EARLY YEARS: The time to apply for federal financial aid for college is now

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, opens October 1.
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:49 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -It’s easy to get sticker shock while searching for colleges.

But with billions of dollars in grants, scholarships, and federal financial aid up for grabs, the price tag for higher education can fall quickly.

According to Sallie Mae, though, there’s a shortage in aid applicants.

“It’s alarming, because the FAFSA’s the gateway to $150 billion in aid, whether it’s scholarships and grants, or work study or even federal student loans,” says Ashley Boucher, Director of Corporate Communications for Sallie Mae.

Sallie Mae reports only 68% of families submitted the FAFSA during the last school year-- that’s the lowest number it’s seen since 2008.

There are some common reasons families don’t fill out the FAFSA form.

“A lot of families, of those who don’t file, a lot of families don’t file, because they don’t think they can qualify for any aid, and that really couldn’t be further from the truth. All who apply will qualify for something,” says Boucher.

Starting October 1, the FAFSA application process is open.

To prepare, Boucher says to gather bank statements, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, your 2020 tax return and W-2 forms.

“And if we can get all that information ready before they even sit down to file, then this process can be simple. It can be easy and it can be fast,” says Boucher.

Here is the FAFSA form.

If your income changed in the last year- maybe due to pandemic- you can request a special circumstances form for additional aid.

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