Posted at 10:38 a.m., Feb. 17, 2015

FAFSA

Your money is just setting around waiting to be claimed

It’s that time again. That’s right, it’s FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) season.

Most students are familiar with the acronym, yet it has been known to bring about a sense of dread just thinking of the long hours the form will take, but this not-so-little form has huge implications for Laramie County Community College students.

For those unfamiliar with the FAFSA, it is an application for grants and loans from the federal government to help pay for college. It uses tax information to estimate the amount of family contribution your family could provide for college. The closer this number is to zero, the more money for which you will be eligible. This number is generated by combining your household size with your annual household income, along with some other smaller factors.

The FAFSA is now required by all LCCC students who want to receive institutional scholarships as well. Colleges use information taken from the FAFSA to estimate student population, to distribute merit and academic awards and to determine the number of work study students available for hire. Even if the student won’t receive any FAFSA money or take out loans, LCCC needs the information to award scholarships like the Hathaway need-based scholarship, the dean’s scholarships, the Andrikopoulos award, athletic awards, Souring Eagle Award, Student Progress Award and many more.

Just in the last year, because of increased FAFSA filing, the amount of Hathaway need-based scholarships awarded has increased from $13,000 to $27,000 by the halfway point this academic year, LCCC’s president, Dr. Joe Schaffer, told the trustees Feb. 4.   

LCCC could gain as much as $1 million each year if more students filed the FAFSA, LCCC Financial Aid Director Julie Wilson has indicated, according to the Jan. 9 board Retreat minutes. This could also explain the recent push to file the FAFSA.

Parents information required with exceptions

For students under 24, it requires at least one parent’s tax information as well. This helps estimate the family contribution. There is a day of record shown when filling out the form, and if the student was under 24 years old at that date, a parent’s information is required.

The only exceptions are if the student is married, has children, is emancipated, is a ward of the state or other legal exceptions. This is required because, according to Vito Milatzo, an LCCC financial aid technician, the federal government feels it is an obligation of the parents to help their children through college. Even if the parent will not be contributing anything, it is still required. Proof may be required before being considered independent.

The FAFSA can be used in conjunction with the GI Bill. The only catch is taking out loans will not be an option. However, grants can still be awarded to help cover living expenses, books or anything else the student needs.

Milatzo said in response to President Barack Obama’s plan to make the FAFSA easier, the form is always changing and becomes easier as years progress.

“It used to be a 10-15-page print form, and now it can be done online,” he said.

Milatzo went on to say if Obama’s plan for free community college goes through, the FAFSA will still be required. Grants and scholarships will still be awarded to cover living expenses and other expenses absorbed by students.  

The form can take anywhere from one hour to several hours, depending on complications.

Electronically submitted forms are processed within three days after all the tax requirements have been met. Paper documents can take up to three weeks.

Apply sooner rather than later

The form is first-come, first-served. The sooner the student applies after Jan. 1, the more money the student will be considered for. The deadline to submit the form is April 1. Once LCCC receives the form, it can take up to an additional two weeks to be processed and aid to be given.

A notification about your award will be sent to the email on record once the form is processed. A notification will also appear in your EagleEye email as well. It contains instructions on how to accept or reject the awards.

For help filling out the FAFSA, or for more information, visit the financial aid office Monday-Friday, in the Student Services Building 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thursdays, when it opens at 10 a.m.

U.S. Department of Education: Federal Student Aid website

FAFSA online application

LCCC Offices of Financial Aid
and Scholarships