All about Student Financial Aid
College Financial Aid Frequently Asked Questions
Who can assist me with any FAFSA questions I might have?
You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) with questions about the FAFSA on the Web or paper application process or about federal student financial aid in general. In addition, FAFSA on the Web filers can get help at www.fafsa.ed.gov/faq001.htm.
Why does the Department of Education ask for income information from the year before I go to school?
Studies have consistently shown that verifiable income tax information from the base year (2006 for the 2007-08 award year) is more accurate than projected (2007) information when determining family financial strength in calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
What should I (the student) do if my family has special circumstances that aren't mentioned in the application?
If you or your family has unusual circumstances (such as loss of employment, loss of benefits, death, or divorce), complete the FAFSA to the extent that you can and submit it as instructed. Then talk to the financial aid administrator (FAA) at the school you plan to attend. If your family's circumstances have changed from the base year (2006), the FAA may decide on a case-by-case basis to adjust data elements used to calculate your EFC. Any adjustment the FAA makes must relate only to your individual circumstances, and not to any conditions that exist for a whole class of students. The FAA's decision is final, and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.
I'm not sure if I want to take out a student loan or work during the school year. What should I enter for the questions asking if I am interested in student loans or work-study?
Some schools use the answers about loans and work-study on the FAFSA to construct a financial aid package for you. Answering "Yes" to being interested in either or both types of aid does not obligate you to take out a loan or accept a work-study position. It usually just means that the school will consider offering you a loan(s) or work-study as part of your aid package. If you do indicate on the application that you are interested in either or both loans and work-study, you can change your mind and not accept the loan(s) or work-study later. Keep in mind that if you answer "No" to the work-study when you applyâ€”and subsequently change your mindâ€”a work-study job may not be available if all of the work-study funds at the school have been awarded to other students.
If I live with an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, should that relative's income be reported instead of parental information?
Only if the relative is your adoptive parent. Dependent students can be considered dependent only on their parents and must report only parental information on the FAFSA. You must report (in Worksheet B) any cash support given by relatives, but not in-kind support (such as food and housing) from relatives.
What if I live with a girlfriend or boyfriend who pays the rent?
You should not report any information for a friend or roommate unless the two of you are actually married or are considered to have a common-law marriage under state law. You must report (in Worksheet B) any cash support given by the friend as untaxed income but should not report in-kind support (such as food and housing). You would have to report as untaxed income on Worksheet B the rent the roommate paid on your behalf.
When is student aid considered income?
Generally, grants and scholarships that do not exceed tuition, fees, books, and required supplies are not considered to be taxed or untaxed income. If you have an ROTC scholarship, a private scholarship, or any other kind of grant or scholarship, that grant or scholarship will be considered as an available resource by the financial aid office when packaging aid.
You should report grants and scholarships you reported on your tax return. You should then report these items as exclusions from income on Worksheet C.
What's the difference between cash support and in-kind support?
Cash support is support given either in the form of money or money that is paid on your (the student's) behalf. You must report cash support as untaxed income. Thus, if a friend or relative gives you grocery money, it must be reported as untaxed income on Worksheet B. If the friend or relative pays your electric bill or part of your rent, you must also report those payments.
Examples of in-kind support are free food or housing that a family receives, usually in exchange for work or services. You usually don't report such support.
However, the application does require you to report the value of housing a family receives as compensation for a job on Worksheet B. The most common example is free housing or a housing allowance provided to military personnel or members of the clergy, which is required to be reported on Worksheet B.
I am now a U.S. citizen but have an Alien Registration Number (A-Number). How do I indicate this on the application?
Indicate that you are a U.S. citizen; do not provide your A-Number.
I'm going to get married this summer. How do I answer the question that asks if I am married?
Answer "Yes" to Question 50 if you are married on the day you complete and sign the FAFSA. Otherwise, answer "No." The FAFSA is a snapshot of your status the day it is completed and signed; it does not forecast changes such as marriage. If you indicate on Question 50 of the FAFSA that you are single by answering "No" and then marry after you originally file, you cannot change your answer to Question 50. When you apply in a subsequent year and remain married, you will file as a married student.
If I'm an emancipated minor, am I now independent?
The status of emancipated minor is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for financial aid purposes; such a student must meet one of the other listed criteria in Questions 48-55 to meet the definition of an independent student.
If I am in the National Guard and was called to active duty or am an active duty military member, am I considered a veteran for purposes of filling out the FAFSA?
If you were a member of the National Guard called to active duty for purposes other than training or were a Reservist called to active duty for purposes other than training and were released under a condition other than dishonorable, you are considered a veteran for FAFSA purposes.
If I am currently serving in the National Guard or as a Reserves enlistee and am called to active duty, am I considered an independent student for purposes of completing the FAFSA?
If you are currently serving in the National Guard or as a Reserves enlistee and are called to active duty for other than state or training purposes, you would answer "Yes" to Question 54 and would then be considered an independent student.
