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What's a FAFSA? And answers to other questions about Student Financial Aid

April 22, 2019
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form that current and prospective college students can complete to determine their eligibility for student financial aid from the federal government. Submitting a FAFSA is as easy as it has ever been, with easy to follow instructions given through the online form found at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.

It is almost always necessary for a parent or guardian to help fill out the form as it asks questions regarding family income and other things that only a parent or guardian may know.

By submitting the FAFSA, you automatically apply for four different types of financial aid:
  • Pell Grant – A grant of up to $5,815 for students that have a low family income. A 2016 study found that students missed out on $2.7 billion in free Pell Grants by not completing the FAFSA.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) – A grant of up to $4,000 a year that is reserved for college students that have the greatest need for financial aid. You must also be eligible for the Pell Grant to obtain the FSEOG.
  • Stafford Loan – Loans given by the federal government to students who are enrolled at least part time. Principal payments are not expected while the student is enrolled in school. There are two types of Stafford Loans – subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized Stafford Loans are reserved for those with lower family incomes, and any accrued interest is paid for by the federal government. With an unsubsidized Stafford Loans, students are responsible for all accrued interest. Both loans have a fixed interest rate of 4.29%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan – Similar to the Stafford Loan, however it is lent directly by the schools and the interest rate is fixed at 5%.
Keep the following in mind to help you avoid getting stuck with having to repay monstrous student loans:
  • Don’t borrow more than you need – Many people end up receiving more in student aid than they really need throughout the school year. It is wise to return any money that exceeds your necessary expenses.
  • Pay your outstanding interest early if you have the means – It can be the difference between $2,000 in debt or $2,000 in your savings after graduation. Make sure that your loan balance is as small as possible before entering repayment.
There are other good options to consider when considering how to pay for college, like scholarships and grants. There are literally thousands of scholarships and grants which students can apply for to help pay for their education with no strings attached. Doing a quick Google search or inquiring with your school’s guidance office can yield many opportunities offered by various community organizations and service providers.

For instance, Point Breeze Credit Union offers an annual scholarship program for its members where 15 high school seniors will receive an award to help pay for higher education. Applications are being accepted through April 30th. Learn more and download the application here.