As the college application and financial aid season approach, more families are concerned about how they will pay for their child’s education. Most parents do not realize that if they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, it 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 enrollment management decision, which is often not explained to families. This admission process will become even more critical in the coming years due to some demographic changes the colleges will face.
Some families may 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. I feel that submitting the FAFSA should be on the list for every family regardless of their financial state.
The EFC or 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 EFC. The completed FAFSA shows the college a family can pay and allows for proper debt structure. Student loan decisions are becoming more critical in college affordability. A better debt structure limits the parent’s liability and improves student loan repayment and forgiveness options.
1. Become Eligible for Direct Federal Loans
By completing the FAFSA, no matter what a family’s financial strength, the student will qualify for the Direct Federal Student Loan. The completed FAFSA is required for the student or parent to qualify for any federal funds or loans.
Even if a high-income family does not qualify for the Direct Federal Subsidized Loans, submitting a FAFSA will make you eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Federal Loan. The proper debt structure is becoming more important since more careers require post-graduate education.
It should start in the first year since it will limit the parent’s liability in future debt.
2. Shows the College Your Ability to Pay
As stated above, when a family completes the FAFSA, the resulting calculation is the Expected Family Contribution or EFC. With the EFC number, colleges are better able to see if a family has the ability to pay for their college. The EFC may help some students in the admission process.
Most people do not realize that college is a business and that colleges need various types of students to enroll in their targeted freshman class. One of the factors in the admission and financial aid packaging decision is the amount of revenue each student can pay. The EFC 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.
3. Completing the Application Submission
By completing the FAFSA and application, the student is telling the college that he or she is 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 not required to be complete for affluent families since it only helps with need-based financial aid. The PayForED College Cost Analyzer helps families understand this difference by college.
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 the 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. Having the FAFSA completed could accelerate and improve your chances of getting more financial aid.
5. Helps Cash Flow
In business, cash flow is critical, and college funding is not different. Understanding how the cost of attendance (COA) and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) 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. It is also 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 school year 2024-25, many families will see significant changes to their award letters with these new calculation rules. Better planning will be required.
6. Federal Loans for the student do not require co-signer
Both the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized federal loans are the legal responsibility of the student and not the parent. This decision is important since it limits the parent’s loan liability. It gives the student financial responsibility for this loan.
A private loan, in most cases, requires a co-signer. When a parent co-signs for a loan, they are directly responsible for the loan and repayment. If their child should default or is unable to repay the loan, the co-signer is responsible.
Parents often do not understand how college debt affects future borrowing. Federal Parent PLUS loans are legally the parent’s loan and not the student’s, which many parents do not understand. Co-signing for these loans will appear on a person’s credit report. This 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.
7. Interest Rate
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. If the loan is consolidated, then the new consolidated loan interest rate will be a weighted average of the loan balance and the associated interest rate that is summed together.
Taking Direct undergraduate loans may allow a 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 high-interest rates and 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.
8. Repayment and Forgiveness Options
Students can better manage their cash flow and loan repayment by having more flexibility. 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.
9. 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. 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 who have the financial capabilities to pay for college in full.
Here is a possible suggestion. 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 loan. If the targeted GPA is not achieved, the student must repay the loans. The student also has the best repayment and forgiveness options. Direct federal loans are the legal responsibility of the student.
10. 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 this student loan debt allows young adults to establish their credit and credit score.
Summary 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 decisions that are often understated and confusing. The PayForED suite of solutions helps students and parents navigate these decisions as they go from a child to a productive adults.