Around the State: Students can apply for college financial aid now

Around the State - Rep. Marty Flynn
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I am reminding college-bound students and their parents that the application process for financial assistance for higher education is now open.

Pennsylvania Higher Education Aide guidebooks are available at my district office at Jay’s Commons, 409 N. Main Ave. in Scranton.

My office is available to help constituents navigate the higher education financial aid system process.

Many parents and students have heard of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA. The form is used to determine eligibility for state and federal aid programs such as the Pennsylvania State Grant and work-study employment, Pell grants, Perkins loans and Stafford loans. Many colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for school-based aid such as private grants and need-based scholarships. Beginning the application process earlier than previous years will allow students and families to meet the various deadlines set by colleges and universities.

The FAFSA federal deadline for students enrolling in the 2020-21 academic year doesn’t close until June 30, 2020.

It would be wise not to skip filling out the FAFSA application because families may qualify for financial aid; it’s not just about qualifying for needs-based financial aid based on family income. There are many scholarships out there that a school may grant you, but you must apply for them and, for most, you need to fill out the FAFSA.

The FAFSA application requires that you list at least one college you plan on applying to. Families can add colleges as their student lists other schools they are interested in.

It does help to gather information before filling out the form. The Pennsylvania Department of Education says you will need a Social Security number, driver’s license, 2018 tax return and bank statements.

It’s always beneficial to double check your math on the application. Make sure the right lines mean the right things and keep a copy of your tax forms.

There are other resources available to students as they prepare for college. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency developed a free online resource and interactive tool, www.MySmartBorrowing.org, which guides students through the many decisions that must be made in advance of college.

Grants and scholarships are often called “gift aid” because they are free money. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are usually merit-based.

Grants and scholarships can come from the federal government, state government or from a student’s college or career school or a private or nonprofit organization.

The FAFSA can be filled out online at https://fafsa.gov Students and parents are urged to file electronically. This method is the fastest and has the advantage of online prompts to help families avoid mistakes. Paper and PDF versions of the FAFSA are also available.

To get paper copies of the FAFSA, call 1-800-394-7084 or 1-800-433-3243.

Remember the FAFSA application period began Oct. 1 and closes June 30, 2020.

As always, if you have a state-related concern, contact my office at 570-342-4348.

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Around the State

Rep. Marty Flynn

Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-991-6405 or by email at news@theabingtonjournal.com.

Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-991-6405 or by email at news@theabingtonjournal.com.