Friday AM January 8th, 2009
by: Ed Mayberry, January 8, 2009 6:01:00 am
Filling out the federal application for student aid, or FAFSA, is an essential first step to securing financial aid. It helps colleges make decisions about how and to whom they award need-based financial aid dollars. James Boyle is with the non-profit College Parents of America.
"Probably the best way to think about us is like AARP, but for people in a different stage of life, helping their child get ready for and go off to college. January through March is sort of financial aid season, if you will. The applications for most colleges were due on or about January 1st. The FAFSA, the Federal Application for Student Aid, is released by the Department of Education—this new form that must be filled out by parents of seniors in high school who aspire to go to college next year. And it's the essential first step in being eligible for aid of any sort."
The online form determines the expected family contribution based on the income and assets of the previous year. Boyle says the FAFSA application is necessary, even if your family income is relatively high.
"Of course everyone's idea of what's high is different, but I'd say it's worth every family applying. Financial aid is a package, and it consists of grants, programs such as work study and federal student loans. The FAFSA form is an essential step to doing that. Go to the fafsa.ed.gov to look at the form and to set up your PIN number and then go to fafsalive.com to explore the idea of getting professional help. The FAFSA is one form you direct that it be sent to the various schools to which you've applied."
Boyle recommends professional help in obtaining funding. He says people often get tax advice to save a few hundred dollars, but the stakes are much higher in college costs. The average financial aid awarded last year was over $10,000.