10 Reasons to fill out the FAFSA

Reasons to Completing the FAFSA

As the college application and financial aid season approaches, more families are concerned about how they will pay for their child’s education.  Most parents must realize that filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA could help their child’s admission chances.  In addition, it helps with the proper debt structure and resource utilization.

Most colleges have a process called enrollment management.  This business approach allows the colleges to fill the seats they want or prefer for the upcoming class, both from an academic and financial enrollment standpoint.  Yes, I did say business.  A family’s ability to pay the bill is an essential factor in the college’s enrollment management decision, which often needs to be explained to families.  This article will explain why this admission process will become even more critical in the coming years.

Some families question whether they should take the time to fill out the FAFSA.  Over the years, when talking to different families, they have shared reasons why they did not submit the FAFSA.  These reasons have ranged from the fear of a complicated and lengthy process to believing they are too wealthy to qualify for aid.  Submitting the FAFSA should be on the list for every family regardless of their financial state.

The Student Aid Index (SAI), formerly the Expected Family Contribution, is generated when a family completes the FAFSA.  This resulting number is vital to the financial aid process and packaging.  The colleges determine your financial need by subtracting the Cost of Attendance (COA) from your SAI.

A completed FAFSA shows the college that a family can pay the tuition and improves the proper debt structure for the student.   Student loan structure is becoming more critical in college affordability.  A better debt structure limits the parent’s liability and improves student loan repayment and forgiveness options.

PayForED is committed to providing student loan solutions to help families get answers to their college funding and student loan questions.  Listed below are our 10 reasons to fill out a FAFSA:

  1. Become Eligible for Direct Federal Loans

By completing the FAFSA, no matter a family’s financial strength, the student will qualify for a Direct Federal Student Loan.  The completed FAFSA requires the student or parent to be eligible for federal funds or loans.

Even if a high-income family does not qualify for the Direct Federal Subsidized Loans, submitting a FAFSA will make the student eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Federal Loan.  The proper debt structure is becoming more important since more careers require post-graduate education.

This plan should start in the first year of college.  In addition to better rates and lower fees, it allows for better asset utilization, especially if graduate school is needed.  Proper debt planning also limits the parent’s liability in future debt.

  1. Shows the College Your Ability to Pay

As stated above, when a family completes the FAFSA, the resulting calculation is the Student Aid Index or SAI.  With the SAI visible, colleges can better see if a family can pay for their college.  The SAI may help some students in the admission process.

Most people need to realize that college is a business and that colleges need various types of students to enroll in their targeted freshman classes.  One of the factors in the admission and financial aid packaging decision is the amount of revenue each student can pay.  The SAI is just an estimator of your family’s ability to pay.  It does not mean a family can pay or will pay that amount.

In my opinion, there are no need-blind colleges.  The admission offices put forward the best candidates for admission.  Based on the college’s admission goals for that year, the enrollment management group takes the admission recommendations and develops the award letters to match their revenue goals.  For higher-income families, this may help your child’s admission chances.

  1. Completing the Application Submission

By completing the FAFSA and application, the student tells the college they are waiting for a response.   If you do not submit the FAFSA, some colleges will wait until after their FAFSA deadline before they feel comfortable providing an award letter.

Depending on a family’s financial strength and the student’s college list, some schools require an additional financial submission.  This process is called the Independent Method, and the most common is the CSS Profile.  This form is optional to be completed for affluent families since it only helps with need-based financial aid.  The PayForED College Cost Analyzer helps families understand this difference by college.

  1. Personal Financial Changes

Financial changes can occur in a person’s life.  It could be the loss of a job, divorce, or even death.   If a family has a significant change in their finances, the first request of the financial aid office involves whether a family has submitted a FAFSA.  Since much of the loan and grant money is sourced from federal programs, the FAFSA form is the gateway to that funding source.  The colleges need the FAFSA form completed to comply with those rules.

Once they have the information, the college’s financial aid office can make changes.  These changes are called professional judgments.   With Prior Prior, a family’s initial submission may not show their current financial position.  If a change occurs, completing the FAFSA could accelerate and improve your chances of getting more financial aid through the appeal process.

