FAFSA FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for FAFSA

Q. Who can assist me with any FAFSA questions I might have?

A. You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) with questions about the FAFSA or about federal student financial aid in general. You can also get help through online chat and email at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/contact.htm.

Q. Why does the Department of Education ask for income information from the year before I go to school?

A. The law requires that this information be used, since studies have consistently shown that verifiable income tax information from the most recently completed tax year (2013 for the 2014-15 award year) is more accurate than projected (2013) information and provides a reasonable basis for determining family financial strength in calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Q. How do I know if I am an eligible noncitizen?

Eligible Noncitizen

You must be one of the following to receive federal student aid:

• U.S. citizen

• U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain’s Island)

• U.S. permanent resident who has an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Permanent

Resident Card)

If you’re not in one of these categories, you must have an Arrival-Departure Record

(I-94) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing one of the

following designations:

• “Refugee”

• “Asylum Granted”

• “Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending”

• “Conditional Entrant” (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)

• Victims of human trafficking, T-visa (T-2, T-3, or T-4, etc.) holder

• “Parolee” (You must be paroled into the United States for at least one year

You must be able to provide evidence from the USCIS that you are in the United States for other than a temporary purpose and that you intend to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.)

If you have only a Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence (I-171 or I-464), you’re not eligible for federal student financial aid.

If you’re in the United States on certain visas, including an F1 or F2 student visa, or a J1 or J2 exchange visitor visa, you’re not eligible for federal student financial aid. 

Also, people with G series visas (pertaining to international organizations) are not eligible for federal student financial aid. For more information about other types of visas that are not acceptable, check with your school’s financial aid office. Citizens and eligible noncitizens may receive loans from the FFEL Program at participating foreign schools. Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau are eligible only for certain types of federal student aid. These applicants should check with their schools’ financial aid office for more information.

Q. What should I (the student) do if my family has unusual circumstances that aren’t mentioned in the application? 

A. If you or your family has unusual circumstances (such as loss of employment, loss of benefits, death or divorce), complete the FAFSA to the extent that you can and submit it as instructed. Then talk to the financial aid administrator (FAA) at the school you plan to attend. If your family’s circumstances have changed from the tax year 2008, the FAA may decide on a case-by-case basis to adjust data elements used to calculate your EFC. Any adjustment the FAA makes must relate only to your individual circumstances and not to any conditions that exist for a whole class of students. The FAA’s decision is final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.

Q. What should I (the student) do if I have a special circumstance and cannot get my parent’s data to report on the FAFSA?

A. If you are considered a dependent student and have no contact with your parents and are unable to provide your parents data on the FAFSA, you may have a special circumstance. If you are completing FAFSA on the Web, answer the questions regarding special circumstances and the remaining student questions. Sign and submit the form for processing. If you are completing a paper application, complete as much of the form as you can, sign, and submit it for processing. Your application will be incomplete and no EFC will be calculated, however, the financial aid offices at the schools listed on your FAFSA will still receive your data. Contact those schools listed on your FAFSA for further assistance to complete your application. Note: Not living with your parents or the fact that your parents do not want to provide their information on your FAFSA, are not considered special circumstances. Examples of special circumstances are your parent or parents are incarcerated or you had to leave home because of an abusive situation.

Q. If I live with an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, should that relative’s income be reported on my FAFSA?

A. Generally, no. You can only report your birth parents’ or adoptive parents’ income on your FAFSA. Only if a relative has adopted you and is now your adoptive parent can you report that person’s information on your FAFSA. However, you must report for question 47(j) any cash support given by relatives except food and housing.

Q. I’m not sure if I want to take out a student loan or work during the school year. What should I enter for the questions asking if I am interested in student loans or work-study?

A. Some schools use the answers about loans and work-study on the FAFSA to construct a financial aid package for you. Answering “Yes” to being interested in either or both types of aid does not obligate you to take out a loan or accept a work-study position. It usually just means that the school will consider offering you a loan(s) or work-study as part of your financial aid package. If you do indicate on the application that you are interested in either or both loans and work-study, you can change your mind and not accept the loan(s) or work-study later. Keep in mind that if you answer “No” to the work-study question when you apply—and subsequently change your mind—a work-study job may not be available if all of the work-study funds at the school have been awarded to other students.

Q. What if I live with a girlfriend or boyfriend who pays the rent?

A. You should not report any information for a friend or roommate unless the two of you are actually married or are considered to have a common-law marriage under state law. You must report in Question 47(j) any cash support given by the friend, except food and housing. You would have to report the rent the roommate paid on your behalf.

