FAFSA now required for certain student loans

On Jan. 1, the 2011-2012 Free Application for Federal Student Aid form became available online. However, some students may find they have to fill it out for the first time.

A new federal regulation states even if a student is only applying for a Federal Direct Plus Loan or unsubsidized Stafford loans, they have to fill out a FAFSA form.

Jerry Donna, director of financial aid, said this change is due to the federal government wanting students to exhaust all eligibilities.

The FAFSA is a form filled out by current and prospective college students to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. Any student that is applying for some form of federal aid is required to fill out the form.

Dan Nadler, vice president for student affairs, said this new regulation should not keep any student from filling out the form.

“We always recommend students fill out the form even if they think they can get nothing from it. Besides a little time, they can’t lose anything from it,” Nadler said.

Every student needs to fill out the FAFSA, and do so as soon as possible, he added.

If you do not have your tax information by the time you are ready to apply, use information you have available, such as a previous year’s tax return, to estimate to the best of your ability, according to Scholarship.com.

There have also been some changes to the online FAFSA format to make it easier for first time filers, including fewer questions and a more simplified process, The International Business Time reported on Jan. 1.

However, one new feature is asking for the name of the high school attended by the applicant, which might help the school identify and assist students who have not filed the form, The Times also reported.

Desiree Dussard, a freshman political science major, will have to fill out the FAFSA this year.

“I haven’t had a chance to fill it out yet. I know it’s important I just haven’t had time,” Dussard said.

Even if students don’t think they qualify for any funds, the institution may be able to find gift aids or scholarships in addition to the loan, Donna said.

Due to enrollment being down, both state and institutional financial aid has slightly increased in the past two years, The Daily Eastern News reported on Jan. 11. Funding at the state level has increased by 2 percent and at the institution by 3 percent.

Meghan Clark, a freshman special education major, already filled out her form.

“I fill out the FAFSA the first week it was available,” she said. “I don’t get any money from it, but I like to make sure before I go and take loans out.”

Nadler said Eastern offers many scholarships, in numerous areas of study. It is important for students to look in to those options as well, he added.

We’re looking at trying to get the information out to students about the large number of scholarships we have available,” he said.

Donna agrees.

“It’s a way of expanding thinking, that there may be other offers then just loans,” he said.

Nadler also said Eastern students actually have a considerably lower debt than schools around us, because the university has a lower cost.

Zachary Smith, a junior business major, is not concerned about filling out the FAFSA.

“I’ll get around to it eventually,” he said. “However, I didn’t know you had to fill one out for the Plus Loan, so I should probably look into that.”

Donna said timing is important when filling out the FAFSA. Federal funds are on a first come, first serve basis, and those who apply early get the money.

“Usually the first two round of packaging get the largest funds. Timing is key,” he said.

Kaylia Eskew can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected].