Updated Tool Helps Schools Track FAFSA Completion

In March 2012, ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced the release of an innovative FAFSA Completion Tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators and practitioners both track and subsequently increase FAFSA completions at high schools across the country. Prior to publishing this data, the only source of data on FAFSA completions that high schools had were from self-reported student surveys, which were highly unreliable.

Image promoting FAFSA websiteThrough the FAFSA Completion Tool, educators have real-time access to reliable data to track FAFSA submission and completion and gauge their progress in increasing FAFSA completion. Key studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.

Last month, FSA updated and enhanced the FAFSA Completion Tool by revealing FAFSA submission and completion totals for the current year, as well as FAFSA submission and completion totals for the same time last year. With this addition, the FAFSA Completion Tool—updated biweekly during the peak application period—now provides every high school in the country whose students have completed five or more FAFSAs with information about how many applications were submitted and completed for the 2013–14 application year as well as comparison data from the 2012–13 FAFSA application year.

Last year’s data provides a baseline by which school districts can gauge their efforts, set goals to improve on last year’s performance, and subsequently increase FAFSA completion within their school district.

Last year, the Tool provided FAFSA submission and completion data for the senior classes at over 24,000 high schools in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and all U.S. territories. More than 30,000 visitors accessed the data throughout the spring of 2012 to inform their local FAFSA completion strategies and overall college access initiatives. There are indications the Tool has contributed to raising FAFSA awareness across the country with more than 500,000 seniors having submitted a 2013–14 FAFSA through the end of January this year. This represents a nine percent increase compared to early submissions during January 2012.

For more information on the Tool and to search updated FAFSA Completion Data by High School for the senior class of 2013, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa-hs-data.

Todd May
Federal Student Aid

Helpful Social Media Tools to Promote FAFSA Completion

Helpful Social Media Tools to Promote FAFSA Completion

For us at the U.S. Department of Education, the start of a new year provides a fresh opportunity to  remind parents, students and educators about the importance of submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to help pay for college or career school. Completing the FAFSA is the primary step for determining eligibility for federal student aid and subsequently accessing these funds. With the 2013-14 FAFSA application having gone live on January 1st, FSA’s Digital Engagement Group is requesting your assistance in promoting FAFSA completion.

We are asking for your help in getting the message out through your social media channels about the importance of completing the FAFSA early in the year.  To help you do that, we have developed some resources for you to use:

In addition, over the next few months, the Federal Student Aid Digital Engagement Group will be actively managing our own presence on social media with a strong focus on FAFSA completion. We highly encourage you to use and repost our content whenever applicable. Here are the places you can find us:

Thanks for your support and commitment to advancing the higher education goals of students and families across


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in accessing the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid. Since the 2013-14 FAFSA launched, there are a few questions we’ve seen popping up more than any others. Let’s go through them.

How can I complete the FAFSA if my parents or I haven’t filed my 2012 taxes yet?

FAFSA ImageYou CAN complete the 2013-14 FAFSA even if you or your parents haven’t filed your 2012 taxes yet. Here’s what you or your parents can do in your respective sections of the FAFSA:

  1. When the FAFSA asks: “Have you completed a 2012 income tax return?” Select “Will file.”
  2. Estimate income.
    • If your 2012 income is similar to your 2011 income, use your 2011 income tax return to provide estimates for questions about your income.
    • If your income is not similar, click Income Estimator for assistance estimating your adjusted gross income, and answer the remaining questions about your income to the best of your ability.
  1. After you file your 2012 tax return, go to www.fafsa.gov and correct your information.
    • Note: Once you complete your 2012 taxes, you may also be eligible to use the FAFSA’s IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically transfer your tax return information from the IRS into the FAFSA.

When is the FAFSA deadline?

States, schools, and the federal government each have their own FAFSA filing deadlines . It is important that you research all of these deadlines and complete the FAFSA by whichever deadline comes first. That being said, some types of financial aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so we recommend you complete the FAFSA as soon as possible in order to maximize the amount of financial aid you can receive.

