JACKSONVILLE- You may have seen the Florida Prepaid College commercial where a little girl asks her father for school money. When he asks how much she needs, her voice suddenly morphs into a young women who's asking for a $2000 computer and $38,000 for college tuition.
See also: The FAFSA app
The ad hits home the high cost of a higher education. Annual costs range from $9000 for state colleges to more than $50000 for private universities. To receive financial aid the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA must be filled out by both dependent students and their parents as soon as possible.
"I want to be an eye doctor," says Jasmine Thompson, a junior at the University of North Florida. She received $4000 in financial aid this school year. Her father, Leslie, is filling out the FAFSA once again for next year. "The earlier your application goes in, the more funds are available from the school," he says.
Thompson knows the sooner he completes the FAFSA the better his chances that his daughter will receive funds from UNF. "We definitely say file early. Use last year's tax information. That will get your student in the best position as far as getting those early dollars that are very limited," says Anissa Agne, the Director of Student Financial Aid at UNF.
There are 130 questions on this year's FAFSA. Parents and dependent students will have to fill it out. So be sure to have social security numbers and all your tax information. The most challenging question for some may be net worth. Retirement assets like 401k's and IRA's are not included. Neither is your personal residence. Cash and taxable investment accounts are. And there's a reason they ask about parent's education. "Some institutions have institutional scholarships that are available to first generation students who neither parent has graduated," says Agne.
After you submit the form you get something called the EFC. Your Estimated Family Contribution. "I was surprised. They expect you to contribute a lot. Mine was around 13k," says Thompson. The EFC is subtracted from the college's total cost to give your "need" for financial aid. That need can be met by scholarships, grants, work study or loans
Think you make too much to receive financial aid? There's another reason to fill out the FAFSA. "In-state students need it for Bright Futures. It's now a requirement," says Agne.
Leslie Thompson will have two kids in college next year. A bigger expense, but at least one thing may go down. "By having two I'm expecting my EFC score to drop," he says.
Remember filling out the FAFSA is free...never pay for it. Just go to FAFSA dot gov. Plus, If you haven't filled out the FAFSA because you're still waiting to do your taxes, the FAFSA folks say you're better off completing the FAFSA now with last year's taxes and then updating the numbers
In addition College Goal Sunday is Sunday, February 12th at the FSCJ Advanced Technology Center downtown from 1-4pm. Families can get help completing the FAFSA by financial aid representatives.
First Coast News