FAFSA deadline quickly approaching

Written By Sarah Cronin, Staff Writer

George Santucci, the director of financial aid, says that he can’t believe that there are students who don’t fill out their yearly FAFSA by the May 1 deadline and miss out on receiving the Pennsylvania state grant. Santucci encounters this problem every year, and he’s been in financial aid for 30 years.

“It should not happen,” Santucci said. “Here at Point Park we send out email blasts, postcards, and a missing information letter, so there’s no excuse.”

FAFSA is the formal document from the federal government and the state that Point Park’s financial aid office uses in order to activate a student’s financial aid process. In order to qualify for Pennsylvania’s state grant, students must apply and fill out their FAFSA by the May 1 deadline, or else they will not be eligible to receive any federal aid.

“We cannot do anything in our office in financial aid for any loans or grants from the federal or state government at all without having the FAFSA,” Santucci said.

Photo by Jordyn Hronec

Santucci explained that the state of Pennsylvania has been very generous to Point Park’s students and families when offering the state grant in the past. This year the state grant was as high as $4,122. The state did decrease the amount to $3,233, but Santucci still believes that the amount the state is offering will be very beneficial to Point Park’s students and families.

“It’s important to apply for FAFSA so that students can qualify for their federal student loans, and for parents to be eligible to borrow parent plus loans if they choose to go down that route,” Kelly Staley, the associate director of financial aid, said. “But it can also qualify students for such things such as federal work study, which a lot of students want to do and don’t realize that it’s connected to the FAFSA.”

Santucci explained that there are several myths that surround FAFSA applications. Many believe or have heard that the process is time-consuming and complicated. However, Santucci said that filling out the application is simple and easy enough to do on your own phone or on the FAFSA website.

“The easiest thing to do is to use the data retrieval tool where you can pull that information from the IRS since most families have already completed their 2017 tax returns,” Santucci said. “Using the data retrieval tool will make it really easy.”

Point Park’s financial aid office is open to answering any questions a student or parent may have when filling out the FAFSA application, but Santucci explained that most of the application is self-explanatory and simple.

“Most students find it very easy and they’ve used the data retrieval tool to pull most of their information because if they do that there’s no question about income or anything like that,” Santucci said. “[FAFSA] made it that much easier where they’re just going to pull it right over for you so that you can do it. If there’s any particular question, then call us.”

Santucci and the financial aid office encourage students to remember to complete their FAFSA every year before the deadline, even if they are not returning to Point Park University the following year.

“You can always change your FAFSA at any point in time during the year for a different college,” Santucci said. “Having it completed by May 1 is still on time,and you have the choice to list up to 10 different institutions on [the application]. If you decide you’re not going for the whole year anywhere, then you’ll renew the next year’s [FAFSA] when it comes time.”

Santucci explained that the financial aid office will continue to send out emails and notifications to remind students to complete their FAFSA on time to prevent any students from missing out on receiving beneficial money.

“I think everyone uses some kind of calendar through their phone or some kind of reminder,” Staley said. “You get so many emails from so many different organizations that a lot of times it either goes into spam or you just don’t pay attention to it.”

Staley said that sometimes students miss out on applying for FAFSA because they assume that their parents will fill out the document for them, and when parents are not aware of the deadline, it becomes possible for students to become ineligible.

“Since [parents] might not be getting the reminder emails that the students are, nothing happens because they’re not having it in their mind that they need to get it done,” Staley said. “The students should really be sure that they’re talking to their parents instead of assuming that it’s being taken care of.”

Tommy Bo Hansana, a senior musical theater major, has been a federal work study student at the University Center for four years. Hansana said that he filled out the FAFSA application himself, and has used the financial aid office’s resources for any help that he has needed.

“I do [the FAFSA document] by myself because my dad doesn’t know how to use a computer, so I have to essentially tell him to send me his taxes, send me everything, and I fill it out for him,” Hasana said.

Hansana explained that since he considers himself an independent person, the process was very easy for him.

“I was being able to contact financial aid and ask for help, asking them questions about how to fill out what I needed help with,” Hansana said. “They made it easier, so if anything, I feel like the students should reach out more.”