Learning Curve

Tricks to finding college funds

By Joleen Montoya Dye and Anne Levine
Posted 10/12/19

By Joleen Montoya Dye and Anne LevineThe cost of pursuing postsecondary education can be overwhelming. While every situation is different, we believe there is an affordable option for everyone. The …

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Learning Curve

Tricks to finding college funds


The cost of pursuing postsecondary education can be overwhelming. While every situation is different, we believe there is an affordable option for everyone. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The FAFSA should be submitted for each school year to qualify for grants, scholarships, federal work-study and federal student loans. Grants are usually given to students who have financial need. The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. Work-study jobs are also awarded on a need-basis; you might work at the bookstore, library or even the admission office at your college. Schools also use information from students' FAFSAs to determine what type of loans to offer them. The most common federal loans for undergraduates are the Direct Subsidized, the Direct Unsubsidized and the Direct PLUS loans.

Each year, the FAFSA opens on Oct. 1 for the following academic year. FAFSA deadlines vary for federal, state and institutional aid, and many schools have FAFSA priority dates or deadlines in early January. It is a good idea to submit the FAFSA as early as possible to improve your chances of qualifying for the most grant, scholarship and work-study aid.

You can complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.ed.gov.

Once you complete your FAFSA, your information will be processed by the federal government and sent to the institutions you are applying to. Your schools will analyze your circumstances and send you a letter outlining your financial aid package. This is a breakdown of what it costs to attend their school, what they estimate you and your family can contribute to your education, the amount of grants and institutional scholarships that you may be eligible for and what loans are available to you.

While all schools require the FAFSA, many private schools also require the CSS or College Scholarship Service Profile, or CSS, a more detailed inventory of your family's assets. You can fill out the CSS online at cssprofile.collegeboard.org.

You will need this information from student and parent/guardian to complete the 2020-21 FAFSA:

• 2018 federal income taxes and W2s

• Social Security numbers

• Birthdates, including birth years

• Cash, checking and savings balances

• Investment balances, including 529 College Savings Plan

• Month and year parents or guardians married, separated, divorced or were widowed

• Any government benefits or child support received.

If you would like help with your FAFSA or deciphering and comparing financial aid award letters, call us. We understand that the financial piece weighs heavily in your decision-making and we are happy to help you submit this application - and, most importantly, guide you in understanding your financial aid options.

Joleen Montoya Dye is executive director of the Bridges Project for Education and Anne Levine is program coordinator.


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