The value of a college degree is undisputed. A 2010 report from the College Board estimates that, among full-time workers, high school graduates earned a median annual income of $33,800; workers with an associate’s degree, $42,000; and, workers with a bachelor’s degree, $55,700.

Chapter 4 | Federal Financial Aid

The information included on this webpage was excerpted from Chapter 4 of College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers, available in its entirety at

FAFSA = Free Application for Federal Student Aid

basics thought bubbleChapter 4, Part 2 | Federal Financial Aid Basics
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What is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is used to determine the dollar amount that a student and/or her family will be expected to contribute towards college expenses. Federal financial aid awards are determined based on the information included in the FAFSA; and nearly all colleges use the FAFSA as the basis for their own financial aid awards. A FAFSA must be completed for each year in which a student wishes to receive aid. According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, US ED awards approximately $150 billion a year in grants, work-study funds, and low-interest loans to more than 14 million students. Federal student aid may be used to cover such expenses as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Aid also can help pay for other related expenses, such as a computer and dependent care. It is important to ensure that students use the official FAFSA website,, to complete their FAFSA for free. Other websites may attempt to mimic the official FAFSA website, but charge a filing fee at the end of the online filing process.

FAFSA Deadlines

new FAFSA is released each January for the upcoming school year. A student should complete her FAFSA as soon as possible to ensure that she does not miss important federal, state, or institutional deadlines. The federal FAFSA deadline is June 30 at the close of the FAFSA school year. For instance, a student filling out the 2014-2015 FAFSA must submit her FAFSA by June 30, 2015, to meet the federal deadline. States and individual institutions of higher education often use the information included in a student’s FAFSA to determine eligibility for state and institutional aid and scholarship programs; thus, students also will want to comply with state and institutional FAFSA deadlines, which vary by state and institution, and could be earlier than the June 30 federal deadline. Finally, many financial aid offices allocate aid on a first-come, first-served basis; thus, the sooner a student submits her FAFSA, the better. For more information on federal and state FAFSA deadlines, visit For information on institutional FAFSA deadlines, the student should check with the financial aid office at the institution.

Types of Federal Financial Aid

Types of federal financial aid for which a student may be eligible include:

  • grants, which do not need to be repaid;
  • loans, for which the student takes responsibility for repaying; and
  • federal work study, which provides jobs for college students with financial need, enabling them to earn money to help pay education expenses.

Loans either may be subsidized or unsubsidized.

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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NAEHCY 2018 Conference
Anaheim, CA
October 27-30, 2018
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015
Homeless Students in ESEA Reauthorization
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