On Oct. 1, FAFSA and scholarship filing opened to the public. The process affects millions of students’ college finances annually, and the upcoming 2022-23 academic year will be no exception. At Grand Valley State University, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is kickstarting an initiative to help students with the filing process.
FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a government document that assesses a student or a family’s financial situation and offers them assistance based on their information. In 2020, students at GVSU were awarded over 50 million dollars in need-based grants alone, according to the GVSU Accountability Report. A large portion of which can be attributed to filing the FAFSA.
Ben Rhodes, Assistant Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships, said that although expenses are a stressful part of going to college, the FAFSA can help alleviate some of these anxieties.
“I think that’s why we’re trying to really push FAFSA filing right now, to make sure that all our students have access to some type of financial aid,” Rhodes said.
The upcoming FAFSA requires that financial information from the 2020 tax year be filled out in the document. For many students, this may seem like a daunting task, as the COVID-19 pandemic put countless families in financial distress. However, this does not mean that students will be negatively affected in the FAFSA by these unforeseen circumstances.
“I think that students sometimes have difficulty understanding that when they fill out their information, they don’t realize that we can adjust those based on things like job loss, divorce or a death in the family,” Rhodes said. “We’re expecting that next year the number of special circumstances and hardship requests for additional support will increase dramatically.”
Although many see the FAFSA as a complicated form, some of the most common difficulties students encounter have an easy fix. Forgotten passwords, incorrect spellings, and other minor errors make up the majority of problems that students encounter while filling out the FAFSA.
“There can be some confusion when parents and students fill out separate sections,” Rhodes said. “We always encourage students and parents to fill out the FAFSA together, because that tends to make things a little bit easier.”
Rhodes said he recommends that students write down all their login information and keep it in a safe place to make the logging-in procedure easier in years to come.
Many GVSU students believe a FAFSA initiative will be very beneficial during the filing period because of their frustrating experiences in the past.
“The FAFSA process was really hard for me, even with my parents’ help,” said GVSU freshman Kat Vann. “I was never taught anything about FAFSA in high school, so having the choice to get help from the university would have been very helpful.”
On Oct. 1, the same day FAFSA opened, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships began their initiative to help students with the filing process. There is still much confusion surrounding the completion of the document, the organization has increased its campus outreach to spread important information. Staff from the office can be found at the clocktower every Tuesday afternoon with FAFSA materials, and they plan on hosting workshops in October, November, and December to assist students in completing the process.
For more information about the FAFSA filing process, visit gvsu.edu/financialaid.