By Tamajai Dampeer, Staff Writer
As acceptance letters begin to fill the Class of 2020’s mailboxes, deadlines, ranging from college applications to financial aid programs such as Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), creep closer. The deadline for the latter is March 1.
FAFSA is a federal student aid program offered by the U.S. Department of Education, which every year, administrates the awarding of more than $120 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study awards to over 12 million college students. This financial aid covers expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and other school-related costs.
Filing the FAFSA form is also necessary to take out federal student loans, which have benefits typically not associated with private loans, such as fixed interest rates or more flexible repayment plans.
VDHS College Counselors Shannon Slade and Brittany Bradley promote FAFSA as a means to give hope to students who are working within a small tuition budget and to those who are trying to save a little extra money.
“Oftentimes, families with higher incomes think their child won’t qualify for need-based grants and decide not to bother with the form — this is a big mistake,” said Slade.
It is always best to fill out the application. After all, many states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for grants and merit aid awards beyond the federal level.
“I’ve seen so many students settle for schools that they themselves don’t even seem excited to go to due to expenses and it completely breaks my heart,” said Bradley. “With the help of financial aid programs like FAFSA, these students could have paid near the same price for their more ideal school.”
“I’m not sure how much I qualified for just yet, but I’m sure it’ll help my battle with sticker prices much easier,” said senior Bryce Hampton.
“Sticker prices,” which are marketed tuition prices of college institutions, often scare incoming freshman away from schools that otherwise they would be interested in attending.
“[My dream school] UC Davis, costs about 40 grand to live on-campus like I want to,” said senior Adrian Villagomez. Even for a resident, California universities can be extremely expensive.
When asked about the prospect of his application to University of California – Davis had FAFSA not existed, Villagomez stated, “If FAFSA had never been created, junior college would probably the route I could see myself more than likely taking; [it’s] not my first choice, but it’s not about where you get your education it’s about what you do with it.”