Financial Aid FAFSA in February

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Now that we have greeted the New Year and adjusted to our new class schedules, it is time to begin the process of applying for financial aid for the 2012-2013 academic year. The Financial Aid Office is conducting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in February campaign to remind students to file their FAFSAs before March 1. The recommended filing deadline for students who want to apply for financial assistance for 2012-2013 is the same as in previous years: Feb. 28.

Why is it so important to file your FAFSA before March 1? The most important reason for Maryland residents is that March 1 is an absolute deadline for consideration for Maryland State Grants and Scholarships. Many students who would be eligible for $3000 Maryland Educational Assistance Grants do not receive the grants because they miss the deadline. In addition, since the Financial Aid Office will be notifying returning students of their aid eligibility on a rolling basis, you can hear about your aid earlier in the spring if you file your FAFSA on-time.

There have been some significant changes that will affect the financial aid application process for returning students, and we want to make sure they are well publicized and understood. First, income information provided on the 2012-2013 FAFSA must be verified through use of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval process on the FAFSA website. If you are not able to use the IRS Data Retrieval process, you will need to request a tax transcript from the IRS then forward the information to the Financial Aid Office. The Financial Aid Office will no longer collect copies of Federal Income Tax Returns.

The second change is that we will send financial aid awards to returning students on a rolling basis beginning in mid-April. An application will not be considered ready to award until the FAFSA/IRS Data Match has been completed and, if required, a Verification Worksheet has been completed and returned to the Financial Aid Office. To receive an award early in the cycle with maximum funding, you need to file the 2012-2013 FAFSA by Feb. 28 and complete your financial aid file promptly. We hope that getting awards out to the returning students before the end of the semester will help students make their plans for the upcoming year and will give students time to work with us while they are still on campus. Finalization of the award will be contingent upon satisfactory completion of the spring semester and full-time enrollment in the fall.

St. Mary’s College hopes the IRS Data Match will help us distribute our limited institutional aid resources in a fair and equitable manner. In previous years, some applicants were selected by the Department of Education for verification and had to provide the Financial Aid Office with copies of their Federal Income Tax Returns and additional documentation while other applicants were awarded aid based on estimated information. We want 100 percent of our awards to be based on accurate information, so beginning with the 2012-2013 application cycle, all aid recipients at St. Mary’s will need to have their FAFSA and IRS information match. All applicants eligible for need-based aid will need to file Verification Worksheets.

For the month of February we have been heavily advertising the importance of filing a 2012-2013 FAFSA and hope the information has encouraged people to take the initiative to complete the process. Along with signs around campus and mailings, we will have an information table once a week throughout the month during lunch hours for people to ask questions and receive more information. If you have any questions, the staff of the Financial Aid Office are here to assist you. Our office email is finaid@smcm.edu and our phone number is 240-895-3000. The office is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we are happy to see students and families on a walk-in basis.

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