This website was
made possible by the
generous support of
The Gould Family Foundation.
Helping connect New Orleans youth to postsecondary opportunities.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important step for students seeking postsecondary education. Without completing it, students are ineligible for most grants and loans. Some schools even require it for scholarships.
FAFSAforNOLA is an initiative to raise awareness about FAFSA's importance, help schools and students complete the application, and track completion rates across the city.
of New Orleans public school seniors have completed their application so far this year.
Last updated: July 8, 2016
July 1, 2016
Resources for Schools
Please click "Resources for Schools" again to collapse this tab.
The U.S. Department of Education has many resources that can help increase understanding of FAFSA. Explore the options here.
The U.S. Department of Education also has several sample presentations that counselors and administrators can use to help convey critical information to students and parents. Subjects include introductory FAFSA information, support on completing FAFSA, and financial literacy information. Find the presentations here.
They also offer a number of training sessions. Learn more here.
New Orleans educators have also put together a growing list of resources here.
Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce has a number of infographics and reports (as well an interactive on college majors and earnings in each state) that can help explain the value of credentials and the importance of choosing a major wisely. Find them here.
The Cowen Institute would also like to thank the New Orleans college counselors who provided feedback on this report, including Paris Woods, New Orleans College Prep; Sheena Reed and Lauren Katz, Collegiate Academies; and Larry Murphy, KIPP New Orleans.
Do you have other resources you would like to share? Please do so below! And if you have any other questions about FAFSA you would like answered, please ask them below.
Resources for Students & Parents
Please click "Resources for Students & Parents" again to collapse this tab.
- Understandingfafsa.org offers a great resource in both English and Spanish to help students and parents understand the application process and what to do with the award.
- For a tutorial on how to complete FAFSA, please click here.
- The Louisiana Department of Education has a helpful site outlining financial aid.
- The U.S. Department of Education also has a Hotline to call if you need assistance:
FAFSA Hotline: 1-800-433-3243 (open Mon.-Fri. 7am-9pm CT).
Do you have other resources you would like to share or a question for a college counselor about the FAFSA process? Please share at the bottom of the "Resources for Schools" tab if you do!
See below for key information from the report about the FAFSA process:
What can I expect after applying?
Completing the FAFSA is a vital first step, but there is still work to be done. Once completed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) either by email or postal mail, usually within 1-2 weeks. You should review the SAR for accuracy and report any errors.
The SAR will contain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a measure of your family’s financial ability. This number is not the amount your family will be expected to pay. Instead, it is used by your college or career school to calculate the amount of aid you will be eligible to receive. Your college or career school will then determine what kind of financial aid you are eligible for and send you a financial aid offer.
The FAFSA website has a budget calculator that helps you estimate how much income will be available to you after you pay all expected school and living expenses. It is important that you consult your school’s financial aid office to fully understand all aspects and obligations of your offer.
Once you understand your options, you must accept the financial aid award, usually via your school’s website. You will also likely need to complete a “dependency verification” through your school to make sure your application information is accurate. Finally, before any loan money will be distributed, you must complete an online loan counseling session, which will ensure that you understand how the loan process works.
There are also a variety of repayment plans for you after you graduate that can be based on how much you earn, which helps those who are struggling to make their loan payments. There is also an online repayment estimator, which gives an estimate of how much your monthly payments will be, based on the amount of loans you have. When using this estimator, remember that if you will have to take loans for each year of postsecondary school, you should include each year’s loans (e.g. you may need to multiply your first year’s loans by four if you plan to use loans to complete a traditional bachelor’s degree).
What kinds of financial aid exist?
There are three main sources of financial aid that a student can receive, all of which may require that a student complete their FAFSA:
- Grants: Money that is awarded to a student that does not have to be repaid upon graduation. One example is the Federal Pell Grant, which is distributed based on student need. Students must complete their FAFSA to be eligible for a Pell Grant.
- Loans: Money that students use to pay for tuition and other school expenses, but will need to be repaid with interest upon graduation. There are many types of loans – read the information in the next column to learn more about which would be best for you.
- Scholarships: Money that students receive based on merit or other criteria from government, colleges, or other sources. Students must complete their FAFSA to be eligible for a TOPS scholarship.
Students should first seek to get as much “free” money as possible, such as grants or scholarships, before looking at loans. Students coming from low-income families are especially likely to receive some federal grants (about 90% of applicants from families with incomes below $40,000 a year were awarded funding from grants).4 After exploring all scholarships and grants, students and their parents should investigate loan options.
Loans come in a variety of forms, some of which may be better for an individual than others. The terms of repayment and interest rates vary and it is recommended that students try to only take out student loans from the federal government.
What is changing next year?
There will be two key improvements to the application process that will be important for students beginning in the fall of 2016:
- Earlier Start Date
Students will be able to begin their applications on October 1, 2016 instead of January 1, 2017.
- Earlier Tax Information
For many students, it can be difficult to have their most recent tax information available for the application. Beginning October 1, 2016, applicants can use tax information from the prior year instead of the current year. For example, if a student is applying for 2017-18 school year, they can use tax information from 2015.
- Louisiana FAFSA Requirement
Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, as a part of graduation, students will be required to complete either FAFSA or the TOPS application or file for a waiver.
Red is below the 2015 city average.
Blue is above the 2015 city average.