Talking Brass Tacks on Financial Aid: FAFSA

The FASFA, short for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the big momma of financial aid. Many scholarships and grant awards outside of the government are based directly on the outcome of a student’s FASFA. We will talk about these other forms of aid in later posts. The FASFA’s primary purpose is to determine a student’s eligibility for aid from the federal government. Types of federal aid include the Pell grant, federal work-study, and the federal supplemental educational opportunity grant (FSEOG). All of these forms of aid are based on need, where a family’s income determines eligibility for aid and the amount of aid given. This is dependent on the family’s finances, which is used to determine a family’s expected family contribution (EFC). We will discuss more in depth what an EFC means and how to calculate an EFC in a future post, but for now we’ll focus on just understanding the basics of federal aid. There are no income cut-offs for federal aid as many factors, such as number of children and liabilities, are taken into account along with income. That being said, in 2009 96% of students who received a Pell grant or the FSEOG grant had a family income of less than $50,000. Higher income families can still take advantage of the loan programs offered by the government, which will be discussed in detail in another post. The FASFA is important, and it is important that it be completed as soon as possible on or after January 1 so students can receive their aid options, and families can decide what’s best financial option for their family before school matriculation deadlines.

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