Bernadette Russoniello

By Bernadette Russoniello

Are you applying for post-secondary education and need Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? The process is easier than ever.

 First, visit FAFSA.gov. You must create your FSA ID. You will need to have your Social Security number (SSN), full legal name, birthdate, current address and a personal email address. It is imperative students do not use their school Gmail address as it cannot receive responses from outside the organization. The process takes 5-10 minutes. A parent must create an FSA ID for themselves to electronically sign the FAFSA.

Once you have your FSA ID, create a new application. The FAFSA application opens Oct. 1 for the 2019-20 school year. You will need your parents’ SSNs and 2017 federal tax return. The best part about the online system is that when you enter your parents’ SSNs, the FAFSA automatically links to the IRS database and imports all financial information.

Complicated family situation? For the FAFSA, the “parent” is the legal guardian, biological or adoptive. If a student is living with an alternate family member or friend, information must still be reported for the parent. If parents are divorced, the student should report the parent who either they live with most or provides the most financial support. A stepparent income must also be reported.

Even more complicated? The financial aid offices of your applicant schools will work with you to help sort out the complexities of these situations. Unfortunately, for the federal government all students are considered financial dependents of their parents until the age of 24, regardless of living arrangements and reality.

What if my parent(s) are not legal residents? As long as you are a U.S. citizen, you can qualify for FAFSA. If your parents do not have an SSN, enter all zeros for the SSN.

Parents: How can you help? File your taxes on time so your child can be eligible for maximum support.

Be prepared with your applicant schools. On the FAFSA application, you can share your financial information electronically with up to 10 schools. You want to be intentional and purposeful in this selection. Once you confirm the schools have received your info, you can change your submission to 10 other schools. However, it can take the receiving institutions up to eight weeks to process your data, so be sure to prioritize.

The anticipated aid amount for the federal Pell Grant is $6,095. Federal grants can be used for community college, trade schools and universities, public or private. Grants are renewable up to four years if you pass all your classes and maintain full-time enrollment.

Once you submit your application, you will immediately receive an email from the Department of Education. This email is not a congratulations on completing the form; it is the confirmation letter with your anticipated aid. The letter will include your expected family contribution (EFC) and your anticipated aid. The EFC indicates the amount of money you are expected to contribute toward your college education.

Maricopa High School will host a community Financial Aid night Oct. 22 for families struggling with the process or wanting additional support.

Bernadette Russoniello is the Career and College coordinator at Maricopa High School. She can be reached at BRussoniello@MUSD20.org.


This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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