Perform Students Only Need to Fill Out the FAFSA? The Answer May Surprise You

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CoCo 130820 0448 Lawmaker Misleads Students in Critique of College Educational funding Practices

This week, the New York Times published a story reporting that Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland has asked the Division of Education to investigate whether best colleges are misleading financial aid applicants about the requirements to apply for federal financial aid. My colleagues, (fellow admissions and college finance consultants at College Coach), and I have reviewed his worries and while we agree that he may technically have a point, we really feel he is both exaggerating the issue rather than giving these colleges the credit score they deserve for supporting the educations of talented financial aid eligible students.

The FAFSA Isn’t the Only Application for Educational funding

At issue is a federal regulation that defines the Free Application for Federal Pupil Aid (the FAFSA) as the only application that colleges may use to award federal financial aid funds. Colleges may not charge a fee to examine a student’s FAFSA, nor may they require a student to provide any other types as part of the college’s review of their app for federal financial aid. Representative Cummings claims that colleges that also require a second application for financial aid, the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile, are misleading students into thinking that they cannot apply for federal financial aid with no submitting the CSS Profile too. Over 300 colleges, mostly personal colleges, use the CSS Profile because their application for their own financial aid funds.

Representative Cummings can be correct that some colleges’ financial aid instructions are not clear. The New You are able to Times article points out that Bucknell University’s website, for example , states how the CSS Profile “… must be filed if you would like to apply for need-based aid. ” We agree that this does not make it clear that students who only wish to apply for federal (and perhaps state) financial aid funds do not need to file the CSS Profile.

Yet is there really an issue here? Is there enough federal and state financial aid available to each college student that most students can cover their costs at a school like Bucknell without filing the CSS Profile? Absolutely not!

What Should Low Income Students Do to Get Maximum  Financial Assistance?

The maximum amount of federal financial aid funds a student from the very low-income household is likely to get at a college that participates in each and every possible federal financial aid program is all about $18, 000 per year. This physique is the sum of the maximum amounts of different federal financial aid programs, including Pell Grants and Direct Loans (which are entitlements), Supplemental Education Chance Grants, Perkins Loans, and University Work/Study funds (which are not entitlements and are not available at every college). Bucknell, and most of the other 110 colleges Representative Cummings calls out, charge over $50, 000 in tuition and fees, room and board, along with other educational expenses. A student who only files the FAFSA to secure federal government funds will be tens of thousands of dollars short in his ability to pay for his education at one of these excellent schools.

So in reality, the college student will still need to complete the CSS Profile at these colleges to secure the maximum amount of funding the colleges offer. A student from a low-income household could receive an even greater financial aid award from the college’s own funds than the amount of federal money the lady might secure through the FAFSA.

Representative Cummings’s main issue—that these 111 colleges are not accurately explaining that the CSS Profile is not really required if the student is solely interested in federal funding—is accurate. Nevertheless , he fails to acknowledge that students who complete only the FAFSA may lose out on thousands, if not tens of thousands of bucks of non-federal funds provided by the colleges.   Further, students that are likely to receive federal grants—those through very low income households—could potentially get much more money from the colleges them selves if they also file the CSS Profile.

Robert Weinerman is a member of College Coach’s team of college finance specialists . Before joining College Coach, Robert worked as a Senior Educational funding Officer at MIT and Babson College.

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