Tag Archives: student financial aid

Applying for Financial Aid With Efficiency

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Looking for financial aid to go back to school is time consuming, but is well worth the effort for the single mom. Student loan debt is a difficult burden to carry, and sometimes makes the possibility of going back to school seem out of reach. Take advantage of every financial aid package that is available to you.

Acronyms

The financial aid process is full of acronyms. It seems to be taken for granted that the average student will know what they mean, and this could be true for the traditional student who is going into college directly from high school. For those of us who are non traditional students, however, the lingo needs to be translated.

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It helps to determine if a student is eligible for private or public aid. Packages are available of all types of students. It can be used to earn certificates as well as degrees for any school that is campus based or online. Graduate students and undergrads should fill out the form as the first step in the financial aid search.

SAR is the Student Aid Report that the student will receive after they have submitted the FAFSA. Make sure that all of the information on the report is correct. Use the contact information on the report to resolve any errors.

EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. The lower the EFC, the more money the student will receive in financial aid. This amount is for the higher education costs that you will have to pay the following year.

Getting the Funds

Once the single mom receives her SAR, she should check to see if she is eligible for a Pell Grant. Eligibility changes every year, so it’s important to keep up with the changes that Congress makes to the program. It’s well worth the effort because money from the program doesn’t have to be paid back.

The Pell Grant is named after Senator Claiborne Pell. It was known as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant when it was started in 1973.

A copy of the SAR will automatically be sent to each of the schools that were listed on the FAFSA. Contact the school you choose to attend and compare the financial aid packages that will be available to you through that school. Funds will be available in forms of grants, work study funds and low interest loans.

The single mom should also look for money to help her pay for her higher education from scholarships. A private loan is also an option, but make sure that all other sources for lower cost financial aid have been applied for.

Many single moms neglect to contact their employers when they are looking for funds to pay the tuition needs and other expenses when they go back to school. Even if your employer doesn’t offer an educational assistance program, you can often ask for help and get it. If taking the classes will help make you more proficient in your job with the company, the employer might see the benefit of reimbursing you part of the expense you incurred after you have completed the class. It never hurts to ask.

Financial Aid: Are You Dependent or Independent?

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So you are going to college, but you need financial aid. You may be an adult, over 18 and a parent yourself. Surely this means you are independent, free of your own parents? Not necessarily, at least not in terms of financial aid and FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. So what determines your dependency status and what does it mean to you?

There are a number of questions you must answer to determine if you are still a dependent according to FAFSA. Look at the following list.

  • Were you 23 years old or older before January 1 of this year?
  • Will you be working on a master’s or doctoral degree or certificate?
  • Are you married?
  • Are you a parent AND do your children receive more than half of their support directly from you?
  • Do you have other dependents that live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?
  • Are both of your parents deceased?
  • Were you a ward of the court?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?

If you are able to answer yes to any of these questions, even one, you are considered independent for the purposes of the FAFSA. If you answered no to all of them, you will be required to supply information about your parents and their financial standings on your application.

Even if you don’t live with your parents, if you fall into the dependent category, you will have to include your parents’ information. It doesn’t matter that they may no longer claim you as a dependent on their taxes. For the purposes of the FAFSA, taxable dependency is irrelevant.

The information is still required even if your parents don’t want to help you pay for college. It is used to determination the amount of financial aid you are eligible for.

There are some special circumstances which may qualify you as an independent even if you did answer no to all the questions. Some examples of those circumstances would include lack of contact with your parents, parental abuse, Parental substance abuse or parental mental illness. Another point to consider is that you may fair better as a dependent if you are providing support to your parents. These and other situations should be discussed with your financial aid office as they can guide you on how to proceed.