Which FAFSA should I complete?

When you log into www.fafsa.gov, you will be given two different options: “Start a 2013-14 FAFSA” and “Start a 2012-13 FAFSA.” Which should you choose?

    • If you’ll be attending college between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014 select “Start a 2013-14 FAFSA.”
    • If you’ll be attending college between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 select “Start a 2012-13 FAFSA.”
    • If you are applying for a summer session, or just don’t know which application to complete, check with the college you are planning to attend.

For more information about FAFSA, visit studentaid.gov/fafsa.

5 Reasons You Should Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA January Free Logo

The new FAFSA for the 2013-14 school year is now available.

1. It’s the only way to gain access to the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid.

Completing the FAFSA is the first step toward getting federal aid for college, career school, or graduate school. Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year, but you have to complete the FAFSA to see if you can get any of that money. Not to mention, many states, schools and scholarships also use the FAFSA to award financial aid, so every college-bound student should complete it.

2. It’s FREE!

The FAFSA is free to complete and there is help provided throughout the application. Several websites offer help filing the FAFSA for a fee. These sites are not endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. We urge you not to pay these sites for assistance that you can get for free at the official FAFSA website: www.fafsa.gov.

3. It’s easier than ever.

We’ve done a lot over the past few years to simplify the FAFSA. One of the most exciting enhancements has been the launch of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. The tool allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS Web site, saving lots of time. This year, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will launch in early February, so be on the lookout for that.

4. It only takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Given all the simplifications we’ve made over the last couple of years, the FAFSA now only takes about 30 minutes to complete. That’s probably less time than you spend watching your favorite TV show each week. And think of the benefits: spend 30 minutes completing the application and you could qualify for thousands of dollars in financial aid. Talk about return on investment.

5. More people qualify than you’d think.

If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid! I’ve heard a number of reasons students think they shouldn’t complete the FAFSA. Here are a few:

    • “I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
    • “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
    • “The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.”
    • “I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.”

If you think any of these statements apply to you, then you should read “Myths About Financial Aid.” The reality is, EVERYONE should fill out the FAFSA! Don’t leave money on the table.

For information and tips on completing the FAFSA, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

#AskFAFSA Office Hours with Secretary Arne Duncan

On October 12th at 4pm ET, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan will join @FAFSA to answer your financial aid questions during the October edition of #AskFAFSA Office Hours. Maybe you have a question about completing the FAFSA or understanding your loan repayment options? Maybe you want to know more about the new resources we just launched? If you have a financial aid question for Secretary Duncan, now’s your chance to ask!

AskArneEvent_PosterHere’s how it works:

  • Have questions for @ArneDuncan You can start submitting your questions on Twitter and Facebook today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA  hashtag in your tweets. We will be monitoring for questions on Facebook and Twitter from now through Friday.
  • On Friday, October 12th, at 4pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. Arne will be answering your questions live. Don’t use Twitter? You can also follow along using the Twitter app on our Facebook page.
  • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify following the event.

September #AskFAFSA Office Hours: What I wish I knew…

When you’re learning to manage your money on your own, there’s a lot of trial and error involved. But at the end of the day, it’s one of the most important lessons you’ll learn while in college. Trust us, as recent college graduates who now work at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, we’ve been through it.

We are firm believers that there is a lot of learning that takes place in college that doesn’t come from a book, a professor or a class. Some of the greatest lessons we learned in college came in the form of life skills.

For many of you, it’s probably the first time you’re truly on your own. No one to do your laundry, cook for you, or check to make sure your homework is done. In college, YOU are responsible for getting yourself to class, maintaining good grades and dare we say it… managing your own finances.

While we don’t claim to be financial experts, there is probably something you can learn about becoming financially independent from our diverse experiences and the mistakes we’ve made along the way. For this month’s #AskFAFSA Office Hours we’re taking your questions & sharing some of the things we wish we knew about managing money when we were in college.

