– The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is reminding students and families that Jan. 1 marks the beginning of the student financial aid application season with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 2013-14 available online at PHEAA.org/FAFSA or fafsa.gov.
Since schools have different financial aid deadlines, it is recommended that families complete and submit the FAFSA to the federal government as soon as possible after Jan. 1 to ensure that all deadlines are met.
The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal grants, the need-based Pennsylvania State Grant, many scholarships, reduced-cost federal student loans, work-study programs, and some school-based student aid programs.
Filing the FAFSA is the most important step that students and families can take when looking for assistance in paying for higher education.
"PHEAA offers many free resources to help families navigate the student financial aid process," said Representative William Adolph, PHEAA Board Chairman. "Completing the FAFSA may require a little planning, but the financial benefits can be substantial and there are new options available online that help simplify the process."
Students and families can now use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to populate information in the finance section with their federal tax information.
First-time applicants for a need-based Pennsylvania State Grant are required to submit a State Grant Form (SGF) which contains data elements not included on the FAFSA.
Students can link directly to the SGF from the FAFSA on the Web, providing applicants a "one-stop-shop" for both federal and state aid.
Completing the FAFSA online helps eliminate errors and offers a faster processing time. Since most families complete their FAFSA online, the federal government will no longer provide paper FAFSAs unless specifically requested through the U.S. Department of Education at 800-4-FED-AID.
Families have the choice of completing and submitting the form electronically or printing the form and sending it to the U.S. Department of Education via traditional mail.
To submit and sign the form electronically, the student and a parent must request a PIN (personal identification number) at pin.ed.gov.
Applicants should receive their PIN in about three days via email. The PIN acts as an electronic signature and should be kept it in a safe place because the same PIN will be used to complete the FAFSA in subsequent years.
The FAFSA can also be completed online without a PIN, but it must then be printed, signed and submitted by mail.
"Families should also take advantage of PHEAA’s free FAFSA Completions Sessions scheduled from now through April at locations across the Commonwealth," said Senator Wayne D. Fontana, PHEAA Board Vice Chairman. "Participants can get individualized assistance in completing the financial aid form at the workshops."
Page 2 of 2 - A schedule of FAFSA Completion Sessions can be found at PHEAA.org/FAFSA.
The Pennsylvania State Grant deadline is May 1 for students attending colleges, universities and college-transferable programs (excluding community colleges) and for all renewal students.
Aug. 1 is the State Grant deadline for first-time students attending community colleges, business, trade or technical schools, hospital schools of nursing, or two-year, non-transferable degree programs at community, junior or four-year colleges.
Students and families are also reminded to avoid using fee-based FAFSA submission websites, which are unnecessary and often a gateway to student aid scams.
For the latest financial aid information and helpful tips, upcoming deadlines and free financial aid workshops, join PHEAA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pheaa.aid.
Created in 1963 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has evolved into one of the nation’s leading student aid organizations.
Today, PHEAA is a national provider of student financial aid services, serving millions of students and thousands of schools through its loan guaranty, loan servicing, financial aid processing, outreach and other student aid programs.
PHEAA’s earnings are used to support its public service mission and to pay its operating costs, including administration of the Pennsylvania State Grant and other state-funded student aid programs.
PHEAA continues to devote its energy, resources and imagination to developing innovative ways to ease the financial burden of higher education for students, families, schools and taxpayers. PHEAA conducts its student loan servicing activities nationally as FedLoan Servicing and American Education Services (AES).