Student Financial Aid : A Solution to Higher Education When Chosen Wisely

Receiving student financial aid is an important solution to problems faced by prospective college or university students. Yet more often than not, student loans also pose as additional stressors once financially indebted students actually enter life on campus. While they go through feelings of desolation by being away from home and family, students are also faced with difficulties in coping with new situations and with different kinds of people, and most of all, with tougher academic requirements.

Dr. Victor Schwartz of The Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization formed to provide protection and emotional health support to adolescents and young adults, opines that financial struggles affect different aspects of a student’s life on campus. Simple things such as food availability and housing security may be provided with solutions by taking on multiple jobs. As they struggle to balance those with academics, they are not getting enough rest or sleep. All of which leads to physical stress and mental anxiety.

Currently, several Democratic presidential candidates are promising education reforms regarding free college tuition, and of eliminating student debts altogether. In the meantime, since they are still political promises that may or may not be fulfilled, university and college students have to face the reality that their struggles continue.

Students Likely to be Hit with Mental Health Problems

Apparently, students coming from low income families who view college education as a way of improving their status in life are the most affected. Although student financial loans give them a chance to fulfill their aspirations, visions about a better future becomes blurred once the toll of financial and academic struggles affect their mental well being. After all, how they fare with their higher learning will affect their chances of landing higher-paying jobs once they complete their college education.

Often times, students who rely on a combination of academic scholarships and student loans become vulnerable to feelings of anxiety and depression. Not a few are aware that they are already experiencing mental health problems that require professional counselling. As they try to cope with both academic and financial struggles on their own, their anxiety about the future worsens, making them doubt altogether whether or not the future will be worth all the trouble they are currently going through.

Choosing the Right Educational Institution by Looking Into Those that Provide Sufficient and Proper Student Support Services

The Jed Foundation recommends that one way of alleviating and avoiding anxiety over student financial aid loans, is to choose from educational institutions wisely. The foundation forewarns that for-profit colleges are likely to have fewer mental health services to offer as support, when compared to private schools or colleges that are part of a large system that receives funding support.

Still, such may not always be the case. University Primetime, a popular source of higher education news gathered statistical data in analyzing the rising rates of depression in campuses. Based on their statistical analysis and survey, college news website released a list of educational institutions in which cases of depression among students are high.

The published list named the University of California, Berkeley, New York University, Cornell University, Duke University and the Pennsylvania State University, as the top five higher education institutions in which mental health issues are becoming prevalent. A problem that most universities and colleges must address by improving the mental health services made available to students.

FAFSA4caster : Estimating Your Financial Aid Need and Eligibility

The FAFSA4caster is an online tool that high school students can use when anticipating their need for financial assistance upon entering college.

It is an online calculator provided by the Federal Student Aid Office to students such as those in junior or mid school level, and to parents who are not sure if they have the means to send their child to college. The FAFSA4caster is the next best tool to use to get a close enough estimate of a student’s eligibility for financial aid.

Knowing that the government calculates financial need by deducting the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the Cost of Attendance (COA) is a good start. However, having a near accurate estimation of the inputs to use for the formula, is better than making a wild guesstimate. Through the FAFSA4caster tool, an anticipating high school student or parent can obtain better estimates of the COA and EFC.

How does the FAFSA4caster Work?

The FAFSA4caster displays a worksheet that must be filled with the Cost of Attendance (COA), such as tuition fees, other educational expenses and living costs of the student’s chosen school. To get the information you need, go to the College Scorecard page of the U.S. DepEd.

A household’s potential financial contribution, on the other hand, can be estimated by providing answers to the FAFSA4caster questionnaire that determines financial capability of a potential college student. Here, it is important that all questions will be given answers even if based on near-enough guesses or estimates. Be ready with some personal records as some questions need answers based on personal documents such as bank statements or federal tax returns.

After which, the tool will display several sources of college funds, whilst indicating eligibility for federal financial aid like Pell Grant, Direct Subsidized or Direct Unsubsidized Loan, or Federal Work-Study program. If there are any state aid or college financial assistance that a student or parent considers as potential source of college funding, fill in the appropriate worksheet fields with the amounts.

Hitting the “Calculate” button will summarize the total anticipated College Attendance Cost, and the total potential financial aid. The resulting difference between those 2 sums will be Net Cost of Attending College. The Worksheet will also generate the Expected Family Contribution.

Since the goal is to determine a student’s financial need, apply the amounts generated by the FAFSA4caster as Total Cost of Attendance (COA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for the government formula: COA – EFC = Student’s Financial Aid Need.

Know the Basic Eligibility Criteria When Applying for a US Dep Ed Financial Student Aid via FAFSA

When making plans to apply for federal student aid, the first thing to learn about is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or better known as FAFSA. This is a free form provided online by the U.S. Department of Education, which administers the different types of federal student aid offered by the government.

Create an FSA ID to Access the FAFSA

An applicant must first register with the Federal Student Aid (FSA) U.S DepEd website to create a password-protected user account. The FSA ID serves as a single signing-in identification when accessing the FAFSA document and other financial aid pages of the U.S. DepEd customer-facing website. Once an FSA ID account has been created, an applicant can now access and fill up the FAFSA form.

Basic Eligibility Requirements to Qualify for Financial Student Aid

In evaluating a FAFSA, the FSA US DepEd will look into the following information to determine if an applicant is eligible to receive Financial Student Aid.

Financial Need

A demonstration of financial need is necessary, when applying for a Direct Subsidized Loan that provides financial assistance to undergraduate students seeking to enroll in a college or career institution. Here, a student must specify the significant reason why his or her family cannot afford to pay for college or career education. Examples of reason include loss of a parent, or loss of employment either by the student or by the breadwinner of the family.

To further demonstrate one’s financial incapacity, statements must include descriptions of the student’s job or of a parent’s employment, about schooling of other siblings, and discussion of any unexpected expenses of the family. All of which will make clear the direct impact of the cost of higher learning on the family’s overall income. Take note not to make false statements because any that has been verified as falsehood is punishable.

U.S. Citizenship or Eligibility as Non-Citizen Residing in the U.S.

A birth certificate showing that the applicant is a natural born U.S. citizen suffices as proof of U.S. citizenship.

On the other, a non-citizen may be documented by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS, by way of a “green card” such as a Resident Card, Resident Alien Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card. Other non-citizen types like refugees, asylum seekers or other legally recognized entrants will have either an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94), or a T-Visa, and a certification letter issued to them by the USCIS as proof of approved entry.

Other Basic Requirements

* Valid Social Security Card/Number (not applicable to nationals of Marshall Islands, Micronesia, or Palau).

* High school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate;

* Male applicants aged 18 to 25 must be registered with Selective Service;

* Has enrolled or already accepted as enrollee for an eligible degree or certificate program and must be enrolled at least half-time as a regular student.

* Has maintained satisfactory academic performance in college or career institute.

* Must be able to certify the portion of the FAFSA stating that he or she (student) is not in default of any federal student loan or has no financial obligation under the federal student grant.

Needless to say, inability to satisfy or complete any of the basic eligibility requirements stalls the processing of an application for financial student aid at the very onset.