  1. Helps Cash Flow

Cash flow is critical in business, and college funding is no different.  Understanding how the cost of attendance (COA) and your Student Aid Index or SAI work together over the college timeframe is essential to any family’s funding strategy.

A family needs to estimate the student’s financial package from the start of college through graduation.  By creating a four-year net cost of college, a family can better evaluate the funding shortfalls and improve the debt structure.   It also limits or reduces the debt related to the parents from a legal standpoint.

The Direct Federal Loan has both a lifetime and annual limit.  Annual loan limits are based on the academic progress of the student.  A family cannot reclaim a prior year’s unused limits, so it is crucial to understand and implement a cash flow plan as early as possible.

With the implementation of FAFSA Simplification starting in the school year 2024-25, many families will see significant changes to their award letters with these new calculation rules.  Families will require better planning as college costs continue to rise.

  1. Federal Loans for students do not require a co-signer

Both the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized federal loans are the legal responsibility of the student and not the parent.  This decision is crucial since it limits the parent’s loan liability.  It gives the student financial responsibility for this loan.

private loan, in most cases, requires a co-signer.  When a parent co-signs for a loan, they are indirectly responsible for the loan and repayment.  If their child should default or cannot repay the loan, the co-signer is responsible.

Parents often need to understand how college debt affects future borrowing.  Federal Parent PLUS loans are legally the parent’s loan, not the student’s, which many parents need help understanding.

Co-signing for any student loans will appear on a person’s credit report.  This decision affects an important ratio called your debt-to-income ratio.  If a parent needs to finance something in the future, private student loans could be added to their debt, making their debt-to-income ratio unfavorable.  This financial decision may result in either denial of the loan or a higher interest rate for future financing.

  1. Interest Rates

The current Direct Federal Loan has a fixed interest rate that changes every July 1.  The interest rate is a fixed rate for the life of each loan based on the year it is issued.  A new consolidated loan interest rate is created if a borrower consolidates the loans.  The new rate is the weighted average of the loan balance and the associated interest rate.  Federal loans do not get a new market-rate like private refinancing.

Families utilizing Direct Federal undergraduate loans first  allows the family to reserve resources for post-graduate studies.  The benefit of the undergraduate direct federal loan is the lower interest rate and fees compared to the Federal Grad Plus loans.  It is a great way to create an interest rate hedge on the higher interest rates and loan fees of financing post-graduate studies.

This debt structure improves the family’s asset utilization since 529 Plan Money can be used to pay off student loans under the SECURE Act.  This strategy increases a family’s flexibility to reduce grad school debt at better rates or pay off undergraduate debt.

  1. Repayment and Forgiveness Options

Creating the proper debt structure is vital since the loan type determines student loan repayment and forgiveness options.

Federal loans offer the most flexible repayment options.  As stated above, completing the FAFSA allows the student to qualify for federal loans from the beginning.

  1. Personal Financial Incentive Program

Parents often struggle to engage their children in the financial consequences of their college decisions.  It can be hard to explain why it is crucial to maintain a high GPA.  Some of our clients use the undergraduate loans as an incentive program.

Here is how they set it up.  The parent sets a graduation GPA based on their child’s academic ability.  If the student’s GPA exceeds the agreed GPA, the parent pays the loans off at graduation.  The student must repay the loans if the targeted GPA is not achieved.  As stated above, the student has the best repayment and forgiveness options.

To do this, a family must complete the FAFSA to qualify for Direct Federal Loans.  Direct Loans are a great way to keep the student engaged in the process for some parents with the financial capabilities to pay for college fully.

  1. Establishing Credit

We often hear that educational debt is good debt.  Students can establish good credit by making better financial decisions and having manageable debt at graduation.  College is an investment in a person’s future.  Repaying their student loan debt allows young adults to establish their own credit and credit scores.

Summary of 10 Reasons to Fill Out the FAFSA

As college costs continue to rise and more families need to finance college, having the correct debt structure will become necessary for both the student and parents.

The reasons above help families improve their admission chances and, at the same time, their financial future.  Paying for college is a series of often understated and confusing decisions.  The PayForED suite of solutions helps students and parents navigate these decisions as they go from a child to a productive adult.

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