The US Department of Education has introduced a new online tool this year that will prove beneficial in the planning stages for student who are trying to compare school costs, as well as decide how they will pay for their college costs.
FAFSA4caster can provide an estimate of federal student aid eligibility by quickly calculating your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). This program will then determine what type of federal aid (grants, work-study, and loans) you are eligible for and also will provide an estimated amount of these awards.
This tool could be incredibly useful for parents of younger students who would like to receive early estimates of aid, project future scenarios of aid based on expected income, and establish college savings strategies. Current college students can also use this tool to determine how much aid they should receive before they actually apply. In addition, some of the information submitted on the FAFSA4caster, will automatically populate into the actual FAFSA when you submit it.
You can access this tool at www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov
Yesterday we looked at the different types of student loans available, today I would like to give a quick breakdown of the various types of federal grants that are available. First I will say that federal grants are by far the best sources of financial aid available. Most have very attainable qualifications and are easily renewed every academic year. These are the types of aid you want to accept FIRST, before any types of student loans. Here goes…
Federal Pell Grant
This grant is entirely need based and your eligibility is based on your (and possibly your parent’s if you are a dependent student) prior year’s income and assets. The maximum amount is currently $4731 however, the new Stimulus bill just increased that by $500. The award amount is determined by Coast of Attendance, enrollment status, and the expected family contribution.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
This grant is based on financial need and is administered on a first come first serve basis by your school.
Academic Competitiveness Grant
This is a grant designed to reward student with high scholastic achievement. Recipients must have completed a rigorous high school program. Must be a U.S. citizen. The award is $750 for the first academic year of undergraduate study and up to $1300 for the second year.
National SMART Grant
This grant is designed to reward student’s in the fields of physical, life or computer sciences, math, technology, engineering, or in a foreign language determined to be critical to national security. The max award is $4000 for each of the third and fourth years of undergraduate study. You must maintain at least a 3.o gpa to maintain this award.
This is a quick breakdown of the Federal grant programs. If you have any more questions or would like specifics on any of these programs, please feel free to contact me.
60-38 in the Senate, 246-183 in the House. The bill passed on largely partisan lines as the newly elected Democratic Congress stretched its muscles for the first time and found that it truly can dominate legislature without support from across the isles.
With this bill now on the President’s desk, it begs the question: “How will this affect me?”
Well I will tell you. If you go a state supported school you will be enjoying aid to the tune of $53.6 Billion dollars that will be pumped into state supported K-12 and higher education. Also, if you qualify for the Pell grant, the maximum has been raised by $500 (a total of $15.6 Billion). There will be $3.95 billion for job training, including state formula grants for adult, dislocated worker, and youth programs. A new $2,500 tuition tax credit with 40% refundability and lastly $200 Million to be invested into the Work-Study Program.
All of this money is intended to stabilize the rising costs of tuition and fees which have been plaguing state supported schools due to recent budget cuts. It also is intended to expand the aid offered by the federal government and hopefully allow more students the opportunity to further their education.
If you have further questions about this, first I urge you to watch the news, as they are covering this more closely than any other news story, and secondly check out the House Committee of Rules website at : http://www.rules.house.gov/
Well the verdict is still out on whether the proposed Stimulus plan will actually end up on President Obama’s desk, and the final outcome is certainly yet to be determined of whether this bill will actually jolt our economy back into upright position. However, the stimulus plan that now lays at Congress’s feet has a $500 Pell Grant allotment increase that is certainly encouraging. This would raise the annual max Pell grant allotment from $4850 to $5350. This would presumably allow student to either apply more funding towards a Fall/Spring semester or split the award up over 3 semesters evenly and use the grant as a full-time student.
I think this will be a great benefit to student’s in America and will be viewed as a positive step in the right direction of funding our futures by funding education. Please join me in hoping that whatever cuts are made in this stimulus package before it is passed, do NOT include any detraction from the Pell Grant, and any other proposed educational benefits.
When you begin the process of applying to college more than likely the question that comes right after “Can I get accepted to this school?” is “How in the world am I going to pay for this if I DO get accepted?”. With that in mind I would like to shed a little bit of light on some helpful websites that will be indispensable in your search for financial aid.
First, http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ . This is the Department of Education’s website that is designed to answer all the question there are concerning Federal Aid. This will typically include, Stafford and Perkins loans, the Pell grant, ACG Grant, and the FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant). Any of your questions can be answered here concerning these federal grants.
Second, http://www.finaid.org/ . This is a great resource website concerning all aspects of financial aid, from tips on completing your FAFSA, to explaining loans and grants, to calculators that can be very useful in determining your EFC, loan repayment amounts, savings needed for college etc…
Third, http://www.fastweb.com/ . This website is a comprehensive scholarship search website. You are able to create a profile with detailed information about your skills, attributes, credentials, and interests and then create a search that will generate literally hundreds of scholarships you are eligible to apply for. This is an amazing resource to use in conjunction with your Federal financial aid.
Fourth, your individual school’s financial aid website. The vast majority of schools have endowment of scholarship programs that provide millions of dollars each year for student’s to attend. Many of these scholarships are based on your high school academics or service achievements. There are also numerous athletic scholarships if you have what it takes to be a student athlete. I would definitely recommend speaking with your financial aid office and exploring the opportunities they have. They will also be an invaluable source of information as you progress through your financial aid process.
More tips to come…..
I have decided to introduce a section entitle “FAFSA Tips” for everyone who has ever realized how frustratingly confusing the FAFSA can be.
1. The first thing I would recommend when completing the FAFSA is to make sure that you are at the correct website and that you are able to submit the FAFSA for FREE! Simply go to www.fafsa.ed.gov to access the Department of Education’s website for the FAFSA. there are many sites which will charge you up to $80 to complete the FAFSA using the same form that you can find for free at www.fafsa.ed.gov .
2. Once you have confirmed you are at the correct location, I would then confirm that you will submit the FAFSA for the correct academic year. An academic year runs from July 1 – June 31st. So if you plan to take classes in this upcoming summer session, you would still need to fill out the 2008/2009 FAFSA. However, if you plan to start again in the Fall of 2009, then you would complete the 2009/2010 FAFSA. This can be a little misleading so make sure you have the correct year, if not, your school will not be able to process your information.
3. Once you have confirmed that you are at the correct website, and you know the correct academic year for which you should submit your FAFSA, I would recommend printing out a copy of the FAFSA application. This way you can read through all of the questions, make corrections, and gather all of your necessary information without the hassle of making corrections of the FAFSA website. Hopefully this will eliminate a lot of frustration with navigating throgh the FAFSA database.
4. My last tip for today would be to go ahead and apply for a FAFSA PIN. If you are using your parent’s tax information get them to apply for a FAFSA PIN as well. You will need these PIN numbers to electronically sign your FAFSA, so by applying early, you will save yourself time in the end.
Please check back for more quick tips on completing the FAFSA. Please feel free to ask any questions as I know this process can be confusing.