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Financial Aid 101

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Narrator: With each new semester, there is so much to consider: New classes, assignments, paying for books, parking, maybe even taking an on-campus job. But do yourself a favor, always think ahead with an eye toward financial aid. Sure it requires some effort, BUT- Patricia Billings: Everyone should apply for financial aid. Financial aid is a wonderful opportunity for students in need of financial assistance to pursue their educational goals. So it's a great opportunity for everyone, and everyone should apply. Narrator: Meet Patricia Billings. She's the Financial Aid Director at South Seattle Community College. She will walk us through the process and cover every step. First let's touch on the MANY kinds of financial aid you may be qualified to receive. Patricia Billings: So there are many types of financial aid. Commonly, there's grant aid -- there are federal grants, state grants and institutional grants. But grant aid is usually aid that usually doesn't have to be paid back as long as you complete your classes. Then there are loans - so that's money that you borrow from the federal government that has to be repaid, and sometimes the interest is accrued while you're in school and sometimes it is not. And then there's Work Study - which is money that you can earn while you're going to school to help supplement the cost of your education. And also there are scholarships - which is funding that you can apply for separately, but sometimes is awarded out of the financial aid office - which is similar to grant aid. You're not expected to pay it back, but usually you have to go through a process to earn scholarship funding. Narrator: Now a look at some of the numerous forms and their funny names. With some explanation, you'll see it's really a very straightforward process. Patricia Billings: Financial aid can be perceived as very complicated. But the financial aid office can help simplify the process and explain all the acronyms that don't readily make sense to the general public, such as FAFSA--which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid which all schools use to determine a student's eligibility for financial aid. Narrator: And while the FAFSA is the first and most important form to fill out, there are other funny names that may apply to you. Patricia Billings: So there's SAP- Satisfactory Academic Progress. So that's the process the financial aid office uses to make sure that you're maintaining the proper grade point average and completing all the credits necessary for your program. There's also the verification worksheet, which verifies the income information that a student and his or her parents provide to document their income information and their family size. Narrator: And Patricia will tell you about another funny acronym that you will likely hear about. Patricia Billings: The Expected Family Contribution. So the EFC is determined by the federal formula when you complete the FAFSA application. And the EFC is...the number essentially means the amount that you are expected to contribute towards the cost of your education. And so that EFC is subtracted from the school's cost of attendance and that determines your 'Unmet Need' - which is the amount the school can award you in financial aid. Narrator: Let's talk for a moment about Filing Status. Are you considered a Dependent Student or an Independent Student? That status will affect which verification worksheet you choose. Students are considered independent for FAFSA if they are married, have children they support, are over the age of 24 or active duty in the military. There are some exceptions, so be sure to check with the Financial Aid office on this. If you are considered independent, you will not be required to submit parental information. If you are considered dependent, you will be required. These determinations, by the way, are separate from tax law. There are some other educational and tax related forms which may affect you. Patricia Billings: Students are required to submit a variety of documents beyond tax forms. Sometimes they're required to submit W-2 forms if the income information is inconsistent or they didn't file taxes. Usually, students are required to submit a high school diploma to verify that they've completed all their high school course work. Traditionally, they'll have to submit transcripts from other schools they've previously attended, depending on the school's academic Satisfactory Academic Progress standards. And also, they may be required to submit citizenship documents in case the Dept. of Homeland Security couldn't verify their current status with the U.S. government. Narrator: Declaring a program of study is also an important point in the process. Patricia Billings: Students must always declare a program of study with the financial aid office in order to receive financial aid funding. So if you're undecided, you always want to check back in with the financial office to know what you're planning to study at your school, to ensure that it's eligible for financial aid funding. Narrator: The Financial Aid office often sees students face difficulties if they decide to drop a class or maybe even change educational directions. As long as you communicate your intentions, you could be just fine-- just contact those in the know. Patricia Billings: Also, students sometime change their program of study without notifying the financial aid office. Usually, financial aid offices have guidelines when it comes to program of study and what you're allowed to study when you're on financial aid. Narrator: So now that you know about some of the forms and information required, you may have some other questions. And we've got the answers. Is it better to apply online or on paper? Patricia Billings: So when it comes to the financial aid application itself, the generic FAFSA, the Dept. of Education is encouraging everyone to apply online. What this form is, is a worksheet, so that you can transfer the information easily once you've completed it online. The Department of Education doesn't generally send the schools paper applications anymore. They are moving to an automated online process, because at least 90% of the applicants are applying online. So they're trying to save resources and redirect students to the online application. In terms of educational institutions, many of the two-year schools still have paper forms that you're required to submit; they cannot usually be submitted online or electronically. On the other hand, four-year universities sometimes have the option where you can submit your forms electronically. So you would always want to check in with the school that you are planning to attend. Narrator: The benefit of online versus paper is simple. If everything is completed accurately, and the student and parents have their PIN numbers to sign the application, then processing time is reduced by a couple of weeks. A PIN, or Personal Identification Number is a four-digit code, much like and ATM PIN, that verifies your identity by allowing you to provide an electronic signature, instead of submitting a form with a signature, by mail. A PIN is required for the student applying for aid, and - for dependent students - a PIN number is required for one of their parents. So, here are the websites you need to know about. Take a good look; write it