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It’s financial aid time for students

Rex Barber • Jun 21, 2012 at 11:59 AM

If you want to have money on hand to pay tuition and fees, buy books and other supplies for college this year and are depending on financial aid to do so, now is the time to turn in the necessary documentation if you need to.

Margaret Miller, director of East Tennessee State University’s financial aid office, said students have been notified that they must provide any documentation requested to her office by July 1 to get aid in time for the fall semester, or be prepared to pay fees out of pocket.

“Because if they wait that late to start the process, there’s not logically a way to have everything in place for them by the first day of class,” Miller said.

The fall semester at ETSU begins Aug. 27.

ETSU encourages students to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible in the year to get the most money they may qualify for. But many students must do more than simply submit the application.

This form should have already been submitted, but time is of the essence if you have been selected to provide materials for verification.

The federal government selects between 30 and 40 percent of all applications for verification. At ETSU, its closer to 40 percent.

“It’s the one area we always have the most issues with,” Miller said. “A lot of people do part of what they’re supposed to do; they don’t finish, they don’t provide everything they’re supposed to do.”

As part of the verification process, a student’s FAFSA often has to be changed with the federal processor. Sometimes, people go back in to edit their forms after changes have been made. This must not be done, because the information on the forms must match what the IRS has on file.

Anyone seeking financial aid fills out the FAFSA. The FAFSA is used for grants of all kinds, the HOPE Lottery Scholarship, federal student loans, work-studies and other forms of aid. This form can be found easily online.

And there is plenty of money to be had by filing out a FAFSA.

In 2010-11, ETSU dispersed a total of $97,887,822 in financial aid to students. That includes all federal programs, Pell grants, various loans and work-study program dollars.

Additionally, there was $19,131,332 in HOPE Lottery Scholarship money handed out to students. The state of Tennessee also provided to ETSU students $23,113,098 in other program dollars.

This money went to 12,574 students that year. There were slightly less than 15,000 students on campus at that time.

The verification process serves several purposes. One reason is to prevent fraud. Another reason is to help identify confusing areas of the FAFSA to make the form more streamlined next year.

Right now, students selected for verification can use the most recent tax returns to help with the process. But after July 1, something called an IRS transcript will be needed to complete the verification process.

There is an option on the FAFSA for students to allow the school to pull this transcript from the IRS. If this box is not checked, it becomes markedly more difficult to obtain this document, as it must be specifically requested from the IRS.

If additional information or items are required for verification, a student will be mailed a letter from ETSU.

Miller said it is important to get this information in as soon as it is requested because money could be delayed.

“They can’t get any financial aid until they get that taken care of,” Miller said.

For more information, call the financial aid office at 439-4300 or visit www.etsu.edu/finaid.

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