How to Maximize Your Financial Aid Ep.1 #FinancialAidUncovered

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is, as its name suggests, a free form that determines how much federal financial aid you are eligible for. It pulls information from students’ and their immediate family’s tax returns to calculate estimated financial need. The FAFSA has a reputation for being really difficult and time-consuming to fill out. While that was the case several years ago, it’s so much easier now than it used to be!

No matter what, everyone should complete their FAFSA. Even if it turns out you don’t qualify for any federal financial aid, you won’t know for sure until you’ve filled it out. Every dollar helps when you’re trying to minimize your student debt, so it never hurts to go ahead and fill it out.

How to complete the FAFSA

You can start the process of filling it out here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa. Just click the “Start Here” button and follow the instructions from there. If there are any parts you’re confused about, the website also has lots of questions already answered on the site! 

You must have filed your tax form in order to complete the FAFSA, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be your most recent tax information. The FAFSA for each year uses the tax form that was submitted two years prior. For example, let’s say you’re filling out the FAFSA for the 2019-2020 school year. You would need to use the information from your 2017 tax return to fill out your FAFSA.  

FAFSA uses a program called IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which is what makes completing the form so easy. Basically, when FAFSA uses this program, it is able to pull your existing financial data into the form so you won’t have to re-enter everything.  

What happens when you’re finished?

Once you submit your FAFSA, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). At the very top of your SAR you’ll see a line labeled EFC. That stands for your Expected Family Contribution score, which is the metric that your college or university will use to determine how much financial aid you’ll get. Your EFC score is an estimate of how much your family can afford to pay out of pocket each year. 

The score is calculated based on your household income, liabilities, and how much is owned in assets. The calculation is different for each family situation, so it’s hard to estimate what your EFC score will be without completing the entire form. In general, a lower household income means you’ll have a lower EFC score, and therefore be expected to pay less out of pocket for college.  

Your EFC score is usually an accurate estimate, but sometimes people’s financial situations change drastically from one year to the next. If this might apply to you, make sure you reach out to your college’s financial aid office to let them know. Each school will have a different way to address this. 

A few reminders about federal financial aid:

  1. Only US citizens and eligible legal residents qualify for federal financial aid. That means DACA students are unfortunately NOT eligible for federal aid. It is generally recommended that you still complete the FAFSA so your college can have your estimated need documented. 
  1. If your parents are unwilling or unable to file the information required on the FAFSA, you may have trouble qualifying for financial aid. If you are in this situation, talk to the financial aid officer at your college immediately – they should be able to guide you through your next steps. (There is also more information HERE and HERE on the FAFSA website.) If you do not qualify as an independent student, you will likely be ineligible for federal grants and some other forms of federal aid. 
  1. You must resubmit your FAFSA each year in order to stay eligible! Pay close attention to deadlines for the FAFSA and for your university to stay on top of when you need to file for aid. 

Men of IMPACT™ Raises Over $300,000 to Support Earn to Learn FL™ Students

The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation recently hosted its inaugural Men of IMPACT™ dinner to recognize SWFL men who have distinguished themselves by elevating the status of women during their career or through community service. The 2019 Men of IMPACT™ are:

Each man recognized has contributed significantly to encouraging, hiring, promoting, mentoring or recognizing women in some unique way. A video was shown that recognized each Man of IMPACT™ for his specific achievements and provided testimonials from many of the women whose lives have been impacted. “All of our Men of Impact™ have made such a difference in the lives so many women in Southwest Florida. They have recognized talent and empowered their female colleagues or employees to achieve their career goals and dreams,” said Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation CEO Brenda Tate. “We are grateful for their support and recognize their contributions.”

More than $300,000 was raised from corporate sponsors, including BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Florida Community Bank/Synovus, FineMark Bank, and many other individuals and corporate sponsors. Florida Prepaid College Foundation provided a Challenge Match of over $100k to leverage the funds raised during the event’s cash call. Proceeds from the Men of IMPACT™ outreach will support hard working Earn to Learn FL™ students to achieve their educational goals.

Less than 20% of Southwest Florida women and men over age 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree. Earn to Learn FL™ empowers low to moderate income students to complete their college or career and technical education. The result: students become investors in their own future, breaking the cycle of limited family income and improving their earning potential. Students are required to compete financial literacy training and to save and invest $500 of their own earnings, which is matched with $4,000 in Earn to Learn FL™ financial aid. Students, who remain eligible, renew and save up to $500 each year to be matched by up to $4,000 until they graduate.

“The impact of mentoring on a student’s success cannot be under estimated,” stated Florida Gulf Coast University President Mike Martin during his keynote address. “We see students who’ve had the benefit of mentors paying it forward by mentoring other students, colleagues, and family members.”

For additional information about opportunities to invest in Earn to Learn FL™ students contact: Brenda Tate at (239) 908-0301 or Brenda@EarnToLearnFL.org or visit https://earntolearnfl.networkforgood.com/projects/58432-earn-to-learn-fltm

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About Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation, serving Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties, is the only non-profit in Southwest Florida focused on women and girls and was the first to publish academic research assessing the status of women in the area. The Women’s Foundation invests in programs that educate, boost entrepreneurship and advocate for policies to elevate the status of women and girls. For more information, visit https://earntolearnfl.org/ or email contact@EarnToLearnFL.org. Follow the Women’s Foundation online at https://www.facebook.com/EarnToLearnFL/ and on https://twitter.com/earntolearnfl.

