One Easy Way to Reduce the Cost of College

It’s never easy to know for sure if your child qualifies for financial aid, but here’s one method to reduce the cost of college.

While your college-bound student is busy applying to the colleges of their choice, you’re probably also hard at work calculating the financial part — and that includes looking for ways to reduce the cost of college. 

One easy way to maximize your child’s eligibility for financial aid and scholarship money is to complete the FAFSA

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may seem like a task that every family checks off, but you’d be surprised. According to the Michigan College Access Network’s Michigan FAFSA Tracker, the FAFSA completion rate is just over 57%. The good news is that this is up from this time last year when the rate was 54%.

What is the FAFSA and how does it help reduce the cost of college?

As its name suggests, the FAFSA is a federal form used to determine eligibility for federal aid, including Pell Grants, as well as state aid. 

The FAFSA generates a Student Aid Index (SAI) that is sent to the schools you indicate when you complete your FAFSA. Individual colleges and universities also use the information in your FAFSA to build the aid package they send to you with your college acceptance. 

Separate portions of the FAFSA are completed by parents and students, and the experience can be tricky and confusing. However, the FAFSA has been updated for the 2024-25 school year, according to the Federal Student Aid site, and may provide a more streamlined experience than previous versions.

Submit your FAFSA with your college applications

The rule of thumb for applying to college is to complete and submit all forms at once. In other words, don’t consider the application complete without including the appropriate financial aid forms — and that includes the FAFSA.

Don’t consider financial aid an afterthought. The prospective undergraduate financial aid page at the University of Michigan says that “you should apply for financial aid before being accepted or enrolling at U-M.” It also says if you’re planning to attend U-M in the fall, “your financial aid application process begins the school year before you start.”

Don’t disqualify yourself by skipping the FAFSA

Even if you believe your family income is too high for your child to benefit from need-based aid, there’s one new, compelling reason to complete the FAFSA anyway: the Michigan Achievement Scholarship. 

reduce the cost of college

Students who graduate from a Michigan high school in 2023 or after — with either a diploma or certificate of completion — or who achieved high school equivalency may be eligible for this program from the State of Michigan. Here are the award details about the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, from MI Student Aid:

  • For a career training program in Michigan: up to $2,000 per year for two years
  • At a Michigan community college: up to $2,750 per year for three years
  • To attend a Michigan private college or university: up to $4,000 per year for five years
  • For a Michigan public university or a bachelor’s program at a Michigan community college: up to $5,500 per year for five years

Soon, the FAFSA may be required to graduate in Michigan

A bill introduced in 2023 proposes to make FAFSA completion a Michigan public and charter high school graduation requirement beginning in the 2025-26 school year. 

If passed, Michigan will join 12 other states that have some form of universal FAFSA policy, according to the National College Attainment Network. 

The bill does allow for parents to sign a waiver exempting their child from this requirement. 

FAFSA is just the start

To be eligible for financial aid, the FAFSA is a must. But it’s not the only financial aid form you may need to complete. Your college may have additional requirements. For instance, many colleges and universities, including U-M, have a second form called the CSS Profile that is required if you want to be considered for grants and merit scholarships that are need-based.

Be proactive and do your research. Reach out to the financial aid office at the schools you apply to and scour the Michigan Student Aid site to see if there are additional funds available. 

One final note: don’t make the mistake of completing the FAFSA once and forgetting about it. For your child to be eligible for aid each year, you must complete and submit the FAFSA every year they are in school. 

Content sponsored by Michigan Education Savings Program. Visit MiSaves.com.

Find more articles like this at Metro Parent’s Making Your Child’s College Dreams Come True.

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