Compiled By CityTownInfo.com Staff
January 5, 2010
The new, simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid became available as of January 1, and officials are urging parents and students to complete the form as soon as possible.
The FAFSA, which can be completed at www.fafsa.ed.gov, determines federal aid eligibility and must be submitted in order to apply for almost all student financial assistance programs. Many colleges and universities also require submission of the FAFSA to apply for non-federal aid.
"I would tell parents, 'If you make $14,000 income in your household, up to $250,000 in your household, still complete the FAFSA,'" said Birdie Harrison, a school coordinator for guidance and safe and drug-free schools in Beaumont, Texas. She explained to the Beaumont Enterprise that the economic climate could conceivably create more opportunities for families with higher incomes who may think they don't qualify for financial aid.
New changes to the FAFSA Web site now allow students and parents to answer fewer questions. According to Justin Draeger, vice president of public policy for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, progress bars have also been added so that people will be able to see how much more needs to be completed. In addition, a link is expected to be added this summer for students entering college in 2010-11 which will automatically import tax information from the Internal Revenue Service, effectively eliminating the need to answer as many as 18 questions.
"These are really simple things [based on] technology that's been around for a long time that the Department of Education is finally implementing," said Draeger, who was quoted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I really do think it will be simpler for the majority of students."
The Dallas Morning News notes that the new online FAFSA will also give an instant estimate of Pell grant and student loan eligibility. Previously, students had to wait weeks to receive that information.
Most people complete the FAFSA in late January, February or March because they need information from income tax documents. But Keith Reeves, associate director of financial aid at Clemson University, noted in the South Carolina Greenville News that families should preferably submit the FAFSA "as early as possible, even if you have to estimate."
"You can go back and correct it after you've done your taxes," he said. "That way, you can meet deadlines and get the fullest consideration for any available financial aid."
Reeves also urged families to file even if they think they do not qualify for aid. "You may be eligible for a subsidized Stafford loan," he was quoted as saying in the Greenville News, "which is interest free while the student is in school plus six months after they leave school."