I'll be filing a tax return this year but I probably won't get around to it until April. How should I answer the financial questions? Should I wait to fill out this form until after I've filed my tax return?
Ideally, you should complete a FAFSA after you've done your tax return, but don't wait until April. Many colleges award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, you may not be eligible for state aid if you wait until April to submit your FAFSA. Many state aid deadlines are early in the calendar year (calendar year 2007 for the 2007-08 award year). If you haven't submitted your tax return, you should calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI) and taxes paid using the instructions for IRS Form 1040. You can get the instructions and the form at a public library or download them in Portable Document Format (PDF) from www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html.
Keep in mind that if you submit your application before you complete a tax return, you may need to make corrections later if your income or tax information isn't accurate. You will also need to return any federal student aid you received based upon incorrect information.
You might have to provide your college with a copy of your completed tax return (assuming you're required to file one) before you receive federal student aid.
If my parents are divorced, whose information do I need?
Report the information of the parent with whom you lived the most during the 12 months preceding the date you completed the FAFSA. It does not make a difference which parent claims you as a dependent for tax purposes. If you did not live with either parent or lived equally with each parent, the parental information must be provided for the parent from whom you received the most financial support during the preceding 12 months or the parent from whom you received the most support the last time support was given.
I am entering financial information for my mother and stepfather on the FAFSA. Should I give my father's Social Security number (SSN) and last name, or my stepfather's?
You should provide the SSN and last name of the same person or people for whom you are reporting financial information. In this case, provide the SSNs and names of your mother and stepfather.
What should I do if my parent with whom I live is remarried and my stepparent refuses to supply information?
If you are a dependent student and your parent is remarried, the stepparent's information must be included or you will not be considered for federal student financial aid. If you believe that your situation is unique or unusual other than the stepparent's simple refusal to provide the requested information, you should discuss the matter further with your financial aid administrator.
How does a family decide who should be counted in the household size?
Anyone in the immediate family who receives more than 50% support from a dependent student's parents or an independent student and spouse may be counted in the household size even if that person does not reside in the house. For example, a sibling who is over 24 but still receives the majority of his/her support from the parents can be included. Siblings who are dependent (as defined by the FAFSA) as of the date you apply for aid are also included, regardless of whether they receive more than 50% of their support from the parents. Any other person who resides in the household and receives more than 50% support from the parents may also be counted, as long as they will continue to reside with your parents and the support is expected to continue through June 30, 2008. An unborn child who will be born during the 2007-08 award year may also be counted in the household size.
Household size and tax exemptions are not necessarily the same. Exemptions look at the previous year or tax year and household size refers to the school year for which the student is applying for aid.
My parents separated four months ago. I live with my mother. My parents filed a joint tax return and claimed me as an exemption. Do I report both their incomes, or just my mother's?
Report only your mother's income and asset information because you lived with her the most during the past 12 months. Use a W-2 Form or other record(s) to determine her share of the income reported and taxes paid on the tax return.
If I (the student) am separated but filed a joint tax return, how is the information reported?
You should give only your portion of the exemptions, income, and taxes paid.
Who qualifies to be counted in the number in college?
Any person (other than your parents) who is counted in the household and will be attending any term of the academic year at least half time qualifies to be counted. The person must be working toward a degree or certificate leading to a recognized education credential at a postsecondary school eligible to participate in the federal student aid programs. You (the student) need not be enrolled half time to be counted in the number in college.
When does my school have to receive the results from my application?
Your school must have your information by your last day of enrollment in 2007-08, or by September 15, 2008, whichever is earlier. If your school has not received your application information electronically, you must submit your paper SAR to the school by the deadline. But do not wait until the deadline date so you have plenty of time to submit your information and make any necessary corrections. Either the electronic record, the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR), or the paper SAR that has been processed by the Department must have an official EFC. Once the school receives your information, it will use your EFC to determine the amount of your federal grant, loan, or work-study award, if you are eligible. The FAA will send you a financial aid award letter explaining the aid the school is offering.
What if I don't get a Student Aid Report (SAR) Acknowledgement or SAR, or I need another copy of that form?
If you do not receive your SAR Acknowledgement or SAR within two-to-three weeks after submitting your application, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). If you have a touch-tone phone, you can use the automated system to find out whether your application has been processed or to request duplicate copies of your report. You will need to provide your Social Security number and the first two letters of your last name. You can also check the status of your FAFSA and print a copy of your SAR at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
If you apply using FAFSA on the Web, you will receive a confirmation page with a confirmation number after you select "Submit My FAFSA Now." This confirmation guarantees that your application has been received by the U.S. Department of Education, and the confirmation number can be used by the Federal Student Aid Information Center to track your application if necessary. For more information on the SAR and SAR Acknowledgement, see "The Application Process."
What if I think somebody is misusing federal student aid funds?
If you have reason to suspect fraud, waste, or abuse involving federal student aid funds, you should call the U.S. Department of Education's Inspector General's toll-free hotline at:1-800-MIS-USED (1-800-647-8733)