5 Must-Read FAFSA FactsJanuary 7, 2016
By Jessica Vician
On January 1, 2016, students planning to attend college during the 2016-2017 school year became eligible to complete the FAFSA. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your child is planning to go to college in the fall, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible to see what kind of funding he or she qualifies for. Once you know, your family can decide whether or not to accept the aid.
While time is of the essence, it’s also important to ask questions so you know what your child needs to do.
What is Federal Student Aid?
Federal Student Aid is a part of the U.S. Department of Education and serves as the largest provider of student financial aid in the U.S. They distribute over $150 billion annually in federal funds for college, career school, and work-study programs.
What kind of funding do they provide?
Federal Student Aid provides three types of funding:
- Grants, which are funds that don’t need to be repaid if your student remains in class
- Loans, which are borrowed for school and must be repaid with interest once the student is out of school (regardless of earning a degree)
- Work-study, which is a work program that helps your student earn money to pay for school
Is my child eligible for aid?
Students must meet at least eight eligibility requirements, including:
- Demonstrate financial need
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Be enrolled or accepted as a regular student in an eligible program
- Sign the FAFSA certification statement
- Demonstrate qualification to obtain college or career school education
- Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in college or career school
- Be registered with the Selective Service if your child is male
When does my child need to apply?
The sooner your child applies for the FAFSA, the more likely he or she is to receive grants (if eligible) and other funding. Technically, the federal deadline is on June 30. However, many state and college deadlines are sooner.
For instance, many states have deadlines in early March. Illinois students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1, as the awards are available on a first-come, first-served basis in the state.
When does my child need to repay the loans?
It’s equally important that you and your student understand when and how to repay the loans.
After leaving school (with or without a degree), a student must start making payments on some loans immediately (like PLUS loans), while other lenders allow a six-month grace period before payments begin. Visit this page to learn more about repayment options.
Do you have other questions about Financial Aid? Ask in the comments below.