Whatever your financial situation, you should complete the FAFSA every year that you have a student in college. This year’s federal FAFSA deadline is June 30, so you have two more weeks. There’s even more reason to fill out the FAFSA this year, even for families who aren’t eligible for need-based aid: federal student loan interest rates are extraordinarily low, with the Direct Student Loan at just 2.75%. Families concerned about cash flow or asset values in the current environment might want access to these low-cost funds as a fallback.
Even if you don’t think you would want to borrow for college, there are plenty of good reasons to complete the FAFSA in the next two weeks even if you don’t qualify for need-based aid:
- Your financial situation could change. A job loss or medical issue might suddenly make college far less affordable than you expected. You’ll need a completed FAFSA to appeal for aid at your school, and you’ll need it to borrow from the federal loan programs if your school doesn’t meet that need.
- College may cost more than you expect. You might be looking for housing options that don’t involve a roommate. You may need a new computer or other upgrade. Something else could happen. Many families find that college costs several thousand dollars a year more than they had anticipated.
- A completed FAFSA gives you leverage with your student. I call this the “No Tattoo” rule: we have set certain parameters for funding our kids’ educations that they need to live up to. However, I really don’t want them to drop out of college because I said I wouldn’t pay for their college if they got a tattoo. Instead, I’d have them take out the Direct Student Loan each year and be responsible for that portion of their college cost. Whatever your parameters, the FAFSA gives you leverage while at the same time keeping your student on track to graduate.
- You can pay a loan back from your 529. Let’s say you take out the student loan this year and as a result end up with surplus funds in your 529 at graduation. Changes to tax law now allow you to use your 529 account to pay off up to $10,000 in student loans.
Best of all, if you’ve done the FAFSA in the past, the renewal FAFSA is very easy. Bonus: the Department of Education has added additional filing statuses including Head of Household to the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, simplifying the process for many families.
No excuses, just do it. It’s free, it’s here, and it could pay for itself.