FAFSA: Is It Worth Your Time?

Absolutely. For most parents, college funding is central to your financial life. It is one of the largest investments you’ll make as your child becomes an adult. You’re expecting to pay for four years of college, but don’t be surprised if extra time is required for your child to complete his degree. He may even decide to go back for a different degree following college graduation. Either way, these paths require additional dollars.

Fortunately, there are strategies to reduce the cost of college. FAFSA is the first step. Affluent families often question whether it’s worth their time to submit the FAFSA as they estimate the likelihood, or unlikelihood, of receiving financial aid. Whatever your income level, it is wise to explore all options for reducing college debt.

What is FAFSA? FAFSA is the free application for financial student aid. A student can submit the FAFSA for federal aid from October 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018, for the 2017-2018 academic school year. Financial student aid options vary from subsidized loans and grants to unsubsidized loans and work-study programs. Each one may be awarded on a first come, first served basis.1

Your completed FAFSA application will provide an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) toward the cost of college. A report containing your EFC will be provided to you and to the selected colleges. If your EFC is lower than a college’s cost of attendance (COA), then your student demonstrates a need for financial aid. The results will vary across colleges.

Why submit the FAFSA? FAFSA can lead to financial approaches you may not have considered otherwise. Creative financing can benefit your family as the projected cost of college for 2017-2018 continues to grow. According to Forbes, you should prepare for the average annual costs per student below.

  • 4-year Public University = $32,197
  • 4-year Private University = $64,801
  • 4-year Elite University = $74,7712

Changes to FAFSA have reduced the time and effort required to submit the application. With the new system, you and your student may be able to use the Internal Revenue’s online tool to automatically fill in the FAFSA forms. By filing for FAFSA early, your high school senior will know more about his Expected Family Contribution prior to deadlines for accepting college offers. A few extra weeks may help your family avoid the stress that often comes with making major decisions.

How to get started

  • Get your student involved in the process.
  • Get your PIN at fafsa.ed.gov
  • The federal deadline is midnight central time, June 30, 2018.
  • Pennsylvania state deadlines are August 1, 2017 and May 1, 2017. See fafsa.ed.gov for details on which deadline to observe.
  • Include all schools that you are considering applying to.
  • You will need the following documents to complete the application: 2015 federal tax returns, 1099s, current bank and brokerage statements, your student’s drivers license, student and parent social security cards, child support paid and received, any earnings from federal work study. Remember that all assets listed, such as bank accounts, should be as of the date when the FAFSA is filed.3

Need assistance?

Understanding how to pay for college can be overwhelming as it involves multiple areas of personal finance. College funding requires knowledge in the areas of investing, borrowing, taxes, cash flow, and financial aid as well as how each affects the other for education funding purposes. Items such as retirement assets and home equity are not included in the federal financial aid formula for FAFSA. If you have questions, check out the resources below.

  • Live chat at fafsa.ed.gov
  • Your college’s financial aid office.
  • Federal student aid information center at 800-433-3243.
  • ed.gov to compare the cost of different schools.

As always, work with your child to help him understand the investment and commitment required to complete his degree. Be prepared for next year. Mark your calendar for the October 1, 2017 FAFSA filing date now. For additional college funding options, watch for an upcoming article on understanding how the proposed federal loan forgiveness program will work.


About the Author

Mark Blair, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, is president of Blair Wealth Management. For on-line review of this article and previous columns by Mr. Blair, visit the News tab on BlairWealthManagement.com.

Blair Wealth Management is a fee-only firm that adheres to strict fiduciary standards and partners with individuals, families and business owners to address their most critical challenges, identify their best opportunities, and transform their lives. Learn more about Mark Blair and Blair Wealth Management at https://blairwealthmanagement.com/




  1. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/2017-18-fafsa-updates-students-parents.pdf
  2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/troyonink/2015/01/31/college-could-cost-as-much-as-334000-total-in-four-years/#4ad87834679f
  3. http://www.freep.com/story/money/personal-finance/susan-tompor/2016/08/24/fafsa-filing-season-starts-october/89094466/

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