The financial student aid report results

comparing-your-optionsMarch’s update ended with our family playing “the waiting game” to determine what financial aid we may receive in assisting us with Jake’s college costs this fall. We had just completed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and submitted it online. The next step involved waiting on the Student Aid Report (SAR) which would tell us what, if anything, we qualified for in grants, loans, etc. I heard that turnaround time from FAFSA submittal to receipt of the SAR was two to three weeks; however, three days later, I received an email stating that Jake’s SAR was now available online. I was shocked! The question now was if this fast turnaround was good new or bad news…we were about to find out.

Upon trying to retrieve the SAR, I realized something was not right. I entered the requested access codes (which are determined when you complete the FAFSA), and quickly received an error message stating there was no report based on this access information. I thought, “This isn’t possible because I’d have to not know Jake’s birth date in order for this to be wrong, and I certainly know his birth date!” After a few more attempts and being very puzzled, I pulled my copy of the finalized FAFSA application that I had printed upon completion. I wondered if I had made an error in entering data even though the FAFSA online process provides multiple opportunities to proof the information you’ve entered. Nothing popped out at me – until I glanced at Jake’s birth date. 11th month? Jake wasn’t born in the 11th month; he was born in October, the 10th month. I had not caught my error in those reviews.

Although I could change the date now to reflect his proper birth date, I would not have access to the SAR if I made the change as the birth dates would not coincide. Knowing this, I accessed the report with the birth date I had put in the FAFSA application and decided to address the erroneous information after I had printed and reviewed the SAR. Upon reflection, in reviewing the FAFSA application, a fresh pair of eyes would have been advantageous. Next year I will ask my husband or son to review it also!

On to the SAR results … we did not qualify for any grant monies (which was not a big surprise to us). Our Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the amount we are expected to pay based on our FAFSA application, was clearly delineated. This amount does not mean that you can actually AFFORD such a dollar amount out-of-pocket (that was obvious!) but rather, it is our responsibility to determine what options exist, knowing now that there are no grants or “free” money available to us. The report stated that we did qualify for two loans:

1) An Unsubsidized loan
2) A Parent Plus Loan

While I understand on a conceptual level what’s involved with each of these loans, we have questions that cannot be answered by simple definitions and written explanations at this point. I contacted the financial aid office at Jake’s university and made an appointment to meet and discuss our questions. In the interim, I’ll be spending time on www.simpletuition.com to further research loan options.

To recap, here’s where we are currently: Jake has his tuition paid for with a merit scholarship (which is one-third of the total cost for the year with on-campus residency). He has been chosen as an alternate for a $2,000/year scholarship, which may or may not be awarded to him, and continues to apply for others. He works 25 hours a week, has a 3.8 GPA, and is entering the chemical engineering field. Even though we had hoped that he would not enter college relying on student loans, it’s looking like this may become a viable option for him. While we continue to search all options, it looks like we better go buy this week’s lotto tickets again!