January is the month to submit financial aid forms, both the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile. Parents who think they will not qualify sometimes ask, “Should we apply?” The answer is always yes.
1. Non-Need Based Federal Loans
Direct Loans (sometimes called Stafford Loans) are available to all students regardless of need. Freshmen may take out loans up to $5,500; sophomores up to $6,500; and juniors and seniors up to $7,500. These loans are not need-based, but they do require families to submit the FAFSA. One good explanation of this is at the U.S. Department of Education’s webpage, “Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans.”
2. Variations in Costs of Attendance
Perhaps you have been planning for your student to attend a nearby public college, and you are familiar with those costs. If your student decides to attend a private college in another part of the country, the costs will increase. At a minimum, additional travel expenses are part of need calculations. As the cost of attendance increases, so too will your likelihood of receiving some kind of assistance. See the Department of Education’s “Understanding College Costs” for more information.
3. Some non-need based financial aid awards still require that the family submit the FAFSA. This varies school by school, and the information by school is typically not available on college websites.
Photo: University of San Diego, "USD Institute for Peace and Justice, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice," courtesy john farrell macdonald, April 5, 2014, FlickrCC