New Steps Toward Free Tuition
(Smart Money) — For students not yet enrolled, the financial math behind choosing a college has radically changed. Here are the new steps students and their parents can take to get more free aid. 1) Apply ASAP: Officially, students have a long time to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In practice, students have typically had until June to get a shot at state grants. Not anymore. Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee have already announced that FAFSAs should be submitted immediately, and they will dole out grants in the order of applications received, until the money’s gone. In a break with the traditional trends, families should no longer wait until their tax returns are ready to file the FAFSA, says Mark Kantrowitz, founder of FinAid.org, which tracks financial aid trends. Just get it in ASAP, with estimates using a W-2 and 1099 forms and the last pay stub of the year, and update the actual numbers once they’re ready. This way, the FAFSA is filed on time while grant money is still up for grabs.