A Column by State Senator Pat Browne
16th Senatorial District
As each New Year begins, students throughout Pennsylvania and across the country are busy finalizing plans for their college education. One of the many decisions students and families will have to make is how to pay for that education. One program that can help in making these decisions is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The 2011-12 forms are now available and students and their families can submit an application electronically.
The FAFSA is used to determine students’ eligibility for almost all types of student aid, including state grants, Federal Pell Grants, Keystone Stafford Loans, regular Federal Stafford Loans and other federal and institutional programs. This program plays an important role in providing eligible students with financial support that allows the student an opportunity to obtain a secondary education.
Families are encouraged to visit www.pheaa.org/fafsa to access the 2011-12 online FAFSA application and a “FAFSA on the Web” Worksheet to help walk them through the application process step-by-step. Students may also file online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Students planning to enroll in baccalaureate degree programs – including those enrolled in college transfer programs at community or junior colleges – must file the FAFSA by May, 1, 2011. Students planning to attend business, trade and technical schools; hospital schools of nursing; or two-year non-transferable programs at community, junior or four-year colleges must file the FAFSA by Aug. 1, 2011.
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) can also help in guiding students and their families through the grant process. PHEAA’s website – www.pheaa.org – provides valuable information on state grants and financial aid in general. On their website, college-bound students can find PHEAA’s five steps to financial aid, FAFSA applications, online applications for all of Pennsylvania’s grants, scholarships and work-study programs and eligibility requirements. State Grant eligibility is calculated in accordance with the Federal Need Analysis Formula and Pennsylvania State Grant polices. Estimated State Grant awards range from $600 to $4,120 based on family income, type of institution and amount of available state funding.
I recommend that anyone thinking about a college-level education fill out the FAFSA to help determine what assistance is out there to help to help defray the cost. I believe it is vital that every student who wishes to continue his or her education past high school is not prohibited from fulfilling that dream because of financial shortfalls. The FAFSA program goes a long way to ensuring opportunities for all students.
State Senator Pat Browne represents the 16th Senatorial District and serves as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.