New year’s resolution: complete FAFSA early

FAFSA-Student-LoansIn the 2012-13 academic year, 71 percent of fulltime undergraduate students at Northern Illinois University received need-based financial aid from state, federal and university sources.

However, thousands of eligible Illinois college students missed out on state financial aid by not completing the required Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) soon enough.

The NIU Student Financial Aid Office recommends getting an early start on the college financial aid process with early FAFSA completion, as the U.S. Department of Education began accepting FAFSA forms for the 2014-15 school year on Jan. 1. The FAFSA is available online at www.fafsa.gov  or in paper form and in Spanish. NIU’s school code is 001737.

“Besides your application for admission to NIU, the FAFSA is the single-most important item to complete to prepare for the upcoming academic year,” said Rebecca Babel, Director of Student Financial Aid. “Since some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it is imperative to submit the FAFSA in January or early February.  If possible use information from a completed 2013 tax return; if not, you can estimate the information and update it once the return is completed.”

By completing a FAFSA, students could be eligible for more than $ 13,000 in federal and state financial aid, depending on the financial circumstances of the applicant. Federal aid can come in the form of Pell grants and federal student loans.   State aid includes Illinois’ Monetary Award Program (MAP).

Additionally, students may be eligible for additional institutional aid from NIU in the form of grants and merit scholarships.  The FAFSA is also required to borrow non-need based student loan funds.

“Filling out the FAFSA is the essential first step in receiving college financial aid, and it determines eligibility for grants, scholarships, loans and work-study programs,” added Babel. “So take the time to complete your FAFSA early; it could pay huge dividends.”

Current and prospective students can get help completing the FAFSA by visiting the NIU Student Financial Aid Office website at www.niu.edu/fa or by speaking with a counselor by calling toll-free 1-800-892-3050. Additionally, they will assist families in completing the FAFSA between 8:30 and 4:00 any weekday.

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