Name: Christal Simms

School: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University ’10

Major: Journalism and Mass Communications

Financial Tip: Research used bookstores and online sites where you can buy your books cheaper or even rent them. Also, consider selling your books back when the class is done. You can get some of your money back and you can avoid having a pile of books you will never read again.

Name: Kevin Suyo

School: Georgetown University ’11

Major: International Economics

Financial Tip: Learn to cook. It’s a good skill to have, it can be easy and fun, and it’s much cheaper than eating out every night. And you’ll get tired of dining hall chicken fingers sooner than you expect.

Name: Nicole Callahan

School: The George Washington University ‘11

Major: Business Administration

Financial Tip: Get a part-time job in college. I had a work-study job throughout my time at GW. Not only are you able to gain professional experience, but it’s always good to have a little extra cash. There are plenty of jobs that only require a few hours a week so it won’t interfere with your school work.

But enough about us! We want to know what your questions are. Maybe you’re trying to figure out whether or not to get a credit card? Or maybe you want tips on how to study abroad on a budget? We’re here to help. On Thursday, September 27th at 6pm ET, the three of us will join @FAFSA on Twitter to help answer your questions and offer tips and advice about smart financial decisions. So start sending in your questions!

Here’s how it works:

  • Have questions for us? You can start submitting your questions on Twitter and Facebook today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA  hashtag in your tweets. We will be monitoring for questions on Facebook and Twitter from now through Thursday.
  • On Thursday, September 23, at 6pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. We‘ll be answering your questions live. Don’t use Twitter? You can also follow along using the Twitter app on our Facebook page.
  • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify  following the event.

Kevin, Christal, and Nicole are former Federal Student Aid (FSA) interns who now work full-time at FSA.

5 Steps for Picking a College

Picking a college can be a daunting task for students and their families. The Obama Administration and the Department of Education are making it easier for students to pick the right school by providing key information on a school’s cost and how much debt the typical graduate has upon leaving a school.

Graduation CapsLast week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out five easy steps students and their families can take to help pick the right college.

1. Research prospective schools and consider the total cost and student success in the job market and other outcomes. Check out ED’s College Affordability and Transparency Center to get started.

2. Apply to several schools. There are a lot of great options, and your job is to find the highest quality education you can get for the best value.

3. Fill out the FAFSA. Make sure you can get the financial aid you need to be successful. Get started at: studentaid.gov

4. Compare financial aid awards from different schools. Understand how much you will have in grants and scholarships, and determine if loans are necessary. ED’s new “Shopping Sheet” makes this process easy and straightforward.

5. Pick the best school for you. Study hard, get involved and keep focused on your end goals.

Stay up to date with Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education by receiving our weekly news update.

ED launches new, mobile-optimized site: StudentAid.gov

If you’re a student thinking about college or career school or a borrower already in repayment, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid has launched some exciting new tools to help you through the financial aid process.

StudentAid.gov is a new website that provides straightforward and easy-to-understand information about planning and paying for college. The site combines content and interactive tools from several ED websites.

StudentAid.gov offers more than just information in an easy-to-read format; it also features videos and infographics to help answer the most frequently asked questions about financial aid.

As a mobile-optimized website, StudentAid.gov is fully accessible on tablets and smartphones. StudentAid.gov’s new look was tested with students, parents and borrowers, and we will continue to make improvements and updates based on your feedback.

Some New Features

Income-Based Repayment Calculator: If your student loan debt is high but your income is modest, you may qualify for the Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR). To find out whether you might be eligible to repay your loan under IBR, use our new IBR calculator.

Videos: We’ve developed videos to help make the financial aid process easier to understand. We’ll continue to roll out new videos and update our playlists on the Federal Student Aid YouTube channel.

Infographics: Our infographics will help you understand what steps you need to take to get money for college or career school.

Social Media: In addition to StudentAid.gov, Federal Student Aid has also launched Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to offer you alternative options to learn about the student aid process.

Learn More at #AskFAFSA Office Hours

If you would like to learn more about these new resources, @usedgov will be interviewing @FAFSA on Twitter on July 25th at 6pm ET to highlight some of the helpful new features that are available. Whether you’re just starting to think about college or career school, currently enrolled or in the repayment process, we encourage you to join the conversation.

