Students now can complete college FAFSA

Barton College students gather free gear from businesses and local organizations at the annual Welcome Back Barton event on Aug. 13 2017

By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid - more commonly known as FAFSA - it determines eligibility for federal and state loans, grants, work-study, and scholarships. But the message is just as important for returning college students. Submitting the FAFSA soon after October 1 can also expedite financial aid from your student's school.

Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the National College Access Network, said advocates saw tremendous progress over the past year - evidence that policy change could have a serious impact on student completion rates.

The financial aid office at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, noticed "a significant lag" in returning students filing the paperwork compared with incoming students previous year, according to Diane Todd Sprague, the office's director.

The federal government moved up the date that students can submit the Free Application For Federal Student Aid.

When you file a FAFSA, you can use prior-prior year tax information, or 2016 information for the 2018-19 form. Further, variables such as your family's income level in a given year and the number of family members enrolled in college at the same time will affect the amount of aid a student is eligible to receive. Make sure you know which type of aid you're getting (if it's a grant or a aid requiring reimbursement). NerdWallet offered the Pell Grants as an example, because students don't have to pay them back like traditional student loans.

The bottom line is the sooner families log in and submit their FAFSA forms, the better. It had been taken offline earlier this year out of security concerns. Completing the FAFSA is the only way to get federal loans, which offer more protections and typically lower interest rates than private student loans.

StudentAid.gov, Federal Student Aid's primary online portal for students and parents has information about completing the FAFSA, as well as frequently asked questions about the IRS DRT returning for the 2018-19 FAFSA.

John Wood Community College, like other schools in the area, takes special measures to reach out to students and remind them that the FAFSA must be done annually. If you filed a year ago, log in to the FAFSA website with your FSA ID and click the FAFSA Renewal button. The problem with meeting the FAFSA deadline is that it can vary from state to state. Then you can decide after you find out what you received. For North Carolina, the filing period started this week.

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