United Way believes that education is the single most influential factor in determining the success of a child. Research shows that, too. But many times, students (especially first-generation college students) face financial and information barriers, making the dream of attaining a post-secondary degree or credential very challenging.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate the system and find “free money” for college.
- Request a Federal Student Aid PIN: Every student and parent that enters information on a FAFSA form is required to have a unique PIN number. Take care of this first so that once you get to the FAFSA site, you’re ready to go. Here’s where to request a PIN.
- Complete the FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA provides more than $150 billion each year to help millions of students pay for higher education. All students and parents should fill out this form each year to remain eligible. When you fill out the FAFSA, you are applying for aid for a specific year. Here’s a quick video that provides an overview of the whole process.
- Check Eligibility of Pell Grants: The federal government gives out grants of up to $5,730 to about 9 million students a year. They can be used for tuition, fees, books and living expenses. It’s based on financial need, and those making less than $60,000 typically qualify for at least some award. View more about eligibility requirements here.
- Claim Your Tax Credit: Every student is eligible for a tax refund each year. Students making less than $80,000 are eligible for a maximum of $2,500 (up to $1,000 is refundable). That can buy a lot of Ramen noodles! Although tuition has to be paid up front, the credit on the backend is nice to have at the end of the year.
- Talk to Your Employer: Some companies, big and small, offer discounts on college tuition, but they often dictate which school is eligible. It never hurts to ask, right?
- Stay On Top of Important Deadlines: Sign up to receive text messages from your Florida school of choice regarding financial aid deadlines. United Way’s Going to College Project helps navigate the application, financial aid and enrollment process at your specific school. See if your school is on the list and sign up for free.
If you want help with your FAFSA form and need to complete your taxes anyways, come out to United Way’s “Super Saturday” event on Feb. 14, 2015 at Barry Law University from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. At this free event, you can work with a VITA tax preparer to file for the Earned Income Tax Credit, speak with a Healthcare Marketplace Navigator about health insurance enrollment (deadline is Feb. 15), and also begin your FAFSA form. For more information, or to schedule a tax/healthcare appointment call 2-1-1.