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The F Stands for Free

by Brooke Buchanan

Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, allows students to get college education often at a reduced price, due to the scholarships and grants offered from filling out tax information.

Students are now eligible to fill out the FAFSA beginning October 1, rather than January 1.

“This gives students an additional, three months to apply for financial aid (while they’re in school thinking about it, not while they’re on winter break from school),” Heather Skidmore, Director of Student Financial Assistance said. “I think this a positive change for students.”

“The decision to start filing the FAFSA earlier was made by The U.S. Department of Education in cooperation with government officials,” Skidmore said. Skidmore continued by saying, “FAFSA is using two-year old tax information instead of one-year old information. The goal with this change was for students and families to fill out the FAFSA with information that they actually had rather than estimating information about tax returns that were not even required to be filed yet.”

By changing the date from January 1 to October 1, students no longer have to estimate their tax information needed to complete the FAFSA.

“Sometimes that is not a problem, but sometimes it makes the application hard to complete, and can result in dramatic changes to financial aid awards that students depend on to attend college,” Skidmore said.

With this change, both students and their parents are benefiting.

“Students/parents are using the tax return that has already been filed, and they can also apply earlier so that they can pre-qualify for as many grants and scholarships as possible,” she said.

Second year student Nina Agiga believes this is a positive change.

“It benefits students if they fill it out as soon as possible,” Agiga said. “When classes start, students can know their tuition is covered and they can get their books without worrying about having to pay out of pocket.”

Although, FAFSA is eligible to be filled out earlier, it still needs to be completed and filed by March 1.

“WVU at Parkersburg students also need to pay special attention to our school’s deadlines. These are always posted online at months in advance,” Skidmore said.

The Pell Grant, as well as students loans, have no specific deadline, however, it is important to apply for financial aid as early as possible so everything is ready when school begins. Students wishing to apply for the WV Higher Education Grant need to have their FAFSA completed by April 15.

“Filling out the FAFSA is important,” Skidmore said. “The earlier you apply, the more possibility that you will gain access to additional grants and scholarships. The first “F” in FAFSA stands for FREE, so even if a student is not sure if they’re going to be attending next year or not, we always advise that they fill it out anyway.”

After filling out the FAFSA, for students planning to attend WVU Parkersburg, monitor your WVU Parkersburg account.

“That’s how the administrative offices (Financial Aid, Admissions, Business Office, etc.) communicate with you, and that is how we let you know if we need paperwork from you before we can process your financial aid award,” Skidmore said.

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