Here’s how it works:

- Have suggestions or questions about the new resources that are available? You can start submitting them on Twitter today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA hashtag in your tweets. We’ll continue to take questions throughout the week and during the live event.

- On Wednesday, July 25th, at 6pm ET, follow @usedgov & @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. Suggestions and questions are encouraged!

- Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify and the ED.gov blog following the event.

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/NCGXVY

Explore Your Student Loan Repayment Options at #AskFAFSA Office Hours

“While it’s never been more important to have a degree, a certificate or an industry-recognized credential — it’s also never been more expensive.

About two-thirds of college graduates borrow to go to school, and on average they’re graduating with more than $26,000 in debt. In an economy still recovering from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, getting a job is hard enough, but paying back those loans is daunting.”   -   Arne Duncan

You are not alone. There are millions of student loan borrowers just like you who can almost all agree on one thing: repaying student loans is not easy. Especially in these economic times, making your student loan payments on time each month can be difficult, but there are resources available to help you stay on track.

FAFSATo help you learn about these options, this month’s #AskFAFSA Office Hours will highlight real student loan borrowers in a variety of fields who are using various resources (some more out of the box than others) to repay their student loans. Here’s who you’ll be hearing from:

  • Ian (^I): After graduating law school, Ian decided to make public service a career. But with over $160,000 federal student loan debt, Ian would have had to pay over $1,800 per month on the standard loan repayment plan, over $1,000 on the standard consolidation plan and the extended plan, a bit more still. That’s quite a hefty amount for a public servant. Ian began exploring his options. After consolidating six loans into one payment and enrolling in income-based repayment, Ian’s monthly payment now stands at $375. What’s more, he is participating in public service loan forgiveness.
  • Tiffany(^T): In May 2012, Tiffany graduated from the University of South Carolina (USC) with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. While at USC, Tiffany was able to pay in-state tuition because of a reciprocity agreement between South Carolina and her home state of Maryland. However, she still needed to borrow federal student loans to help fund her education. Upon graduation, she took a job with Teach for America, a national teach corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach and to effect change in under-resourced urban and rural public schools. As a math teacher in New Orleans, Tiffany will have a modest salary, so during her time with Teach for America she plans to receive forbearance, which is a temporary postponement or reduction of payments for a period of time. If she continues to teach, she also plans on taking advantage of some of the loan cancellation options available to teachers.
  • Joe(^J): Did you hear about the Harvard Business School graduate who paid off $90k in student loans in seven months? That’s Joe. After graduating with his MBA and $95k in student loans ($101k including accumulated interest) at the age of 26, Joe decided to do everything in his power– short of lying, cheating, and stealing–to pay down this debt in ten months. His strategy was definitely out of the ordinary, from selling his beloved motorcycle to skipping a trip home for Christmas to only going on cheap dates, Joe managed to pay off his student loan debt 3 months ahead of his already tight schedule. While the route Joe took to repay his student loans is not typical, his experience demonstrates that if you educate yourself about the student loan process and make responsible choices about funding your education, a student loan can be a great investment in your future.

Our guests have learned some valuable lessons throughout the student loan repayment process, but they are not licensed financial advisors and the repayment options they are taking advantage of may not be right for you*.  On Tuesday, June 26,at 6pm ET, join Ian, Tiffany and Joe for #AskFAFSA Office Hours, where they will be taking your questions on borrowing responsibly and repaying student loans.

Here’s how it works:

    • Have questions about the student loan repayment process? You can start submitting your questions on Twitter today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA hashtag in your tweets. We’ll continue to take questions throughout the week and during the live event.
    • On Tuesday, June 26, at 6pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. Ian, Tiffany and Joe will be available to answer your questions live.
    • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify and the ED.gov blog following the event.

