Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fafsa Form May Be Frustrating, but the Results Can Be Fruitful

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fafsa Form May Be Frustrating, but the Results Can Be Fruitful

Article excerpt

With the average cost of higher education calculated by the College Board at $32,405 at private colleges and $9,410 for in- state residents at public colleges, financial aid is likely on the mind of most families with college-ready students.

The single-most-important step families can take to access financial aid from state and federal sources, colleges and universities, and private organizations is to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The electronic form can be found at www.fasfa.ed.gov.

The process can be tedious but there is help available, including financial aid sessions sponsored by school districts, PHEAA and colleges, and online resources available by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency at www.pheaa.org, including an online tutorial.

"The important thing is to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible and be keenly aware of deadlines," said PHEAA spokesman Keith New.

In Pennsylvania, the deadline for state aid is May 1 and each college has its own deadline for filing, many earlier than the state's deadline. First-time applicants for Pennsylvania state grants also have to complete a state grant form, which can be found via a link on the confirmation page of the online FAFSA application.

The deadline for applying for federal student aid for the 2016- 17 school year is June 30, 2017. However, if a student wants the funds for the fall of 2016, applications should be made as soon as possible.

Financial aid is based on family income and information from federal income tax returns must be included. However, deadlines often require the FAFSA to be filed before income tax is filed, said Tara Leja, chair of the Mt. Lebanon High School counseling department.

As a result, students and parents should provide a best estimate of annual income that will later be adjusted to the income listed on federal tax forms. …

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