down. If you should be directed to a different website beware if there's a request to pay money. That is not a part of the process. Applying for financial aid is always free. If you want to request your PIN in advance, it's easy. You'll find everything you need at this web site. Let's go over a few important tips: One. Always apply early. The application comes out on January 1st each year. The earlier you apply, the better your chances of receiving aid. Two. Make sure you read everything twice which ensures consistent information. Three. If you receive a form from the Financial Aid Office, respond as quickly as possible. Four. Only give COPIES of tax information. You keep the original. And save copies of all of the forms you use to complete your application. And Five. If your Financial Aid Office offers orientations, take advantage of the help. The final tip may be the most important. Take ownership of the process. Patricia Billings: So when a student applies for financial aid, students traditionally think that if they just submit documents, then they're done with the process. You always want to follow through and check in with the financial aid office to make sure that there's not clarifying questions that need to be addressed. If you have questions, make sure they get answered. When you're applying for financial aid, this is an opportunity for a student to receive funding to attend school. Narrator: Now, let's address some of the concerns you or your family may have about the process. First of all. Patricia Billings: When a student's applying for financial aid, usually a lot of delicate information will be requested from the student. The parents will also have to provide information if the student is considered dependent. Many times students and parents are fearful that this information will be shared with other government organizations. You can rest assured that information is not shared between the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security or other organizations. The information is strictly used to determine if the student is eligible for federal and state financial aid. In terms of providing information to a parent on a student's file, the school is strictly prohibited from doing that. So if a student would like their parent to access their information, the student must give the school written permission to allow the parent to receive information on the student's file. When a student applies for financial aid, the information is never given to anyone other than the student, unless the student provides written consent. That includes the student's parents, government organizations such as DSHS, or scholarship applications. Without the student's written permission, information will never be given to another person or organization without the student's written consent. Narrator: And make sure the tax information you provide meets certain guidelines. Patricia Billings: Another common mistake that students sometimes make is that the student and the parent claim the student on their tax return. While IRS and financial aid laws are different, if a student was claimed by both the parent and the student on their tax return, the financial aid office will require one of the tax returns to be amended before processing the financial aid application. Narrator: It's very important to make sure there's no conflicting information on the different forms. Patricia Billings: If there is conflicting information, your file immediately stops being reviewed and a request is sent to you to request additional information. Once you return that additional information to clear up the conflicting information, then your file will be reviewed after the students that have already had a completed file. So it stops the application process. So by all means, you want to make sure the information you're providing is consistent and accurate on all forms and documents. Narrator: If you're An eligible non-citizen or permanent U.S. resident, a couple of important facts could affect you. Patricia Billings: Some difficulties that students experience coming from another country is: documenting their citizenship status, providing income information if they just emigrated, or providing transcripts from schools previously attended. If a student comes from a war-torn country or a country in conflict, and that can be verified, a student would be waived from providing that documentation. Narrator: You may also be wondering if a scholarship would impact your ability to qualify for additional financial aid. The answer is actually quite simple. Patricia Billings: Well, it would be counted in the student's full financial aid package. So a student's financial aid can never exceed a student's unmet need or cost of attendance. So if a student receives a full financial aid package and they have no remaining unmet need, then the student wouldn't be eligible to receive scholarship aid, unless it could replace loans or Work Study. Narrator: What about a timeline? How long does the process take? Well, that can be weeks to months. But you can be a PART of that process. Patricia Billings: Students can usually check the status of their financial aid file online at the school they're applying to, or they can come into the financial aid office and inquire about the status of their financial aid file. Narrator: As we close our discussion on Financial Aid, keep in mind: Practice makes perfect. If this is your first time, You're likely to get a lot of practice. Applying for Financial Aid is a Transferable Skill. Patricia Billings: When a student applies for financial aid, the student should apply for financial aid each year he or she is hoping to receive aid. The student may begin the financial aid process in their freshman year, and the student would want to apply for financial aid the January of each year he or she is continuing on. So a student beginning in his or her freshman year would begin by applying for aid in January while they are in high school. Then, during their freshman year, they would apply for their sophomore year in January. So each year, the student is required to apply for financial aid. And you'll receive lots of practice, because you'll traditionally apply for financial aid for four years if you're going towards a four-year degree. Narrator: So we've covered a lot of ground and hopefully many of your questions have been answered. But if, after working with some of the forms, you have further questions- don't hesitate to contact the Financial Aid Office. They are there to help you!

Video Details

Duration: 15 minutes and 21 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: United States
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Producer: Seattle Community Colleges Television
Director: Seattle Community Colleges Television
Views: 42
Posted by: scctv on Nov 2, 2012

Learn about sources of funding to go to college, who is eligible and how to apply. Making Achievement Possible (MAP) Video Series: MAP is a college success video series designed to help students, potential students, and their families learn to navigate the college system and gain the skills necessary for academic success. MAP consists of sixteen short videos, each with curricular materials for instructional use. All videos were funded by a Department of Education/AANAPISI grant to South Seattle Community College. More information is available at

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