It’s never too late for financial aid!

by Cara Bas

Have you completed FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid yet?

Eligible students can receive grants, loans, work-study opportunities, or any combination of those.

The application for 2016-17 opened Jan. 1, and applications for next year are now being accepted. The federal and state deadlines for 2015-16 applications is June 30.

Certain awards such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and work-study have limited funds available, so filing early is best.

Eligibility is based on income. The eligibility of students who are claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, is determined by their parents’ income. Students who file their own taxes are considered independent; therefore, eligibility is determined by the student’s own income.

The prior year’s income determines eligibility in the current year. However, beginning Oct. 1, FAFSA applications for the 2017-18 school year will be accepted based on 2015 incomes.

FM Financial Aid Coordinator, Becky Cozzacrea said, “The early filing date allows more time for students to decide which college is most affordable. Now they have from October to May to plan.”

If students or their parents have not yet filed a 2015 tax return, the application can be submitted with an income estimate, and updated when a return is filed.

For those who have already filed tax returns, the income reported on the return must be applied. When completing the online application, a data retrieval tool can be used to automatically apply data from IRS tax forms that have been filed and processed.

According to FAFSA customer service, the data retrieval tool become available on Feb. 6.

Tuition costs can also be reduced through federal tax credits for those who qualify.

According to studentaid.ed.gov, The American Opportunity Credit allows tax claims up to $2,500 per student per year for the first four years of school as the student works toward a degree.

The Lifetime Learning Credit allows claims up to $2,000 per student per year for any college or career school tuition and fees, as well as for books, supplies and equipment that were required for the course and had to be purchased from the school.

Students who are New York residents may also qualify for tuition assistance such as grants, tax credits and loan management through The Higher Education Services Corporation.

For more information and to apply, go to https://www.hesc.ny.gov/.

For FAFSA information, eligibility guidelines and applications, go to https://fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm.

Student federal tax credit information is at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/tax-benefits and at https://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch02.html#en_US_2014_publink1000204332 .

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