By Dr. Frank Mussano with Dr. Robert Iosuse, authors of the book College Tuition: Four Decades of Financial Deception Filling out the free application for student financial aid known as the FAFSA is the most important step you can take to receive financial assistance for paying college expenses. It determines eligibility for all federal student aid, including scholarships, low-cost loans, grants, and work-study. Education Reform 1. What is the FAFSA income limit for awarding financial aid? There is no income cut-off for federal financial aid. Many factors are considered in the needs analysis formula in addition to income. The bottom line is that students should not assume they are not eligible for financial aid. 2. What is the best way to submit the FAFSA? The FAFSA can be completed via paper application or online, but the online application is recommended because it offers many advantages. The FAFSA must be resubmitted every academic year. 3. When is the best time to submit the FAFSA? After filing taxes? After Acceptance to College? Although tax information from the previous year is required to complete the form, FAFSA allows applicants to estimate information and correct it after taxes are finalized. It is best to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of the year the student plans to enter college. 4. What information is needed to fill out the FAFSA? Collect the necessary financial records prior to sitting down to fill out the FAFSA. You should have: • most recent year’s tax forms or end-of-year pay stubs, • w-2 forms and other records of money earned • records of the most recent untaxed income from agencies such as welfare, veteran benefits, Social Security, etc. • current bank statements and records of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investments • current mortgage information (FAFSA does not assess home equity or personal assets) • student’s driver’s license and social security number • at least one, and up to ten, federal school codes for colleges the student is interested in attending (available via the school’s financial aid offices) 5. How can assets in the FAFSA needs analysis formula be minimized? Under current federal financial aid formulas, all assets of the student are assessed at a 20% rate while parents are assessed at a maximum rate of 5.65%. 6. Is help available to fill out the FAFSA? You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center with questions about the online or paper FAFSA application process at 1-800-433-3243.