You attended college for a while back in the day. You earned some credit hours but just were not able to finish the required classes to graduate. Now, you’re looking to return to complete your degree and you want to make sure you connect with all the financial aid available to you.

If you are lucky enough to live in Mississippi, you can apply to the Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program. C2C will provide you with the coaching and support you need to succeed. Part of the support is connecting you with financial assistance. Step one – complete The Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, commonly known as FAFSA. Let’s look at what the FAFSA is and why it can be key to completing your degree.

Why complete FAFSA?

FAFSA is the form that the federal government, states, colleges, and other organizations use to award financial aid. Many colleges and universities require that you complete the FAFSA to qualify for grants and scholarships.

It gives you an advantage

Not only does it position you for financial assistance, there are other great reasons to complete the FAFSA application.

  1. You must complete the FAFSA to be considered for the C2C Grant (available to C2C program participants) – which you can use to pay back previous student debt, pay for tuition, books, supplies and other education-related expenses.

  2. It can help you get back into college. Admissions personnel at colleges and universities know that students who submit FAFSAs are more likely to enroll.

  3. Submitting a FAFSA application is often a requirement when institutions award grants, scholarships, work-study programs and federal student loans.

Even MORE great reasons to complete the FAFSA

  1. It’s FREE (built right into the name).

  2. It’s EASIER than you might remember (the new application takes an average of only 23 minutes to complete).

  3. There’s NO AGE LIMIT!

  4. It’s not just for books – you can use federal aid and/or the C2C Grant to pay for almost anything related to your college expenses - housing, transportation, books, tuition, fees, childcare, personal computer, costs related to a disability, and more.

Are you eligible?

Most people are able to apply for financial aid, by meeting simple, basic eligibility criteria. You must:

  1. Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen

  2. Have a valid Social Security number

  3. Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program

  4. Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college

  5. Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate

But just because you are able to apply, doesn’t guarantee you will be awarded aid. There are maximum limits to the federal financial aid you can receive. The Dept. of Education regulation states: “Financial Aid recipients will be terminated upon reaching 150 percent of the number of credits needed to complete their degree, diploma or certificate program.” In other words, if your degree requires 60 credit hours, you can receive financial aid for up to 90 credit hours (60hrs X 150%).

There are some other criteria for eligibility, which can be found on the US Department of Education website

Bottom line: Always fill out the FAFSA, even if you’re not sure if you’re eligible or not.

The money is there

According to the Federal Student Aid annual report, the U.S. Department of Education distributes around $120 billion annually to almost 13 million students of all ages. These funds are awarded through federal student grants, loans and work-study funds.

Nearly ALL students who apply with the FAFSA qualify for some form of federal financial aid.

First step – Setup your FSA ID

If you have submitted the FAFSA online before, you will already have an FSA ID. If you haven’t, you’ll need to create a new one. This will be your online identity with Federal Student Aid (FSA). This ID will give you access to online systems and you will use it to complete your FAFSA application.

You can set up your FSA ID (or ask for reminders of your ID and password) right now at the Federal Student Aid site. 

Next Step – Gather your materials

It’s always easier if you have everything ready before you tackle the application. Here’s a list of what you’ll need.

  1. Your FSA ID

  2. Social Security number and driver's license (DL is not required)

  3. Your tax return from the year before last. Returning to school in 2020 you will be completing the 2020–21 FAFSA form and you will report your income from your 2018 federal return. If your income situation has decreased dramatically from two years ago, you should contact the schools you’re applying to and explain/document the change in income with them.

  4. Your untaxed income. If applicable, you’ll need to report any untaxed income from the year before last. You will include welfare benefits, social security benefits, child support, TANF, veteran's benefits, and military/clergy allowances

  5. Your current assets. Report the CURRENT balance of savings and checking accounts. You will also include the value of stocks, bonds, real estate, and other investments. You do not need to include the home in which your family lives as an asset.

Complete the application

There’s a mobile app for that

MYSTUDENT AID Mobile App is a tool that enables you to complete the FAFSA on your mobile device. It is perfect for anyone with limited computer access. Use the links below to download the app for your device

Android

iPhone/iPad 

Submit online

You can also complete the FAFSA form online at the Federal Student Aid website.

Don’t be intimidated – there are plenty of resources to help you fill out the form. In Mississippi, start at Get2College – which specializes in college planning and financial aid for Mississippi students. They also provide a special focus on non-traditional students.

Here are a couple of other examples of step-by-step guides to completing the FAFSA form online.

  1. StudentAid

  2. NitroCollege

  3. CommonBond

Do it sooner rather than later

Much of the financial aid for education is distributed on a “rolling basis.” That means the sooner you apply, the better your chances of receiving some financial assistance.

You can complete and file your FAFSA for the 2020 school year as early as October 1, 2019, but no later than June 30, 2020. Individual school deadlines will vary, but again, sooner is always better than later.

Deadlines

October 1 –FAFSA form becomes available.

June 30th – Federal FAFSA deadline for submitting your application.

Need help?

If you can’t find the answers you need online, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC). These people know the FAFSA backward and forward and are ready to help talk you through the process.

Contact the FSAIC

  1. 800-433-3243

  2. 800-730-8913 (hearing-impaired)

  3. studentaid@ed.gov (to submit questions by email)

  4. Live chat during business hours

  5. FSAIC on Facebook 

  6. FSAIC on Twitter 

Another financial resource for you

In addition to all the federal funds available, many Mississippi adults are eligible for the Complete 2 Compete program. This program helps Mississippi adults with some college credit already earned identify the clearest pathway to completing their degree. Once accepted into the program, you’ll be eligible for the C2C Grant (https://www.msc2c.org/c2c-grant) and you’ll receive the support of a C2C Coach – who will help guide you through the process of completing your degree.