free application for federal student aid

free application for federal student aid

Pell Grants May Receive Less Funding

There have been some budget cuts proposed for the 2012 Department of Education by President Obama. Under these budget cuts, $100 billion would be taken from the Federal Pell Grant program along with other programs for higher education.

Currently, over nine million students classified as low income receive grant benefits from the Pell Grant Program. With the budget cuts, students will still be able to receive the current maximum of $5,550 per academic year. All students that qualify for Federal Pell Grants do so through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the FAFSA. If a student’s family income information indicates, they may qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. With the new budget there is a possibility of the criteria being changed to be more stringent. This would mean that some students who previously received grants may no longer be eligible.

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How Do You Qualify for Independent Status on Your FAFSA?

In order to file for financial aid in the United States, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This complicated form requires you to provide detailed information about your financial situation—and your family’s—and based on this information, the government awards you a financial aid package.fafsa

But is it necessary to include your parent’s financial information? There are two ways to fill out a FAFSA. Most traditional students fill out the form as a dependent on their parents, which means they have to provide information about their parents’ finances. However, some students are eligible to fill out the FAFSA as an independent. This means that it’s assumed that you are going to be funding your education without help from your parents, and you don’t have to include your parents’ financial info.

In many (although not all) cases, filing as an independent means you’ll be eligible for a better financial aid package. However, there are restrictions on who is eligible to claim independent status. It’s not enough to simply claim that your parents aren’t paying for your college education—even if that’s the truth.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students must meet at least one of the six following criteria to qualify for independent status:

  1. At least 24 years old by the end of the award year.
  2. An orphan, a ward of the court, or a former ward of the court until your 18th birthday.
  3. A U.S. military veteran.
  4. A graduate or professional student.
  5. Married.
  6. A person with dependents other than a spouse.

In addition, students are sometimes awarded independent status due to special circumstances, such as a total breakdown in the relationship between the parents and the student.

Avoid FAFSA Scams

Need some help filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? That’s not surprising at all, considering how complex that thing is.

But watch out! There are companies out there who prey on people’s lack of knowledge about the FAFSA and are out there to rip you off. How? They offer to fill out your FAFSA for you—for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

What’s even more troublesome about these companies is that many of them claim they can help you maximize your financial aid reward—through dishonest means, and perhaps even through lying. It’s critically important that you fill out your FAFSA as accurately as possible, or you will lose your eligibility for aid. If anyone suggests that you fudge the form to get a better offer, run.

Here’s what you need to know:

There’s no reason to pay someone to help you fill out your FAFSA because free help is available. If you’re the parent of a high school student, your guidance counselor may be willing to offer you help for free—or if not, he or she can refer you to places where you can get free assistance. In addition, community colleges and organizations often hold free FAFSA workshops to help people fill out their application. And you can always ask a friend or relative who has experience with this form to help you out.

You can also do your FAFSA online, which can be significantly less complicated. Here’s the Department of Education website that allows you to do this.

As the price of college increases, and the process becomes more competitive, it stands to reason that more and more scammers will be around to take advantage of people’s financial uncertainty. Don’t let them fool you. You don’t need to hire someone to help you with the FAFSA.


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