Help for paying for college: Programs you need to know—FAFSA

If your student is heading to college, the costs may seem overwhelming but are not impossible to handle, especially with the right counseling. The important process for financial assistance begins with completing the FAFSA. FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”. There’s no excuse for not applying because the FAFSA is free—think of the FAFSA as free money. This money is given to students in the form of grants, loans and federal work study opportunities.

The application asks the future student questions regarding their (or their parents’) income, assets, and other tax information to determine their eligibility for financial assistance. Over 15 million students are able to attend college with financial aid because each year there is more than $150 billion available through federal grants, loans and work-study programs. The U.S. Department of Education uses the information you provide on your FAFSA application to determine the type of aid you are eligible to receive. Many prospective students wonder if their legal status in this country affects their chances of receiving financial aid. Although you do not need to be a U.S. citizen to qualify for aid, if you are a non-U.S. citizen, your status must fall under one of the following categories:

  • You are a U.S. permanent resident with a Form I-551, I-151, or I-551C (Permanent Resident Card, Resident Alien Card, or Alien Registration Receipt Card), also known as a green card.
  • You have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing:
  • “Refugee,”
  •  “Asylum Granted,”
  •  “Cuban-Haitian Entrant (Status Pending),”
  •  “Conditional Entrant” (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980),
  •  You are a “battered immigrant qualified alien “

Obtain your FAFSA PIN number and application at www.fafsa.ed.gov . For further assistance call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at (1-800-433-3242) Monday through Friday 5 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 5 a.m.- 2 p.m., or Sunday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.