from the federal government and possibly your state government.  If the money you receive from your parents EFC and the feds adds up to less than what you need to attend college, the “need” is made up by the college or university you plan to attend in the form of financial aid. Therefore, it is important to inquire from colleges, prior to applying, just how they “do” financial aid. Do not accept any college until you are satisfied you will have the necessary financial support.

Just a few additional notes about the FAFSA:  Filing it is Free! It is important to file early and that means as soon after January 1, 2010 as possible.  Be accurate.  Mistakes necessitate additional time, often requiring families to start the process all over again.

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