As a parent who’s just sent our youngest child off to college, financial aid is on the top of my brain.
Like many parents, we made every effort to set up our daughter for a debt-free degree. We spent almost two years on selecting the best-fit college for her. It was an anxious time, to say the least.
Looking back, I can assure you that money is out there so that your family avoids loans. You just have to follow the money.
The FAFSA form is always the first place to start. If you have a child approaching college next year, apply now. It tells colleges how much your family can contribute to college. The application is free and you can do it online.
Don’t think you’ll qualify for aid? Don’t jump to any conclusions. Schools often grant aid in the form of tuition discounts, work-study and merit-based aid not connected to financial need. But you won’t know what’s available unless you submit a FAFSA. (Private colleges may require additional aid forms, though).
Here are some other prime reasons to complete the FAFSA, according to PayforEd.com:
— Your student may fill an enrollment need at a specific college. “Most colleges have a process called enrollment management. This business approach allows the colleges to fill the seats they want or prefer in the upcoming class both from an academic and financial enrollment standpoint. A family’s ability to pay the bill is an important factor in the enrollment management decision and it is often not explained to families.”
— Colleges need numbers on your ability to pay the bills. “When a family completes the FAFSA, the EFC or Expected Family Contribution is generated. This is an important number in the financial aid process and packaging. The colleges determine your financial need by subtracting the Cost of Attendance (COA) by your EFC. The completed FAFSA also turns on a few other switches that may make the financial outcome better.”
— It’s a key part of the admissions process. “By completing the FAFSA, and submitting an application, the student is telling the colleges that he or she is waiting for a response. If you do not submit the FAFSA, the college will need to wait until after the FAFSA deadline to pass before they will feel comfortable providing an award letter.”
— Colleges need to Know about changes in family financial situations. “Financial changes can occur in a person’s life. It could be loss of job, divorce, or even death. If a family has a significant change in their financial position, the first request of the financial aid office involves whether a family has submitted a FAFSA. Since much of the loan and grant money is sourced from the federal programs, the FAFSA form is the gateway to that funding source.”
Will filing a FAFSA guarantee aid? No, it’s just a gateway to financial information. Colleges have their own set of requirements, although they don’t always tell you exactly what they are. At the very least, you won’t know what’s available unless you apply early.