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Need a new year’s resolution? Financial Aid encourages students to fill out FAFSA forms

January 3, 2012

Photo of moneyLast year, 8,101 NIU undergraduate students received need-based financial aid in the form of state, federal and institutional grants.

However, hundreds of 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.

For this new year, the NIU Office of Student Financial Aid recommends getting an early start on the college financial aid process with early FAFSA completion. NIU’s priority 2012-2013 FAFSA application date is Thursday, March 1.

The U.S. Department of Education began accepting FAFSA forms Jan. 1 for the 2012-13 school year. The FAFSA is available online or in paper form, and in Spanish.

“Attending college and receiving a degree is a great investment for your future, but many families need financial assistance,” says Inali Saghu, associate director of NIU’s Office of Student Financial Aid. “Current and prospective students can get help by visiting our website, by speaking with a counselor in person or by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-892-3050.”

By completing a FAFSA, students could be eligible for more than $10,000 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 (which also require FAFSA submission), while state aid includes Illinois’ $400 million Monetary Award Program (MAP).

Additionally, students can be eligible for additional institutional aid in the form of grants and merit scholarships.

In the fall of 2011, nearly 1,700 new students enrolled with an NIU merit-based scholarship – an increase of 35 percent from the year prior.

“As part of our Vision 2020 initiative, we have a goal of increasing the amount of merit-based scholarships offered to incoming and current students to $10 million a year,” says Anne Hardy, director of NIU’s Scholarship Office. “However, to be considered for a scholarship, students should apply to NIU and be admitted by Jan. 15, 2012.”

“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,” Saghu adds. “So make a resolution that’s easy to keep and could pay huge dividends: Complete your FAFSA early.”