Courtesy of Expect More Arizona

How much is 30 minutes of your time worth? College graduates can earn $1 million more over their lifetime than those without a college degree. And all it takes is 30 minutes to get your high school senior one step closer to their postsecondary diploma.

It’s FAFSA season – and it should be as enticing to your family as any holiday season. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the gateway to scholarships, loans, grants and more. Submitting it will tell students how much funding they may be eligible to receive for college. Every single high school senior should complete the FAFSA for the 2020-21 school year.

In 2017-18, Arizona students missed out on $65 million of college assistance in Pell Grants alone. That’s $65 million worth of university dollars that could have helped thousands of students pursue further education.

Many families skip the FAFSA because they assume they’re earning too much to qualify for financial assistance or because their student isn’t headed to college. So, let’s dispel some common misperceptions:

  • We make too much money to qualify: There are no income requirements to qualify for federal student aid. The formulas account for family size, and other factors. Don’t make assumptions about your eligibility for different forms of aid – fill it out and get an official answer.
  • My student isn’t headed to a college or university: That might change – filling out the FAFSA is free, and the funds it provides might help your child make the decision to pursue college.
  • My student is pursuing academic scholarships: Many scholarships, whether merit-based or otherwise, require a student to complete their FAFSA. Every high school senior is encouraged to fill it out.
  • The form is too complicated: The FAFSA has changed over the years and is fairly straightforward to complete.
  • We haven’t prepared our taxes, so we have to wait: The form uses data from your 2017 taxes, so no need to worry about getting your upcoming filing ready early.
  • We can always do it later: Don’t put it off. While college entrance applications aren’t reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, some financial aid applications are because scholarship and grant money is limited. FAFSA applicants technically have until June to complete the FAFSA but that’s not recommended. The sooner you submit it, the better off you’ll be. Beyond that, if your student is considering attending one of Arizona’s three public universities, those have earlier deadlines to be considered: Northern Arizona University (November 15, 2019), Arizona State University (January 15, 2020), and University of Arizona (March 1, 2020).

The transition to college can be a tough one, and finances are one of the biggest stressors. Prioritizing the FAFSA can help to relieve part of that – whether through grants, scholarships, work-study or loans.

To get started, visit fafsa.gov to create a FSA ID. It only takes 10 minutes to get the ID and get started on the FAFSA. Students can start, and complete, the process, even if their college applications aren’t yet in. Nine out of 10 students who complete the FAFSA go on to college right after high school, compared to only half, among those who don’t complete the FAFSA. As our state works toward the Arizona Education Progress Meter goals of increasing college-going and attainment rates, boosting FAFSA completions is an easy first step.

For more help and in-person events, check out College Goal Arizona (https://collegegoal.az.gov/event-information) your student’s school counselors or FAFSA.gov.

What you’ll need to get started:

  • Student and (if available) parent social security numbers
  • Driver’s license
  • 2017 taxes and W-2s
  • Records of untaxed income
  • Names of schools that should receive your FAFSA

Expect More Arizona is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan education advocacy organization working to ensure every child receives an excellent education every step of the way. For more information, visit ExpectMoreArizona.org.

 

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