Should You Pay for FAFSA and Loan Services Help?
Is paying for FAFSA or student loan help a waste of money?
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
September 18, 2015
Financial aid experts have several wise, old adages that they live by. For instance, students and their families should file the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as they are able. They also advise students to always borrow federal loans first in order to take advantage of the lowest interest rates possible.
However, there is one lesser known – but equally important – rule that financial aid advisors want students to follow: never pay someone to file your FAFSA or manage your student loans. First, it’s counter-productive to your end goal: paying for college. Second, why pay someone to manage these forms and processes when there are plenty of free resources available that already provide help?
Let’s take a look.
The FAFSA makes it clear that it’s a free form – in fact, its official name is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. While there are legitimate services out there that allow you to pay someone to complete the form for you, it’s completely unnecessary.
Between Fastweb and FinAid, you’ll find plenty of free, expert advice on completing the FAFSA. Our advice features everything from common mistakes that people make to detailed circumstances like which parents’ information to provide when there has been a divorce and/or remarriage. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education operates a free hotline for students and their families to call whenever they have questions or issues with the application. Helpful representatives can be reached at 1-800-4-FED-AID.
The U.S. Department of Education also provides several brochures, fact sheets and online tools to help students and their parents navigate the process of filling out the FAFSA at studentaid.ed.gov. Finally, many states participate in College Goal Sunday, a weekend in early spring during which FAFSA experts work with students and their families one-on-one to finish filing the FAFSA.
Students that have federally funded loans will find that their loans are typically assigned to a loan servicer. These servicers manage and update graduates on the state of their loans throughout the repayment period, and there is no fee associated with utilizing one of these servicers. When graduates have questions or issues that arise when paying back their student loans, they should speak with a representative at their assigned loan servicer.
While it’s not entirely forbidden to utilize a third party in helping you complete the FAFSA or pay back student loans, there is a certain amount of risk involved. For instance, there was a recent scandal involving a financial aid company that illegally billed students who used their services to complete the FAFSA. At roughly the same time, a loan servicer affiliated with Discover was forced to pay over $18.5 million to graduates that they illegally overbilled as well, according to Consumerist.
Like other financial aid advisors, we recommend that students utilize the free services for helping to complete the FAFSA and pay student loans. After all, the end goal is to find money to pay for school or save money in order to pay back student loans. Why, then, would it be advisable to spend money unnecessarily on either? If you’re looking for help, you’ve come to the right place. Check out our expert financial aid advice on Fastweb.
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