Parents learn to unlock college financial aid

by Bob Gaetjens | editor Published:

Streetsboro -- Almost any student planning to attend college is probably eligible for some form of financial aid, according Joe Huber, a career and scholarship specialist at the high school.

But it requires time and perseverance.

The first thing high school students need to do is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, he said.

"Without the FAFSA, you're not going to get financial aid," he said. "That's the first thing you have to do."

Much time was spent on the finer points of filling out that form Nov. 21 during a seminar for parents and students interested in learning more about college financial aid.

Jim Distel, a financial aid planner at Mount Union College, walked about 15 to 20 attendees through the basics of the FAFSA and finding financial aid in its various forms.

The amount of aid students can receive depends on their family's ability to pay for college.

"I think there is a point that will come up when they say you can pay for everything," said Huber, but even then students can still receive academic and athletic scholarships. "Good grades are the starting point, then you have to have extra-curricular activities, community service, and now they're looking at leadership [experience]."

Distel said no males who are 18 or older are eligible for financial aid unless they've registered for the Selective Service.

According to a federal government flier on the program, there are several items needed to correctly fill out the FAFSA:

• The student's Social Security number and the parents' Social Security numbers if they help pay for college;

• The student's driver's license;

• The student's Alien Registration number if he's not a U.S. citizen;

• Federal tax returns for the student, parents and spouse (if applicable).

• Records of any untaxed income, such as Social Security benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, veterans benefits for the student and family members.

Distel said filing online enables applicants to fill in tax information automatically by using the IRS Data Retrieval tool, which authenticates the student's identity and provides real-time data in a fresh window on the computer.

"If you use the IRS Data Retrieval took, it eliminates lots of questions," said Distel.

Distel said changes can be made to FAFSAs which are filed online, and colleges often will consider a change in circumstances after the form is filed.

"One of the things most financial aid officers have the ability to do is a special circumstances appeal," so if a students parents are divorced; if one loses a job or goes on disability, colleges can amend their view of the what families can afford.

Distel said there are a variety of merit-based and need-based scholarships available to students.

Merit-based scholarships include things like grants, academic and athletic scholarships and other "talent awards," according to Distel's presentation. Need-based aid includes federal Pell grants, the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Ohio College Opportunity Grants, federal work study grants, federal Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans and Direct Plus loans.

In addition, Huber said there are many local scholarships available, which are usually presented in person by Streetsboro area organizations in May.

Huber said he advises students compete for local scholarships rather than national scholarships because the pool of applicants is smaller for the local scholarships.

For more information about FAFSA, visit www.FAFSA.ed.gov.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

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