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John Bair
John Bair
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Veterans and College planning

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In today’s competitive employment marketplace, a college education can no longer be considered a luxury. To maximize earning potential over the course of a career and open employment doors that would otherwise remain closed, a college degree is a must-have. In fact, when advising families that have received a personal injury settlement for their child, I often recommend savings options like a 529 Plan that features exempt distributions for qualifying higher education expenses.

Of course, the pursuit of higher education costs money, and for many people, a lack of funds is a very real barrier. In fact, when advising families that have received a personal injury settlement for their child, I often recommend savings options like a 529 Plan that features exempt distributions for qualifying higher education expenses. But everyone, regardless of their current financial reality, has access to federally funded options that level the playing field. Here are five quick facts about federal student aid and how it might affect planning for you and your family.

1. FAFSA

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the gateway for all governmental education funding. If you or your child is considering enrolling in a higher learning institution, you should fill out this form immediately. Most aid is administered on a first-come, first-serve basis so the sooner you get your FAFSA submitted, the better your odds are of receiving significant aid.

2. Types of Aid

The aid controlled by FAFSA is generally need-based, but almost every student will have access to some form of financial assistance. The main forms of aid are:

● Pell Grant (a grant of up to $5,645 that does not need to be paid back)
● Subsidized Stafford Loans (the government pays interest accrual as long as student is enrolled at least half time or during authorized deferrals)
● Unsubsidized Stafford Loans (the student is responsible for all interest accrual from the date the loan is issued)
● Perkins Loans (similar to Stafford but issued directly by the school)
● Federal Work Study Programs (on campus employment wherein a student’s income is typically paid half by the school and half by the government)

3. How To Submit

You can submit your FAFSA in a couple of different ways.

The first (and in my opinion, the easiest) is to visit the official FAFSA website at www.fafsa.ed.gov. On that site, you can create an account, fill out the application, easily navigate important deadlines, and utilize other resources to help ensure you feel confidently well-informed.

If you’re more comfortable with a good old fashioned paper application, you’ll be glad to know that FAFSA offers that option as well. You can print a PDF version off the website or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.

4. Military Options

If you’ve served our country in the armed forces, you rightfully have access to additional forms of aid. One of the most recent developments on this front is the Veterans Access, Choice And Accountability Act of 2014, which was just signed into law by President Obama in August 2014.

This legislation offers all veterans in-state tuition pricing at state colleges and universities.This represents a substantial savings opportunity (The University of Alabama, for example, charged in-state students $9,200 in tuition and fees for the 2013-14 year, while the out-of-state students paid $22,950).

Veterans can also take advantage of funding through the GI Bill, which offers a host of benefits that go beyond the scope of this article. If you’re interested in learning more about the GI Bill I recommend visiting www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

5. The Bottom Line

Access to higher education is always going to require some amount of financial outlay. But it’s in the best interests of our nation to have an educated workforce that helps power the American economic engine. If you or someone you love is planning on attending a college or university, it is your responsibility to submit your FAFSA and pursue all the financial help that’s available to you.

Additionally, many of our clients dealing with settlement planning from a personal injury or wrongful death suit have children, and it is a top priority to use money from this settlement to help fund their children’s college education. By ensuring that all possible governmental aid is taken advantage of, it becomes that much easier to stretch the settlement money a bit further and help decrease or eliminate any out-of-pocket expenses for an all-important college education.

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