- FAFSA Information
- California Dream Act Application Information
- Scholarship Information
- Advice for Low Income Families
- Advice for Middle Class/Upper Middle Class Families
The 2020-2021 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will opens today (October 1, 2019) and you will be completing the form using tax information from the 2018 tax year (you can pull income-tax information directly from the IRS by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that is embedded in the FAFSA).
Feeling lost or confused about how to fill out the FAFSA? There are FREE California Cash for College workshops available to assist you. You may find workshops near you at the California Student Aid Commission website.
California Dream Act Application Information
For AB 540/DREAM/DACA students, be sure to file the California Dream Act Application and NOT the FAFSA (even if you are DACA and received a pseudo SSN). Filing the FAFSA when you should be filing the California Dream Act Application will delay processing of your financial aid award!
Keep in mind that you may receive loan offers to cover some or all of your college costs (MINIMUM out-of-pocket cost for a UC starts at around $10,000 per year regardless of family income; see the “Sample Financing Plans” toward the bottom of this page and note that “Student Contribution” is what the UCs expect the students to come up with on their own). Be sure to apply for scholarships to reduce the loans you need to take. You may find additional financial aid and scholarship resources for freshman or transfer students on my website (including AB 540/DREAM/DACA students).
Advice for Low Income Families
Families with incomes below $80,000 qualify for the UC Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan; however, you may still receive loan offers to cover a part of your college costs (remember that your MINIMUM out-of-pocket cost for a UC starts at around $10,000 per year regardless of family income; see the “Sample Financing Plans” toward the bottom of this page and note that “Student Contribution” is what the UCs expect the students to come up with on their own). Be sure to apply for scholarships to reduce the loans you need to take.
If you are a transfer student and you have been using your Cal Grants and/or Pell Grants while attending community college, please see my post Cal Grants & Pell Grants at Community College for additional information regarding your financial aid after you transfer.
Advice for Middle Class/Upper Middle Class Families
I strongly urge you to complete the FAFSA even if you don’t think you are eligible to receive need-based aid. Completing the form will guard against any unexpected changes in your financial situation and may help you qualify for merit-based scholarships (some colleges and organizations require the FAFSA to award merit scholarships). Consider the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) program, which provides funding to help middle-class students attend UCs or CSUs; families with incomes up to $177,000 per year are eligible, but you MUST complete the FAFSA to qualify.
Please note that I make this recommendation because many parents have asked me for financial aid advice, which is a complicated and highly regulated field. This is simply for your information in case you are interested.
If you need help navigating the financial aid maze, I recommend Stephanie Hancock of College Aid Consulting. She is knowledgeable, honest, and she genuinely cares about helping her clients get the best financial aid package possible (I spent two hours talking to her on the phone and learned more about financial aid than all of my previous years combined!). If you are simply not sure where to start, invest $150 for Stephanie’s Aid Profiler service; she will assess your current financial status and identify any opportunity to receive aid, where, and under what circumstances. You will walk away with a clear understanding of how much financial aid you will qualify and what actions you can take to maximize your need-based and merit-based aid. In addition, as a financial advisor with Hancock Wealth Advisory (a registered investment adviser), Stephanie can help you with shielding assets if opportunities exist.
Do NOT assume that you should just take out loans to pay for college and everything will work out. The government, colleges, and private lenders are NOT taking the time to educate you on how to manage your money or explain how crushing student loan debt could ruin your life. Loans are too easy to take out and the interests add up too quickly (particularly for unsubsidized or private loans). Federal student loans will follow you for life and not to be taken lightly (you will carry the debt until you die because student loans typically cannot be discharged through bankruptcy; predatory student loan servicers have also been contributing to higher student loan default rates – please note, this link takes you to a video that contains explicit language; unfortunately it’s the only one I could find that provides a clear enough explanation regarding the problems with student loan servicers).
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