College tuition and fees can be burdensome for any student, but the New Year is here with new financial aid paperwork available.
The filing period for financial aid began on Jan. 1. The key to acquiring from the limited resources available from most big financial aid programs is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Filing this form allows students to be automatically considered for programs funded by Illinois and the federal government. The new FAFSA is released each year on Jan. 1.
Katharine Gricevich, director of government relations and interim director of communications for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, discussed the key for any student to acquire the most amount of aid.
“Now’s the time to file,” Gricevich said. “It’s a good idea to apply soon after the form is released in order to secure your place in line. The federal Pell grant is funded sufficiently to make awards essentially year-round, but the State of Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant is much more limited.”
Someone who files too late to receive the State MAP Grant can still get the federal Pell Grant, but if they miss the state MAP grant they could miss out on up to $4,968 per year.
MAP is a state-funded program that helps students who have financial need to pay tuition and fees at most colleges and universities in Illinois.
A person can obtain a paper copy of the FAFSA from the financial aid office, but the fastest way to apply and get a response is by filing electronically at FAFSA.gov, Gricevich said.
Once a FAFSA form is filled out, a person can be eligible for MAP aid.
When filing the paperwork, tax information will be needed in order to apply. If a person files using an estimate, they will have to go back and amend the form once they finalized the tax information in the spring.
Furthermore, some additional information will be required including social security number, records of income, information about assets, driver’s license number, date of birth and alien registration number.
Workshops to aid with the paperwork are accessible to applicants. Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s outreach staff held more than 700 FAFSA Completion workshops, Gricevich said.
In addition, the paperwork should not take more than an hour according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The State allocated about $373 million to MAP for the current fiscal year and an estimated 140,000 students could receive a share.
“I think the biggest thing that I’d stress is that it’s a great time for students to get their FAFSAs filed for the upcoming 2014-15 school year,” Gricevich said.
“This one form is the application for several federal, state and school-based grant and loan programs, and the earlier you complete it, the better your chances of receiving assistance.”