Hot Take: FAFSA is the ONLY Game in Town for Making College Affordable

January 16, 2024

The Crucial Importance of Completing the FAFSA: A Gateway to Educational Opportunities

You must use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access federal aid for college, so – despite the form’s many challenges – take the time and navigate the hassles to avoid overpaying on college.

9 in 10 U.S. families qualify for federal aid, but far too many miss the chance to get the financial support they deserve. Below, we’ll delve into the reasons why completing the FAFSA is critical and why families should prioritize submitting this form.

  1. Financial Assistance for Education: The FAFSA is the key to opening the door to making higher education more affordable. The FAFSA determines eligibility for various federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. These financial aid dollars can significantly alleviate the financial burden associated with tuition, books, and living expenses, making education accessible to a broader range of students.
  2. Access to Federal Student Loans: For many, taking out loans is a necessary step in financing their education. By completing the FAFSA, students become eligible for federal student loans, which often offer more favorable terms and lower interest rates. The Direct Federal Loan, for instance, can be a great tool for some families with a small financial need. By contrast, other Federal loans and many higher interest rate private loans can leave families in debt up to their eyeballs and can destroy retirement plan.
  3. State and Institutional Aid: Many states and colleges also use the FAFSA information to determine eligibility for their own financial assistance programs. Some states offer grants or scholarships based on financial need, academic achievement, or other criteria. Colleges and universities also use FAFSA data to award institutional aid, ensuring that students have access to all available resources to fund their education.
  4. Earlier is the Winning Strategy: Many financial aid programs operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Some states and colleges have limited funds, and submitting the FAFSA early increases the chances of receiving the maximum aid available. Students who delay the application process may find that certain opportunities have already been exhausted.
  5. Gateway to Work-Study Programs: Work-study programs provide students with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience while earning money to help cover educational expenses. Further, many parents – regardless of income – tout the advantages of having their teens personally invested in paying for college through work study. The FAFSA is the key to accessing these programs.

Conclusion:

Completing the updated FAFSA is an essential step for any student aspiring to pursue higher education. By unlocking a myriad of financial aid opportunities, the FAFSA ensures that financial constraints do not limit college dreams. Families should prioritize submitting the FAFSA to maximize their chances of securing the financial support necessary for a successful academic journey.

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