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What is a FAFSA?

Posted in Borrowing Money
May 18th 2011 by
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The first step in the financial aid process for higher education students is to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The 2011-2012 FAFSA is now available.

Federal Student Aid (FSA) is an office of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Their mission is to make sure that eligible individuals can benefit from federal grants, loans, and work-study programs beyond high school. This office is responsible for the development, distribution and processing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the document that most states and schools use to award their financial aid monies to applicants. For information on filling out the FAFSA, please view the FAFSA overview (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm). FSA also distributes publications, such as the Federal Aid First brochure, hosts websites, and runs customer call centers. Most of these services are also available in Spanish. The financial help they provide can cover school expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies and transportation. This applies to four-year or two-year public or private educational institutions, career schools, or trade schools. Information on eligibility is available in FAFSA’s Frequently Asked Questions, here: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm

Please note: Grants are typically for undergraduate students and loans are typically for students or parents of undergraduate students. You do not have to repay a grant whereas you must repay a loan with interest. Work-study allows the individual to earn money to help pay for their education while enrolled in school. It is important to check with the financial aid administrator at the school to see if they participate in the FSA programs.

You may wish to view answers to the FSA’s Frequently Asked Questions (http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/faqs.jsp). Or, you may wish to contact FSA at 1.800.4.FED.AID (1.800.433.3242). TTY users can call 1.800.730.8913. For locations without access to 800 numbers, please call 1.319.337.5665. Additional toll-free numbers are also available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/tollfree/index.html.

You may also wish to view information from FSA’s Data Center (http://federalstudentaid.ed.gov/datacenter/). Information provided by the Data Center includes loan and grant information by award year, information on the number of FAFSAs processed by school and state of residence, and default information for the federal student loan programs.

The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program from ED can also help finance your education. The FWS Program provides funds earned through part-time employment to assist students in financing the costs of postsecondary education.

In addition to student aide, you may also be interested in finding a job with the federal government (http://www.usajobs.gov/studentjobs/) to help pay for your education while gaining work experience.

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