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Conversations on College

Floundering in financial aid

Conversations on College

Where are those financial aid awards?  That’s a question we have been asking.  The FAFSA Simplification has really thrown a wrench into the planning aspect of finding the college that your student can succeed and you can afford.  The latest information from the Department of Education is that the schools should begin receiving student data the first part of March.  Financial Aid Awards will most likely follow a few weeks later.  There are a few of the changes in the calculations that may impact families.

One change is multiple siblings in college.  In the past, this was taken into account in the calculations.  It is no longer a factor.  Unfortunately, this will have a profound effect on families.  We are curious to see how adjustments are made from the financial aid offices.  

Another change is for business owners and farmers.  In the past family farms and businesses with less than 100 employees were not included as a parent asset.  Unfortunately the form no longer allows for that exception.  

For divorced or separated families, the form is no longer filled out by the custodial parent but the one provides the most financial support.  This may have a devastating effect on families who may have previously qualified for financial aid.  

If you haven’t been keeping up, many schools have pushed back the commitment deadline to give families time to evaluate the awards and make the best decision.  As a reminder to our clients, be sure to keep sending us the admission letters and when you start receiving your financial aid awards send those to us. We will evaluate and go over an apples to apples comparison so you have a clear idea of how much college will cost. 

We don’t have a crystal ball to see if FAFSA will improve next year, however we certainly hope they are smoother.  

To FAFSA or not to FAFSA?

The FAFSA opened up this morning and we’d like to take this time to go over a few basics of financial aid.   First we will talk background, next process and finally some general guidelines.  

The FAFSA started back in 1965 as part of the higher education act.    It is a standardized approach for institutions to structure need-based aid.  From the FAFSA federal loans and grants are offered.  The loans are broken down by parent and student.  Student loans are further divided in to subsidized and unsubsidized.  If you consider taking the loan, note there is a process to apply as well as have the funds sent to the school.   

The FAFSA process starts with the FSA IDs.  A parent and the student need to create FSA IDs.  This involves entering basic information, setting up security questions and verification.  Take your time, if you don’t completely create a FSA ID, you won’t be able to begin the FAFSA.  One of the most frequent questions is why does  parent need an FSA ID for each child?  The parent creates one FSA ID which can be used for different children who also have their own unique FSA ID.   

The FAFSA is available via an app or on the web.  Before you begin gather the necessary information:

  •  Parent Federal Tax Forms & Supporting Documents
  • Student Federal Tax Forms & Supporting Documents
  • Account balances for liquid assets (checking/saving accounts) , investments and basic property information.

Here are things we have found useful.  Always create a save key, that way you don’t have to finish it all at once.  Read each question carefully.  Be sure to your mobile phone number as a way to access your FSA ID so when you forget that password next year, it will be easier.  And most importantly, fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t qualify for need-based aid because there are some schools who may require it for merit aid.