High school seniors who wish to attend college next fall can now apply for financial aid.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid — FAFSA — rolled out on Tuesday for students who plan on attending a junior college or university in fall 2020. Local officials encourage students to apply for aid as soon as possible.
The FAFSA is a financial aid form administered by the U.S. Department of Education that helps students qualify for loans, grants and other types of financial aid. Data such as annual income and savings are looked at by the USDE to determine how much a family could pay toward college.
Colleges also receive data from FAFSA, which serves as the basis for its financial aid offers to applicants.
The deadline to complete the FAFSA form for the 2020-21 school year is June 30, 2021, but many college officials encourage students to apply sooner rather than later.
Lyndie Conner, Cleburne ISD college & career readiness coordinator/AVID district director, said completing the FAFSA has never been more important for students in Texas.
Starting the 2020-21 school year, the Texas Education Agency is requiring seniors to complete the FAFSA or the Texas Application for State Financial Aid if they are not a U.S. citizen in order to graduate. Even if a student doesn't think they will attend college, the state will still require them to complete the application to be eligible for graduation, she said.
Filling out the FAFSA application has always been important, she said.
“Traditionally, FAFSA was used to determine financial aid in terms of need, but [soon] colleges and universities are using it to determine merit-based scholarships as well,” she said. “Anytime a student completes FAFSA, they get a number that tells colleges and universities how much they are expected to pay out of pocket for college. That number is called the Expected Family Contribution.”
That number is used to determine federal and state grant eligibility, as well as student loan eligibility, she said.
“However, colleges and universities [will soon say] that they’re using the EFC as a contributing factor in the decision making process for merit-based scholarships or those scholarships traditionally awarded based on grade point average, test scores, etc,” she said. “It is very common for colleges and universities to ask all students — regardless of their parent’s level of income — to complete the FAFSA so that they can see the student’s EFC in awarding any institutional aid.”
The district hosts events to encourage students to complete the FAFSA, she said.
“Now, with the new requirements from the state, we’re going to have to multiply those opportunities in order to ensure that all students have what they need in order to be FAFSA complete,” she said.
From 6-8 p.m. Oct. 21, the district will host the ApplyTexas Jam event to let parents and students ask questions about the FAFSA. During this event, they will also host a college fair, a college application lab, a financial aid seminar and FAFSA lab where parents and students can complete the FAFSA with help from Hill College financial aid officers.
“We know that our students and parents often face unique life circumstances that require expertise from the post-secondary level on how best to complete their FAFSA, and so we try to serve as that conduit because it is important for us to provide access to all of our students and parents,” she said. “Last year, we got almost 100 of our senior students FAFSA complete during ApplyTexas Jam, and we hope to increase that number this year.”
The district has also partnered with the Educational Opportunity Center in Cleburne to connect students who are needing more one-on-one assistance with their post-secondary plans, she said.
“They’re coming to our campus during student lunches and after school to assist students with FAFSA but also to set up appointments to guide students through the entire college admissions process,” she said. “Traditionally, we’ve also hosted a FAFSA lab in the spring semester, as well to catch any students who are applying to colleges with rolling admissions timelines. Hill College also supports us during that lab.
“We’ll continue to do that, but we may need to look into adding more opportunities to ensure that 100 percent of our senior students are meeting the state’s requirement.”
For information, visit studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.