BY Amanda Sotelo
The financial aid office at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen recently hosted FAFSA Fest, an event scheduled to continue for the next four consecutive Tuesdays to inform students about current changes in financial aid processing, and to assist in the application process.
FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is offered through the United States Department of Education and used to determine the types and amounts of federal aid a student is eligible for, which ranges from Pell Grants to work-study and federal student loans.
The U.S. Department of Education has set forth two major changes in financial aid processing nationwide. Taking effect for the 2017-2018 school year FAFSA is now available earlier, meaning students can begin completing their financial aid forms October 1 instead of January 1; and FAFSA will collect information from the prior year’s tax return.
“Financial aid plays a huge role for our students,” said Director of Financial Aid Fred Pena. “The events we’re hosting are to introduce these changes, help students understand what they mean and assist them in completing their paperwork early.”
Pena explained that with an earlier financial aid processing timeline students can receive award letters sooner to make better decisions when choosing colleges or the courses taken in a semester. He also added that the 2017-2018 school year FAFSA applicants are now allowed to use their 2015 tax return, 2018-2019 school year applicants can use their 2016 tax return, and so forth.
Because the FAFSA changes are nationwide, all students from TSTC’s 10 campuses are affected by the changes.
“We have already sent out emails to students across our 10 campuses to educate them about the FAFSA changes,” said Pena. “All of our campuses, as well, are hosting financial aid events to assist students who need help completing their applications.”
TSTC students, like Daniel Reyes, Welding Technology major, said it is a relief knowing they have the help they need on campus. He has already taken advantage of FAFSA Fest and has begun his financial aid process.
“Sometimes FAFSA can get confusing, but we have a lot of guidance here at TSTC,” said Reyes. “And being able to begin the process earlier gives me a piece of mind knowing I’ll be able to get my money on time to pay tuition and other expenses. I’m definitely feeling less stressed.”
Students interested in completing their financial aid before the new year can attend FAFSA Fest on October 18 and 25, and November 1 and 8. To complete the application students must bring their social security number; 2015 federal income tax return and W-2s; student and parent (if applicable) Federal Student Aid Identification numbers; and if applicable, bank statements and records of investments and untaxed income. If a student is not a U.S. citizen they must bring an alien registration number.
“We highly encourage students to attend FAFSA Fest or come to our office to get a head start on their 2017-2018 FAFSA,” said Pena.
The FAFSA deadline is March 1. For more information on the current changes or for help with FAFSA call the financial aid office at 956-364-4330 or visit tstc.edu/financialaid.