Federal Financial Aid Application Coming Due

Sophie Brandt

The holiday season is upon us — and so are its deadlines. Gifts to be purchased, turkeys to be made and financial aid applications to be completed. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened October 1, and offers a free application for incoming and current college students in the 2020-2021 school year.

The 2020-2021 application does not close on the official federal site (StudentAid.ed.gov) until June 30, 2020, but colleges have their own deadlines. Many UW-System schools have rapidly approaching due dates. In fact, UW-Madison’s priority date was December 1.

Seniors at CHS have had the term “FAFSA” thrown at them all year, but what does it really mean? More or less, FAFSA is a student’s pathway to loans, financial plans and free money.

Here’s what FAFSA can offer:

Pell Grants
A grant is money for college that does not have to be paid back, and the Pell Grant can award up to $6,000 to students with a low expected family contribution (EFC), a number calculated by a student’s FAFSA. This number isn’t what is saved up for college already. It’s a federal estimate of how much a student’s family might be able to afford. The higher the family’s income, the higher the EFC and lower the need for the Pell Grant, according to FAFSA.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
FSEOG is a grant for students with the highest amount of financial need (based on the median household income from all FAFSA applications for that year). For students who need it most, up to $4,000 can be awarded. Being given this grant automatically disqualifies a student from receiving the Pell Grant and vice-versa.

Stafford Loan
A Stafford Loan is a loan, or money for college that must be paid back, directly from the federal government and includes subsidized and unsubsidized types. When it comes to comparing the two types of loans, many students prefer subsidized loans, as they do not start to collect interest until after graduation. Unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, begin to collect interest the moment classes start. For example, a student who receives a $4,500 subsidized loan will owe a flat rate of $4,500 and have until they graduate to repay it. If they graduate and still haven’t repaid the entire loan, interest will accrue on whatever amount remains. A student who receives a $4,500 unsubsidized loan will owe that amount plus interest from those four years at the end of their college career.

Federal Work Study Program
The Federal Work Study Program involves working at a job offered on campus. The college pays half of a student’s wage, and the federal government pays the other half. Technically, this money is not just for college. A Federal Work Study Program job is just like any other part-time job, except the college and government pay the student worker. Paychecks can be spent on whatever the student desires, but the program exists to provide the student with an income to put towards college fees. Many students treat it like any other job and use their income as they please.

Every student wants as much money from the government as they can get, but how does the FAFSA application determine who gets what? Simply put, a student’s financial need is based on income. If a student was his or her own
main source of financial income (they paid their own bills, bought all of their own food, etc.), the student’s need is based off of his or her finances. Most of the time, high school seniors depend on their parents to pay for over 50 percent of their finances, so they are required to report their parents’/caregivers’ income.

Federal money is awarded based on need, so a student whose family’s yearly income is $30,000 a year will have a larger need for financial aid than a student from a family with a $120,000 yearly income. The higher the income, the lower the need for financial aid.

That being said, lying on the FAFSA form is illegal and easy to track as all information is reviewed and even confirmed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Since FAFSA is a federal form, lying on it is considered lying on a government form and is punishable by jail time or expensive fines. However, the government is aware that mistakes happen and has automatic notifications pop up on the online form if anything does not look right.

To submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, visit StudentAid.ed.gov.