Attending college today is an enormous expense that many families plan for well in advance. Even with the best savings plan in place, you still may fall short of the required amount. Federal Student Aid can help students with the cost of higher education.
I am not an expert in the field of financial aid, yet I recognize that funding an education can be a source of much anxiety and confusion. I will do my best to impart some basic knowledge concerning the Federal Student Aid programs that are available. Hopefully, this will be a quick overview to eliminate some of that anxiety and confusion.
The information below was gathered from the Federal Student Aid website. I highly encourage you to spend some time looking at the site if you have financial aid questions.
The office of Federal Student Aid offers more than $150 billion annually for colleges and career schools in the form of grants, loans, and work-study funding. That’s a lot of money that is available to students across the country seeking a higher education! This money can be used for tuition, room and board, and books. To be awarded any money, you must begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as the FAFSA.
When applying, keep in mind there are FAFSA deadlines. There are federal and state deadlines, as well as deadlines imposed by your colleges. Remember, the financial aid process is separate from the school application process. If you would like to receive federal aid, you will have to fill out both the school application and the FAFSA. If you are eligible for financial aid, you will receive an award letter (from the accepting college) explaining federal and non-federal options that the school is offering.
There are three types of financial aid: grants, student loans, and work-study. Below is a brief overview:
I. Grants – Money awarded to students that does not need to be repaid.
II. Loans – Money that is being borrowed for school and does need to be repaid.
A. Federal Loan
- Offered at low fixed interest rates
- Repayment plans may be deferred or adjusted based on income.
- Loans may be consolidated to only monthly bill
- Student loan interest may be deducted on taxes
- Some federal loans may even be forgiven based on your career or employment.
B. Non-Federal Loan
- Money borrowed from a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency or school.
- This money must be paid back, often at various interest rates.
*If you plan on borrowing money for education, the federal loan should be used first.
III. Student Work-Study – Part-time, on-campus employment earning at least minimum wage.
I find knowing the three types of financial aid is a good basis for understanding. You can read more in-depth information from the Federal Student Aid webpage. For more detailed information on Private and federal loans, I recommend the chart provided on their webpage. Also, each university and college has financial aid officers and should have information on their university webpage. Both are a resource for you.
New changes: For the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA will become available October 1, 2016 – rather than in January 1, 2017. Families will have more time to prepare their financial information. In addition, parents will be asked to report income from two years prior. For example, students using the FAFSA for the academic year of 2017-2018 will need to retrieve tax information from 2015, and can file as early as October 1, 2016. This change will help better align FAFSA with many admissions application deadlines.
For more information on FAFSA, please visit the Federal Student Aid website.