The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the form that every two- and four-year college uses to help gain assistance for student enrollment.
Although most state requests for financial aid have passed, the federal government requires that all college attendees seeking financial aid finish the FAFSA by June 30 of each year. Many college students find the federal form tough to negotiate through. Students such as Alyssa Marinaccio don’t even know how the form works.
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“I try to help my parents out with the information that they need, but in reality I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” Marinaccio said.
Despite being a graduating senior, Marinaccio admitted not really knowing the difference between FASFA and other types of loans.
“I don’t think it’s fair that they award you money based on your parents’ salaries. I got hardly any money from the federal government.”
But Marinaccio isn’t the only one who’s lost when it comes to the loan process, one that determines the holdings of a parents’ bank accounts, and other financial nomenclature.
Bridget Bernhard, another graduating senior said, “The whole process is messed up. They give you two months starting from Jan. 1 to March 1 to figure out your family’s financial need, which can totally change throughout the year.”
The State of New Hampshire ranks dead last in financial support for college students among all 50 states, according to a 2011 study by The Project on Student Debt. Conversely, New Hampshire ranks first in debt among graduating seniors.
Outrage among students has been minimal at best, and while the federal banks do allow for subsidized and un-subsidized loans to be taken out and paid back approximately six months after graduation or withdrawal from classes, students are awarded these loans through verification of the FAFSA. Keene State College demands all FAFSA forms be completed by March 1, to determine award notices for the following year.
Graduating seniors do not need to file a FAFSA, but the four-year process begins for many within their senior year of high school, determining their allotment for institutional and federal loans. Some seniors who plan on going to graduate school must complete another FAFSA, pending their acceptance and enrollment.
The most common award from FAFSA is the Stafford Loan, which helps many students afford books, housing, and their meal plans at school. Bernhard, an out-of-state student, receives the Stafford Loan to pay for tuition, while using other loans to pay for off-campus housing.
Mike Sumichrast, another out-of-state student said, “I don’t know how much I’ve got out in loans, I talk to my parents and we do what we have to do so I can finish school. We definitely take out a lot of loans though.”
Amanda Foskett, assistant director of Student Financial Services said she understands that both students and parents have many questions and issues with the FAFSA. “We’re obviously here to help,” Foskett said. “It’s really hard trying to figure the form out when you’re in high school and you and your parents haven’t done it before, but it gets a bit easier each year.”
Citing the numerous changes that can happen in the course of a year, Foskett said she believes that among other things, parental income factors most into the FAFSA award. “Keep in mind that everyone’s finances are different,” Foskett said. “Some people can fill it out faster than others and it all depends on a family’s assets.”
The FAFSA does more than just allow some students to take out money. The FAFSA can help determine whether or not Keene State College students can be awarded work study, allotment of federal and institutional loans, as well as grants and taxation on certain loans.
Foskett, who also said that the FAFSA can be “very sensitive,” said the cost of attendance can be very different among in and out-of-state students. Loans can be taken out from banks, although colleges can cover up to 100 percent of the cost of attendance, but the numbers are estimated. Foskett estimated that an out-of-state student can be expected to have $30,745 due to the college over a nine-month period, equal to one school year.
“From the USNH standpoint we want to make sure that the Board of Trustees isn’t giving out false numbers. Keep in mind that those numbers can fluctuate based on numerous things,” she said.
Cam King can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.