*Our guests will be speaking about their personal experiences and will be signing their tweets with their respective initial. They are not licensed financial advisors and they do not not claim to be experts. Their opinions are their own and do not reflect the opinion of the U.S. Department of Education or its officers or employees and are not an official or personal endorsement of any views expressed or product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying U.S. Department of Education endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service. Any references to institutions, programs, activities, commercial entities, products, and services that remain on Federal Student Aid social media accounts are those of the individual users.


ED Announces FAFSA Completion Project Expansion

If students don’t think they can pay for college, they won’t apply for college. Giving more young people access to the tools they need to apply for federal student aid is a key part of our strategy to make America number one in the world for college graduates by 2020.

–U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

In 2010, the Department of Education piloted a FAFSA Completion Project to assist local educational agencies (LEAs) and secondary school administrators in determining which of their students have completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year.  The pilot currently provides principals, counselors and college access professionals across participating school districts with verifiable and actionable information to use in increasing FAFSA completion among their student population.

FAFSAEarlier today, the Department of Education announced that 92 additional school districts will now have access to individualized data to help their students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Selected school districts, which span 30 states, will be able to track whether high school seniors have completed the FAFSA starting in the 2012-13 school year. Sites announced today were randomly selected from respondents to invitations posted earlier this year and consist of 80 school districts with multiple high schools, and 12 districts with a single high school.  These 92 new sites join 18 other districts that received data for the 2011-12 school year as part of the FAFSA Completion Project’s initial pilot.

Completing the FAFSA – which is used to determine eligibility for federal aid and is the gateway to other student aid – is a critical factor in helping students access higher education.  Key studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.

To learn more about today’s announcement and to review the list of the districts participating in the FAFSA Completion Project, click here.

Todd May
Federal Student Aid

ED Celebrates Public Service Recognition Week with #AskFAFSA Office Hours

Teachers, firefighters, police officers, government employees, military—day in and day out these public servants work tirelessly for citizens across the country. To celebrate Public Service Recognition Week (May 6th-12th) and the positive impact these individuals’ work has on our lives, we are dedicating this month’s #AskFAFSA Office Hours to our nation’s public servants.

Were you aware of these government-sponsored programs that help current and future public servants fund their higher education?

    • Income Based Repayment: Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a repayment plan for the major types of federal student loans that caps your required monthly payment at an amount intended to be affordable based on your income and family size.
      Note: Income-based repayment is not just for public servants. Have federal student loans? Find out if you qualify: http://1.usa.gov/GR2V2X
    • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program encourages individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after they have made 120 payments on those loans under certain repayment plans while employed full-time by certain public service employers.
    • TEACH Grant: The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 per year to students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families.
    • Post 9/11 GI Bill: The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an education benefit program paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs to those who served in the military on or after September 10, 2001. You can receive tuition and fee payments, a monthly housing allowance, and a books and supplies stipend of up to $1000 per year. Visit www.gibill.va.gov to learn more.
    • The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program: The Federal student loan repayment program authorizes agencies to set up their own student loan repayment programs to attract or retain highly qualified employees.

In an effort to help you better understand how to take advantage of these programs, on Friday, May 11th at 1pm ET, the U.S. Department of Education and our special guests, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Partnership for Public Service, will answering your questions live from the @FAFSA Twitter account.

Here’s how it works:

    • Have questions about the above programs? You can start submitting your questions on Twitter today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA hashtag in your tweets. We’ll continue to take questions throughout the week and during the live event.
    • On May 11th at 1pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. The Department of Veterans Affairs, The Partnership for Public Service and the @FAFSA team will be answering your questions live.
    • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify and the ED.gov blog following the event.

Public servants—Thank you for working diligently on our behalf. We hope you will join us on May 11th to learn about some of the programs that are available to help you fund your education.

FAFSA Hosts #AskFAFSA “Twitterview” on Life After College

Graduation season is upon us. In an effort to help students across the country prepare to make the transition from college to career, @FAFSA hosted a Twitter Q&A session with career expert, Lindsey Pollak yesterday. Lindsey provided great advice on researching and applying for jobs and @FAFSA jumped in with information and tips for managing and repaying your student loans after graduation.

You can see the entire Q&A below:

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