Ok, folks, let me start our new year together with a tremendously un-fun but necessary topic: finances and college tuition.
Each year around this time, most college students and their parents wait for W2 forms to come in the mail so they can file not only their taxes (ominous music here), but that form famous (or maybe infamous?) to all American college-goers and their guardians, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/).
So here’s how it usually goes from late January throughout February:
Jan 31st–Oh look, the W2s are here, guess it’s time to do those taxes!
February 14–Hey Kayla/Phil/Steven/Ashley ! Happy Valentine’s! Don’t forget we have to fill out your FAFSA soon! Just as soon as I finish the taxes…
Late February–Son of a buck! We haven’t done the FAFSA yet! February is such a short month! And the taxes!
March 1st (ish)–Taxes done. FAFSA filed. Audible sigh of relief. Time for a margarita.
It used to be that this time frame, while not ideal, because much state and federal aid is first-come, first served, would work OK for most families who met the priority filling deadline. Last spring though, all that changed. Last year, Kentucky, along with other states, ran out of funds for state-based grants (Kentucky rand out of funds sometime around early-mid February, actually, so the family in my formerly plausible scenario would have been up a creek, as they say). This means that several students who had previously been awarded those grants lost them if they didn’t file their FAFSAs super-early. For many students at various institutions, the loss was significant enough to force serious choices and changes about how they paid for their college education.
This year, many institutions and several states are encouraging students to file as soon as possible after January 1st. Just this morning, I checked out the “Deadlines” section of fafsa.gov, and looked at the deadlines for states where many BU students come from. Blurbs for Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois all greeted me with the same nerve-wracking message: File as soon as possible after January 1. Awards made until funds are depleted. (READ: When it’s gone, it’s gone). Wait! You’re thinking, I won’t have my tax forms! That’s OK. Your new motto for the FAFSA should be “Don’t wait, estimate!” Use last year’s tax info and what you already know to estimate your info for this year’s form. You can make amendments later if necessary.
Go here http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ to fill out your FAFSA and see deadlines for your state.
Go here http://www.bellarmine.edu/financialaid/ to get all the info you need about financial aid at BU.
Go here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6P2Lf2AB0M to see a (short and SO HELPFUL) video from Heather Boutell, BU’s Director of Financial Aid.
Now stop reading and go file your FAFSA!
Jessica Hume, c/o 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications