A heads-up on financial aid

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Tidewater_heads_up_on_financial_aidHeadache-saving changes are coming

Changes are coming to the financial aid process that will make it easier to apply and plan ahead for college.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2016, students will be able to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2017-18 year. This pushes the application date up by several months from the current Jan. 1 opening date. Students will also be able to use tax information from two years earlier.

Why is this important?

Filling out a FAFSA is the first step in getting federal money, including Pell Grants, student loans, and a work-study job at Tidewater Community College. The information on your FAFSA is also used by colleges, state governments and organizations to determine if you qualify for some other types of financial aid or scholarships.

Nearly 20 million FAFSA filers get access to federal grants and loans each year – the vast majority of American college students. Filing the FAFSA is a big deal!

The biggest mistake you can make with federal aid is assuming you don’t qualify, so even if you don’t think you’ll be eligible, you should apply.

According to education advising site Edvisors.com, 2 million students who would have qualified for the Pell Grant in the 2011-12 school year missed out because they didn’t fill out a FAFSA.

Pell Grants do not have to be paid back.

Students can also take advantage of student loans at lower interest rates than those available from private lenders. Loans do require repayment; however, repayment is delayed until you graduate or in the event you drop below half-time enrollment.

More time to weigh options

The convenience of using the so-called “prior prior” year’s income and tax information also makes it easier for students to submit college applications before many scholarship deadlines that are frequently set in January and February. The scholarship application period for TCC’s Educational Foundation starts on Feb. 15 each year.

This more generous window of time will enable families to determine the true costs of going to college once financial aid is factored in.

Streamlined process

Students who file a renewal FAFSA will only need to update information that has changed from the prior year’s FAFSA, not income and tax information.

The online FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov allows students and parents (if applicable) to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to complete income and tax questions with data directly from IRS. According to the Department of Education, this has cut the filing time down to an average of about 20 minutes.

Once upon a time (not so long ago), filing for financial aid involved a 10-page workbook and poring over your family’s paper documents. Now, the FAFSA is far less of a headache than it used to be.

How to apply for financial aid

First, complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.ed.gov. TCC’s federal school code is 003712.

April 1 is TCC’s priority filing date. The award year includes the fall, spring, and summer terms each year. June 30 is the deadline each year to file the FAFSA for that aid year.

After filing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that provides you with the information you reported on your application. The SAR also gives you information on your eligibility for a Pell Grant and if any additional information is required to complete your FAFSA.

If you are interested in applying for a student loan, you will receive information on the Direct Loan application process in your financial aid award notification from TCC.

For more information, visit a TCC Financial Aid Office, go to www.tcc.edu/financialaid, or call the TCC Information Center at 757-822-1122.

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