Q&A: Brown urges Huskers to file FAFSA before spring break

Q&A: Brown urges Huskers to file FAFSA before spring break

Due to demand, university officials are recommending that students apply for federal student aid prior to the start of spring break on March 19.
Due to demand, university officials are recommending that students apply for federal student aid prior to the start of spring break on March 19.

The April 1 priority deadline for University of Nebraska-Lincoln students and families to submit the annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid is quickly approaching. University officials recommend students submit the FAFSA prior to the start of Nebraska's spring break, which is the week of March 19-23. Nebraska Today sat down with Justin Chase Brown, director of scholarships and financial aid, to discuss the importance of filing the FAFSA on time.

Justin C. Brown
Justin Chase Brown

Why is the FAFSA important?

In the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, we are always looking for ways to empower students to pursue their academic goals without distraction. We know paying for school is an important concern of many students, and we want to help them secure as much funding for school as possible. Filing the FAFSA is a necessary step for most students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to be able to pay for college because it determines what federal, state and need-based aid is available to them, whether that's in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study or student loans.

How many University of Nebraska-Lincoln students receive financial aid?

More than half of all undergraduate students at Nebraska receive grant or scholarship aid. Each year, our office provides individual service and advice to thousands of students on their best options for paying for school. Last year, we processed nearly $30 million in need-based grant aid alone for students.

Those among the more than 4,000 students who qualify for the Federal Pell Grant, file the FAFSA and complete necessary paperwork, also qualify for the College Bound Nebraska program, which provides enough financial aid grants or scholarships to cover tuition costs.

While student loans are considered financial aid, there are scholarships and grants that are awarded that do not need to be repaid based on the information provide on the FAFSA-that's why filing on time is so important. We can provide the best aid packages to students only if they complete the FAFSA by April 1.

Do students need to renew federal financial aid each year?

The FAFSA is an annual application, so students must file every year. And, if they haven't done so yet, now is the time to file. The priority deadline is April 1, but we highly recommend students file before spring break to ensure they can complete the form and get everything submitted in time to know what they will receive in financial aid for the upcoming year.

If students need assistance completing the FAFSA, our staff is here to help. Students can stop by our office in the lower level of Canfield Administration Building between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, call us at 402-472-2030 or email at financialaid@unl.edu.

Is financial aid available for the 2018 summer term?

Yes! We will be awarding additional Pell Grant funds for the summer this year (for the first time in more than a decade) due to changes to federal legislation. In order to qualify for the Summer Pell Grant, students must have demonstrated financial need and enroll halftime, or 6 hours.

Priority registration for the upcoming summer term has already begun, but we use a student's current FAFSA (the one completed last year) to determine aid availability. If we have a student's FAFSA on file, all they need to do is apply online.

Is there a best time to submit their application?

The best time to work on the FAFSA and submit it is prior to spring break, which is March 19-23. The April 1 priority deadline quickly approaches after spring break ends and we know students are busy. We know this can be a stressful time in the semester as well, so if students need even a little extra guidance, they should feel free to contact us.

The benefit for students applying early is that it ensures everything is submitted properly and so the university has what it needs to determine what aid a student is eligible for. We want to help students understand their aid package as soon as possible, so we have already begun awarding financial aid to thousands of Huskers. Funds are limited, so we encourage everyone to file as soon as they can.

What if students or their families haven't filed their 2017 taxes yet?

The good news about filing the FAFSA is that students and families don't have to wait to file taxes anymore. The FAFSA for the upcoming, 2018-19 academic year is based on 2016 tax information. And, to simplify the process, when filing the FAFSA, the university recommends using the IRS Data Retrieval tool embedded in the form. This tool allows families and students to give the IRS permission to transfer tax information directly to the FAFSA. This makes the application much easier and accurate.

What can faculty and staff do to help students ensure they don't miss out on financial aid opportunities?

The main mission of the Office of Scholarships and Financial aid is to serve students, so faculty and staff can refer anyone who needs assistance or who has questions to our office. We offer assistance on a walk-in basis in our office in room 12 of Canfield Administration Building. Students can even file the FAFSA in our office. We have computers available where students can pull up a chair and file with an expert just a few steps away.