Financial Aid

Why Parents Should Fill Out the FAFSA

It may not be in your family plan to pay for college but filling out the FAFSA is still necessary.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 13, 2023

Why Parents Should Fill Out the FAFSA
Not paying for college? You still need to help your child file their FAFSA.
Whether your child attends community college of a private four-year university, higher education is an expensive investment in their future. It takes creativity and resources to fund that type of experience.
For a lot of families, there are many difficult conversations and decisions around who will pay for college. The conclusion, oftentimes, is that the student will have to pay for college on their own. It could be a matter of conviction for the parents or out of financial necessity.

Why Parents Should Fill Out the FAFSA

Whatever the case, parents who are not able to pay for college should still do one thing: help their child fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or more simply, the FAFSA.
It is understandable for parents to not want to pay for college – or to be unable to pay for college for their children. However, they should work to help their child pay for college as feasibly as possible. One way to do this is by helping to complete the FAFSA. This gives the child the greatest advantages when paying for their college education themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, there are parents who don’t fill out the FAFSA because they believe they won’t qualify for financial aid based on their financial circumstances. While that may be true, there is no way of ever knowing.
Sometimes, students may not qualify for financial aid one year, but then qualify for another. This is especially possible when there are multiple family members enrolled at the same time. Additionally, families meet difficult financial circumstances throughout the school year, like job loss, exorbitant medical expenses, or even death. Those life events may affect a family’s ability to pay, and when that happens, having a FAFSA on file is helpful. In those cases, the school’s financial aid office can act quickly to assist the student, and help to keep them in college.

What is the Standard Aid Index (SAI)?

The Standard Aid Index, known formerly as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), is the new standard for determining financial aid for students on the 2024 – 25 FAFSA, which is expected to launch in December 2023. This new measurement for financial aid is part of the FAFSA simplification efforts that have been in process over the last few years. It differs from the EFC in that the SAI will show how much aid a student is eligible for versus how much a family can contribute toward college costs. Whereas applicants could receive an EFC as low as 0, the SAI can be as low as -$1,500, which helps to account for other education expenses that may not be included in the cost of attendance. For students that truly need a great deal of aid to attend college, it will be more favorable in helping them pay for all of their expenses. Student whose families fall under a specific Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) threshold will automatically qualify for the Pell Grant, which they will know before submitting their FAFSA. There are also applicants who will qualify for Pell Grants, though they may not know until they receive their SAR, which comes within a few days after the FAFSA is submitted.

FAFSA Opens Doors to All Types of Financial Aid for Students

Because filling out the FAFSA does not require parents to pay for school, there is no harm in filling this form out for your child, even when you don’t plan to pay anything toward their higher education. It does, however, harm them to not complete the FAFSA. When you do not complete the FAFSA, colleges cannot determine whether your child is eligible for financial aid. If there is no form on file, there are no grants or work- study jobs on campus for them because a student cannot file a FAFSA without parents. If you or your child attempts to contact the financial aid office to get financial aid, they will first ask if you have filed a FAFSA. And if you haven’t, they will instruct you to do so. There are also scholarships that require students to show proof of financial need, and how do they do that? By completing the FAFSA.

FAFSA for Parents: Filing Tips

The FAFSA gets a lot of flak, but it’s never been easier for parents to file. To prepare your family for the FAFSA application, follow these steps:
  1. Have conversations about the cost of college and who is paying before you submit the form.
  2. Determine whether your child is dependent or independent on the FAFSA. If they qualify as an independent student, they may be eligible for more financial aid).
  3. Research who should fill out the FAFSA if parents are divorced, separated, or unmarried.
  4. Gather everything you need to file the form. Pro tip: use our FAFSA checklist.
  5. File the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 since many states and the federal government award financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  6. Double check your FAFSA for errors before submitting.
If you have FAFSA questions, do not hesitate to reach out to Student Aid, your high school guidance counselor, or your child’s college. These professionals are here to assist students and their parents with the FAFSA, so please utilize them. Your child’s financial aid chances may depend on it.

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