Q. What’s the difference between cash support and in-kind support?

A. Cash support is support given either in the form of money or money that is paid on your (the student’s) behalf. You must report cash support as untaxed income. Thus, if a friend or relative gives you grocery money, it must be reported as untaxed income in Question 47(j). If the friend or relative pays your electric bill or part of your rent, you must also report those payments.

Examples of in-kind support are free food or housing that a family receives, usually in exchange for work or services. You usually don’t report such support.

However, the application does require you to report the value of housing a family receives as compensation for a job. The most common example is free housing or a housing allowance provided to military personnel or members of the clergy, which is required to be reported in Question 47(g).

Q. When is student aid considered income?

A. Generally, grants and scholarships that do not exceed tuition, fees, books, and required supplies are not considered to be taxed or untaxed income. If you have an ROTC scholarship, a private scholarship, or any other kind of grant or scholarship, that grant or scholarship will be considered as an available resource by the financial aid office when packaging aid.

You should report grants and scholarships you reported on your tax return. You should then report these items as exclusions from income in Question 46(d): Student’s 2008 Additional Financial Information. These amounts will be treated as exclusions from your income.

Q. If I’m an emancipated minor, am I now independent?

A. If you can provide a copy of a court’s decision that you are or were an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence, you may meet the definition of an independent student. You would answer “Yes” to question 56 if you are currently an emancipated minor. You would also answer “Yes” if you were an emancipated minor immediately before you reached the age of being an adult in your state. The court must be located in your state of legal residence at the time the court’s decision was issued. You may be asked to provide a copy of the court’s decision.

Q. What if I am in legal guardianship, am I now independent?

A. If you can provide a copy of a court’s decision that you are or were in a legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence, you may meet the definition of an independent student. You would answer “Yes” to question 57 if you are currently in legal guardianship. You would also answer “Yes” if you were in legal guardianship immediately before you reached the age of being an adult in your state. The court must be located in your state of legal residence at the time the court’s decision was issued. You may be asked to provide a copy of the court’s decision.

Q. I’ll be filing a tax return this year but I probably won’t get around to it until April. How should I answer the financial questions? Should I wait to fill out this form after I’ve filed my tax return?

A. Ideally, you should complete a FAFSA after you’ve done your tax return, but don’t wait until April. Many schools award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, you may not be eligible for state aid if you wait until April to submit your FAFSA. Many state aid deadlines are early in the calendar year (calendar year 2014 for the 2014-15 award year). If you haven’t completed your tax return, you should calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI) and taxes paid using the instructions for IRS Form 1040. You can get the instructions and the form at a public library or download them in Portable Document Format (PDF) from http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html.

Keep in mind that if you submit your application before you complete a tax return, you may need to make corrections later if your income or tax information isn’t accurate. You will also need to return any federal student aid you received based upon incorrect information.

You might have to provide your school with a copy of your completed tax return (assuming you’re required to file one) before you receive federal student aid.

Q. If my parents are divorced, whose information do I need?

A. Report the information of the parent with whom you lived the most during the 12 months preceding the date you completed the FAFSA. It does not make a difference which parent claims you as a dependent for tax purposes. If you did not live with either parent or lived equally with each parent, the parental information must be provided for the parent from whom you received the most financial support during the preceding 12 months or the parent from whom you received the most support the last time support was given. 

Q. I am entering financial information for my mother and stepfather on the FAFSA. Should I give my father’s Social Security number (SSN) and last name, or my stepfather’s?

A. You should provide the SSN and last name of the same person or people for whom you are reporting financial information. In this case, provide the SSNs and names of your mother and stepfather.

Q. If I (the student) am separated but filed a joint tax return, how is the information reported?

A. You should give only your portion of the exemptions, income and taxes paid. 

Q. When does my school have to receive the results from my application?

A. Your school must have your information by your last day of enrollment in 2013-14, or by late September 2014, whichever is earlier. If your school has not received your application information electronically, you must submit your paper SAR to the school by the deadline. But do not wait until the deadline date so you have plenty of time to submit your information and make any necessary corrections. Either the electronic record, the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR), or the paper SAR that has been processed by the Department must have an official EFC. Once the school receives your information, it will use your EFC to determine the amount of your federal grant, loan or work-study award, if you are eligible. The FAA will send you a financial aid award letter explaining the aid the school is offering.

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