Some Good News/Bad News For Florida Financial Aid Applicants…
First, the Good news!
Florida students will NO LONGER be required to complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to qualify for a Bright Futures Merit Scholarship. This reverses legislation from 2011 that required ALL Bright Futures applicants to complete a FAFSA, regardless of whether they were requesting federal financial aid.
Bright Futures, for the uninitiated, is the popular Florida merit scholarship funded by our state Lotto dollars. For students who qualify, Bright Futures awards can be used at all accredited Florida colleges, both public and private. There are different award levels, which are based on a student’s GPA and test scores, and minimum community service requirements. These can all be found at the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance website.
While I’m glad that this need-blind program is no longer requiring students to complete a need-based federal financial aid application, I remain concerned about the sustainable future of the Bright Futures program. Award amounts and requirements (Bright Futures must be re-earned annually) are subject to political will and budgetary constraints, and there is ongoing chatter about whether the State will continue to fund this program (and how). I’ve written extensively about this in the past, and you can click here to read about some of the factors that I think have affected the future of Bright Futures.
Now, in other news…
The University of Miami announced recently that all incoming freshmen and transfer students applying for Fall 2014 who are requesting financial aid must complete a CSS Profile, (in addition to a FAFSA), in order to be considered for a financial aid award. UM is the first institution in the State of Florida to require the CSS Profile, placing it in the company of many elite colleges around the country.
The CSS Profile is a lengthy financial aid application with over 200 questions that is administered by the College Board and required by nearly 300 colleges across the country (The FAFSA is required by ALL colleges). The CSS Profile is an intrusive and involved application that requires far more information about a family’s income, assets, and expenses, and it includes lifestyle questions about ancillary sources of income, home equity, medical expenses, retirement accounts and prep school expenses. The 2014 CSS Profile goes ‘live’ on October 1st. I can’t overstate the importance of understanding the various rules, Department of Education requirements and institutional objectives behind these questions BEFORE you complete and submit this (and all financial aid) applications.
A good place to start is by attending one of my public college funding classes. The September 17 workshop in Weston is completely full, but I have added an October class due to popular demand. During the class I will discuss the financial aid formulas, the various loopholes and landmines inherent in those formulas, and provide real-world, proven strategies for maximizing eligibility for all types of financial aid and merit inducements. If you’re concerned about how you’ll be able to afford your child’s college education (and you live in Florida), I encourage you to reserve a seat at October’s class.