What Does FAFSA Cover? | FAFSA Series Part VI
If this is your first time as a FAFSA applicant, or you just need a little clarification, we’re going to discuss a few things related to a pretty common question: What Does FAFSA Cover?
In our most recent college preparation article, we discussed who files FAFSA for divorced parents. As a follow up in our ongoing FAFSA Series, we plan to address some questions regarding what you can use your FAFSA funds for, without getting yourself into some trouble by the federal government. But first, what does FAFSA cover in terms of the total cost of college?
What Does FAFSA Cover?
Every school in the country have different costs associated with tuition, room and board, books etc. And many families wonder if the total amount of FAFSA aid is going to be enough to cover it all. And if it doesn’t, how do families cover the rest of the costs when FAFSA falls short?
Well unfortunately, don’t count on your FAFSA aid to cover everything. Currently, FAFSA is set up to award the following educational aid loans:
- First Year Students: $5,500
- Second Year Students: $6,500
- Third Year and Beyond: $7,500
- Maximum Amount of Debt From Loans: $31,000
*These figures are for Dependent Undergraduate Students
As you can see, without taking out a PLUS loan or a Private Student Loan, there is a very good chance you will not be able to fund your college education with just FAFSA alone. Many families have to get creative to cover that EFC, or expected family contribution. Getting a job on campus, working over the summer, using money from a college fund or savings are all great options, but not every student has that ability.
Obtaining a private student loan is becoming much more common these days, and in our tough economic condition. The good news is that educational loans generally have a relatively lower interest rate and are also considered “good debt”, if there is such a thing. SimpleTuition.com has a pretty streamlined way of getting some free information about private educational loans. You can try them out here: Simple Tuition
Now that we’ve established the fact that it’s pretty likely that your total cost of college per year will exceed your FAFSA award, let’s answer some of the common questions that arise regarding what FAFSA covers…
Does FAFSA Cover Community College?
Yes. As long as you are applying for FAFSA, you are getting money to aid in furthering your education. It does not matter if those funds are used at the University level, or at the Community college. Also, Junior and Community colleges are traditionally much less expensive than the 4 year institutions but be careful. There are plenty of Community colleges out there that cost a pretty penny. Check with your specific school to see if your FAFSA award will cover your Community college costs.
Does FAFSA Cover Room and Board?
Again, as long as these costs are education-related, then the answer is yes. If it requires you to live on campus in order to get your education, then that is considered education-related. When you receive your FAFSA award money, you can put it into your bank account and use it like you would any other funds from there. So, writing a rent check for your place is considered ok. FAFSA will cover your room and board.
Which leads us into our next common question…
Does FAFSA Cover Off Campus Housing?
Here again, these expenses are related to you finding a place of residence at your college in order to further your education. You may use your FAFSA funds to pay rent and expenses for living, even if you are off campus in a house, condo or appartment. So does FAFSA cover off campus housing? You betcha! Feel free to use all or some of the funds for your living quarters, or even food and groceries if you have some money left over!
Does FAFSA Cover Summer Classes?
If you plan on staying for all or part of the summer in order to take extra classes, more power to you! But, don’t expect to get any more money from the Federal Government for it. Your total amount for FAFSA is listed above depending on what year in school you are. You cannot exceed that amount using FAFSA. So, if you need money for summer classes you may have to find a different way to fund that. Getting a job or additional money via a private loan are two pretty common ways of doing so.
But, if you have money left over from the regular Fall/Spring semester sessions, then you can use it to fund your summer school tuition. So, does FAFSA cover summer classes? Yes…if you have the money!
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Previous Articles In Our FAFSA Series:
- Part V: Who Files FAFSA For Divorced Parents?
- Part IV: FAFSA Deferred Compensation
- Part III: What is an EFC Number on a FAFSA Application?
- Part II: When to Fill Out The FAFSA for Fall 2011
- Part I: What is the Purpose of the FAFSA Application?