Key college aid deadline is near

The Michigan Department of Treasury is reminding students and their families that the very first step to take when applying for scholarships and other forms of financial assistance is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as the FAFSA.

Unfortunately, families sometimes ignore the FAFSA, assuming they won’t be eligible for aid. That’s often not true, and some students may find that college is thousands of dollars cheaper than expected.

Priority consideration for Michigan aid programs administered by treasury’s Student Scholarships and Grants division are given to students whose FAFSA is received at the federal processor by March 1.

“The FAFSA is the first step in the process of applying for financial aid,” said acting Deputy State Treasurer Anne Wohlfert, who oversees treasury’s student financial aid programs. “Students and families who are seeking financial assistance are encouraged to file this free application immediately.”

Before completing the online FAFSA, the student and at least one parent must obtain a Federal Student Aid ID at www.fafsa.gov. This ID serves as a legal signature and confirms an applicant’s identity when accessing financial aid information through certain U.S. Department of Education websites.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, it typically takes less than hour to complete and submit the form — provided families already have a few key items and documents.

These include:

-Social Security number.

– Driver’s license number. Those who don’t have a driver’s license can skip this step.

– Your 2017 tax records. On the 2019-20 FAFSA form, students (and their parents, as appropriate) will report 2017 income information, rather than your 2018 income information. You may be able to import your tax information into the FAFSA form right away using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If you have experienced a reduction in income since the 2017 tax year, you should complete the FAFSA form with the 2017 information requested, and then contact each of the schools to which you’re applying to explain and document the change in income.

– Records of your untaxed income. The FAFSA questions about untaxed income may or may not apply to you; they include things like child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits. On the 2019-20 FAFSA form, you’ll report 2017 tax or calendar year information when asked these questions.

– Records of your assets. This section includes savings and checking account balances, as well as the value of investments such as stocks and bonds and real estate (but not the home in which your family lives). You should report the current amounts as of the date you sign the FAFSA form, rather than reporting the 2017 tax year amounts.

– List of the school(s) you are interested in attending. Be sure to add any college you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. You can list up to 10 schools at a time on your FAFSA form.

To get started with the FAFSA, go to www.fafsa.gov.

To learn more about state of Michigan scholarships and other financial assistance programs, go to MI Student Aid’s website at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid or call toll-free at 1-888-447-2687.