For many, the decision to attend college hinges on the ability to pay for it. You may be surprised at the amount of aid that becomes available each year through federally funded grants and loans; not to mention the amount of aid individual colleges award each year in the form of grants and scholarships.

On January 1st, the 2011 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) becomes available for submission. The FAFSA is a form that the government requires to determine your financial aid eligibility. If you’re interested in receiving financial aid for college in the form of student grants or federally funded loans, you will be required to complete it and file it either online or by mail.

Who is eligible to receive Federal Student Aid?

According to FAFSA.ed.gov, to receive federal student aid, you must meet certain requirements::

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.
  • Have a valid Social Security Number (unless you’re from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau).
  • Be registered with Selective Service if you are male and 18 to 25 years of age.
  • Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) Certificate or pass an exam approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program at a school that participates in the federal student aid programs.
  • Not have a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, loans, or work-study).

Once the FAFSA is completed, you will be eligible to receive federally funded student loans and grants. Your eligibility for aid depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending.

To get more information on federal student aid, visit the financial aid office at your school or look at “Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid” at studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html

If you received financial aid would it affect your decision to attend college?

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