By Daniel Morgan, Advertising Manager
It’s that time of year again: FAFSA time! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became available to students for the 2016-2017 school year on Jan. 1, 2016.
The reason that college students and their families must fill out the FAFSA forms every year is to determine one’s EFC, Expected Family Contribution, by asking questions regarding a family’s employment status and income. All of this information is used to figure out how much financial aid a student is eligible for from a college or university, including grants, loans, and work-study.
A vast number of college students receive some sort of financial aid from their school. For some students, it’s the only reason that they are able to attend college at all, and the FAFSA report is a deciding factor.
West Liberty University’s Director of Financial Aid, Katie Cooper, encourages students to “finish their FAFSA applications early to ensure that everything is done efficiently. We already have students that have completed the process.”
“If there have been no drastic changes in family income, information totals can be estimated by using last year’s tax returns,” Cooper said. That helps make the process easier and quicker.
Students, as well as parents of dependent students, need the following information at hand to complete the application, according to FAFA’s website: Social Security Number; Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen; most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned (you may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool); bank statements and records of investments, if applicable; records of untaxed income, if applicable; and an FSA ID to electronically sign.
The biggest change in this year’s FAFSA process is that the Federal Student Aid PIN was replaced with the FSA ID in May 2015.
“Students used to sign in with their PIN numbers, but that is no longer in effect,” Cooper said. “Now, students need to create their FSA ID prior to beginning their FAFSA. You can get the FSA ID from FAFA’s website.”
According to Federal Student Aid, “You have the option to link your PIN to your FSA ID during the registration process. If you don’t link your PIN or can’t remember your PIN, you can still create an FSA ID. However, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use your FSA ID to start your Renewal FAFSA.” Just make sure that you create your own ID; don’t have someone else do it for you.
Mistakes can happen, but they can easily be fixed, which is one of the benefits of getting FAFSA done early.
“After the FAFSA is completed, students will receive a student aid report,” Cooper said. “It is delivered as an email or physical letter, and it is a confirmation of everything from the application. So, if a student catches a mistake, they can adjust it and send it back. The university can also catch a mistake, and it can be fixed from there as well once required documentation is received in our office.”
Filling out the FAFSA isn’t very difficult; just find some motivation and get it done. WLU’s deadline to receive FAFSA applications is April 15, 2016. Students can contact Cooper, whose office is located in Shaw Hall, for more information.
“There are a few opportunities for students to receive free help in completing their FAFSA coming up soon,” Cooper said. “WV College Goal Sunday is Feb. 21, 2016 at WVNCC (West Virginia Northern Community College) in Wheeling from 12-4 p.m., which is a FAFSA workshop for any and all community members to help them complete their FAFSA. Also, WLU will be hosting a FAFSA Workshop at the Highlands Center on Feb. 29 from 4-7 p.m. to help anyone in the community complete their FAFSA.”
Federal Student Aid is also sponsoring #AskFAFSA Office Hours on Twitter on Wednesday, Feb. 24, from 5–6 p.m. Students can tweet questions using the hashtag and receive answers from financial aid experts. The Q&A session will be archived here for student use.