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Have you filled out your FAFSA? The Missouri deadline is Tuesday

"According to the Department of Education, 47% of people who don't fill out the FAFSA would have received some kind of aid if they had."

ST. LOUIS — Feb. 1 is the priority deadline to submit the FAFSA in Missouri.

About 68% of families with college-age students fill out the FAFSA in attempt to qualify for financial aid. College planning experts say that number should be much higher.

Since the pandemic started in 2019, fewer students have been filling out the FAFSA.

5 On Your Side talked with Eva Steffel with Gold Star College Planning about some of the things you need to know when it comes to filling out the FAFSA.

The most important thing, she said, is to fill it out!

“There are thousands of families who just don't fill it out and a lot of times they just assume ‘Oh, you know we're not going to qualify anyway.’ Well, according to the Department of Education, 47% of people who don't fill out the FAFSA would have received some kind of aid if they had,” Steffel said.

Steffel has more tips on making the process much easier. She said not to report your retirement assets and home equity on the FAFSA. It doesn’t tell you on the form which assets to report, and this part becomes especially tough for students filling the form out on their own.

The form just says to fill in information on “parent assets.” Steffel said people have no idea that thousands of dollars could be riding on this one question.

It’s important for students to remember the FAFSA has to be filled out each year they’re enrolled in college or they could risk losing access to federal loans and scholarships.

Steffel said if students are filling out the FAFSA without a parent’s help, Google is a great resource. Look up any questions you have about what to include and reach out to the financial aid office of your college with any further questions.

Another common mistake comes from incorrectly reporting the household income for parents who are divorced and separated. You should only report the income of one household on the FAFSA.

If parents own a business with less than 100 employees, don’t report that.

Steffel pointed out a common way household income totals are messed up on the FAFSA, a mistake that could cost thousands of dollars in the long run.

The FAFSA has a Data Retrieval System that provides the option to “auto-fill” your family's financial information based on the data on file with the IRS. But Steffel advises not to do that, especially if you’ve had a rollover.

“We just encourage people to punch it in themselves. It might take you an extra 10 minutes but it's worth it just not to have that mistake happen. Because otherwise, even if you do catch it, you have to go back to every single school and let them know what happened and appeal to get more money so it's just a lot of work,” She explained.

Tuesday is just the primary deadline to submit your FAFSA in Missouri. April 1 is the final day to file in the state.

For Illinois, the Federal Student Aid website says the FAFSA needs to be submitted as soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2021. You can visit isac.org for the Monetary Award Program renewal deadline.

The most important thing is filling out the FAFSA as early as possible, that way you have the best chance at getting money before it runs out.

You can go back and make corrections after you submit the FAFSA for the preliminary deadline.

 

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