WHAT IS FEDERAL STUDENT AID?
Federal student aid is funded through the U.S. Department of Education and is available if your field of study leads to an academic, professional, or vocational degree or certificate (or other recognized educational credential) at an eligible institution. An eligible institution must have accreditation from an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to be able to participate in federal student aid programs. Federal student aid helps with tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies. It can also aid in transportation expenses, purchasing a computer, and even dependent child care expenses.
WHO MAY APPLY?
You must either have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) Certificate, or have completed high school education in a home school setting approved under Maryland law. Also, you must be enrolled or accepted as a regular student for the purposes of obtaining a degree, a certificate, or other legitimate educational credentials.
All students should apply for need-based financial aid. Many families mistakenly think they may not qualify for this type of aid based on their income and assets. However, if you choose not to apply for need-based financial aid, you may be closing the door on opportunities that could help you pay for college. There are other sources of financial assistance available regardless of your need, but most require you first to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
HOW TO APPLY
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the primary application form for federal need-based aid and other types of federal student aid. It is highly recommended that you file an electronic FAFSA online atwww.fafsa.ed.gov. Online FAFSA applications are processed quicker and more accurately than paper FAFSAs. A paper FAFSA can be obtained by calling 1-800-433-3243).
NOTE: The FAFSA is a federal application form, however, the State of Maryland, as well as Maryland institutions, use information filed on the FAFSA in determining a student’s financial need. Please file your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 to ensure you comply with all the State and institutional deadlines for need-based financial aid. The State of Maryland deadline for filing the FAFSA is March 1.
To apply online for federal student aid, both you, and your parents if you are a dependent, must get a PIN (personal identification number). A PIN allows you to sign an online FAFSA. It also allows you to make corrections to your online application if necessary. To learn more about PIN’s, please visit www.pin.ed.gov. Keep this numbers as you will need it to update your FAFSA in the future.
Before you start to fill out your FAFSA, gather the documents you will need to complete the application, such as income tax returns, W-2 forms, and any other records of income. You will also need your social security number, driver’s license, and most recent bank statements. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need your alien registration number or permanent residence card. For a complete list of documents needed, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003.htm.
Remember to list a Maryland college and the college's Federal Title IV Institution Code to be considered for Maryland State financial aid. Title IV codes for Maryland institutions are listed by the institutional description in the front of the Student Guide to Higher Education and Financial Aid in Maryland or at the U.S. Department of Education’s website, www.fafsa.ed.gov/fotwwebapp/fslookup.servlet.
If you use an APO or a Post Office Box in your address, the Office of Student Financial Assistance will ask you to provide your actual Maryland street address.
If you filed a FAFSA last year, you will probably file a 2009-2010 Renewal FAFSA this year. Your Renewal FAFSA will only be available for you to submit electronically via the web. You will be sent a reminder to file your Renewal FAFSA via the web. The reminder will be sent to you either via email or at your home address. If you do not receive a Renewal FAFSA reminder by January 1,you go online and file a regular FAFSA form.
Many colleges may require that you complete one or more supplemental application forms to apply for institutional financial aid. Ask the colleges you plan to attend for information about any additional applications you may need to complete as well as their deadline for FAFSA submission, which may be earlier than that of the State. That way, you will make sure you are considered for all types of college financial aid.
WHEN TO APPLY
Complete and submit the FAFSA between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010. Do not sign, date, or mail your FAFSA before January 1,2009. Your eligibility is determined one award year at a time. The results from your 2009-2010 application are good only for the 2009-2010 academic year. Because your financial circumstances can change from one year to the next, you must complete the FAFSA each year. The State of Maryland requires that the FAFSA be filed by March 1, 2009 in order to receive any State need-based financial assistance for the2009-2010 academic year. You should apply as soon as possible after January 1, 2009.
If you are filing a paper FAFSA, make sure you fill out, stamp, and mail the postcard that comes with your FAFSA so you will be notified when it has reached the federal processor. To prove that you mailed the FAFSA, you should get a Certificate of Mailing from the post office when you mail your form.
FAFSAs that are filed after the March 1 deadline will be considered for fewer types of State need-based aid programs. If you or your parents do not have your federal tax returns completed before the March 1 deadline, you should carefully estimate your answers on the FAFSA and correct them later.
Services of Consultant to Help Find Scholarships or to Help Me Complete the FAFSA
The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) urges you to look carefully at these services. Make sure you are not paying for something that is available for free from your high school guidance office, the public library, a college financial aid office, the web or from OSFA. If the consultant guarantees that you will receive some sort of financial aid, learn as much as you can about the consultant, the company, and the students who have used the service before you spend the $50 to $1,000 that some consultants may charge.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I APPLY
The federal processing center will check your FAFSA for proper signatures, correct social security number, etc. It is important not to leave blank items on your FAFSA as incomplete applications will delay the application process and prevent you from being considered for financial aid. After your FAFSA has been processed, you will receive a report containing your answers to the FAFSA questions. This is called the Student Aid Report (SAR) and will be received either via email, if you applied electronically, or regular mail if you filed a paper FAFSA. Review your SAR carefully. If you find a mistake you will need to make changes or you need to make updates because you may have estimated when you first completed the FAFSA you should do so and resubmit the form. Keep a copy of the corrected SAR in your files and send one copy by April 1 to OSFA.
Your SAR will indicate how much the federal government expects your family to contribute toward your college costs. Financial aid officers refer to this as your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. Your EFC is used to determine the amount of federal and State financial aid you maybe be eligible to receive.
A U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen who is enrolled or accepted as a regular student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program is eligible to apply for federal and State aid. To learn more about eligible majors, please call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
TYPES OF FEDERAL ASSISTANCE
The U.S. Department of Education is the largest source of financial aid and offers nine (9) different types of assistance. The following pages describe the Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant, National Smart Grant, TEACH Grant, Federal Work-Study, Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans, and PLUS Loans. Each type of assistance has specific criteria, so please read carefully. Please contact your financial aid office if you have any questions about federal assistance.