About Earn to Learn FL™, an initiative of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

Earn to Learn FL™ supports low to moderate income students in earning a post-secondary degree or certificate while escaping the burden of student loan debt. The program is structured so that students contribute mandatory savings of up to $500, which is then matched with up to $4,000 in financial aid funds through Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation. Earn to Learn FL™ financial aid will be renewed on an annual basis until graduation for students who remain eligible and continue to save up to $500 each year to secure up to $4,000 renewal matches. The program incorporates financial literacy training for each of the students to ensure that they are prepared for long-term success. Not only does it assist students to achieve graduation on time, but also helps them enter the job market with little or no student loans.

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Earn to Learn FL™ is a Community Contribution Tax Credit Program Project

Bonita Springs, FL – March 18, 2019

The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation’s Earn to Learn FL ™ Project was approved by Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to participate in the Community Contribution Tax Credit Program (CCTPC). Florida businesses will be eligible for sales tax credit or business income tax credit when they make a charitable donation to the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation earmarked for Earn to Learn FL™ CCTCP. The business tax credit will be up to 50% of the donation, in addition to other benefits associated with a charitable donation.The Earn to Learn FL™ CCTCP project will provide financial aid and money management training to students attending Immokalee Technical College, Fort Myers Technical College, and S.W. Florida Public Safety Service Academy. Eligible students save up to $500 of their earnings to be matched by up to $4,000 Earn to Learn FL™ financial aid to complete their Career and Technical Education at one of the participating technical colleges. Earn to Learn FL™ financial aid will be renewed on an annual basis until graduation for students who remain eligible and continue to save up to $500 each year to secure up to $4,000 renewal matches.Collier County Board of Commissioners and Fort Myers City Council unanimously approved resolutions supporting the project that will benefit low-income students in their communities. Earn to Learn FL™ empowers low-income students to complete their Career and Technical Education. As a result, students become investors in their own future, breaking the cycle of limited family income and improving their earning potential.For additional information about opportunities to invest in Earn to Learn FL™ CCTCP students contact: Mary Moore at (239) 908-0301 or mary.moore@earntolearnfl.org or visit http://earntolearnfl.org/community-contribution-tax-credit-program/.

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About Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation, serving Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties, is the only non-profit in Southwest Florida focused on women and girls and was the first to publish academic research assessing the status of women in the area. The Women’s Foundation invests in programs that educate, boost entrepreneurship and advocate for policies to elevate the status of women and girls. For more information, visit http://earntolearnfl.org/ or email contact@EarnToLearnFL.org. Follow the Women’s Foundation online at https://www.facebook.com/EarnToLearnFL/ and on https://twitter.com/earntolearnfl​.

About Earn to Learn FL™, an initiative of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

Earn to Learn FL™ supports low to moderate income students in earning a post-secondary degree or certificate while escaping the burden of student loan debt. The program is structured so that students contribute mandatory savings of up to $500, which is then matched with up to $4,000 in financial aid funds through Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation. Earn to Learn FL™ financial aid will be renewed on an annual basis until graduation for students who remain eligible and continue to save up to $500 each year to secure up to $4,000 renewal matches. The program incorporates financial literacy training for each of the students to ensure that they are prepared for long-term success. Not only does it assist students to achieve graduation on time, but also helps them enter the job market with little or no student loans.

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11th Annual Hunters Ridge “Gives Back” Campaign Supports the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

Funds will support Earn to Learn FL™ Students

Bonita Springs, FL – December 6, 2018 – Proceeds from the 11th Annual Hunters Ridge “Gives Back” Campaign, organized by General Manager Don Huprich, will support the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation’s Earn to Learn FL initiative.

It’s an honor for Hunters Ridge Golf & County Club to be associated with such an outstanding organization. We look forward to supporting the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation for many, many years to come,” states General Manager Don Huprich.

The donation of $5,000 from Hunters Ridge “Gives Back” Campaign held on November 11, 2018 will support Earn to Learn FL™ students to achieve their goals through education. Why does this matter? Less than 20% of Southwest Florida women and men over age 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree. Earn to Learn FL™ empowers low to moderate income students to successfully complete college or career and technical education. The result: students become investors in their own future, breaking the cycle of limited family income and improving their earning potential.

The generosity of the Hunter’s Ridge Golf and Country Club community is greatly appreciated. They are a good partner to help support hard working, but income challenged, students achieve their education and career goals,” says Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation CEO Brenda Tate.

About the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation, serving Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties, is the only non-profit in Southwest Florida focused on women and girls and was the first to publish academic research assessing the status of women in the area. The Women’s Foundation invests in programs that educate, boost entrepreneurship and advocate for policies to elevate the status of women and girls. For more information, visit http://www.fundwomenfl.org or email contact@FundWomenFL.org. Follow the Women’s Foundation online at http://facebook.com/WomensFundFL and on http://twitter.com/WomensFundFL.About Earn to Learn FL™, an initiative of the Southwest Florida Women’s FoundationEarn to Learn FL™ supports low to moderate income students in earning a post-secondary degree or certificate, while escaping the burden of student loan debt. The program is structured so that students contribute mandatory savings of $500, which is then matched with $4,000 in financial aid funds through Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation. The program incorporates financial literacy training for each of the students to ensure that they are prepared for long-term success. Not only does it assist students to achieve graduation on time, but also helps them enter the job market with little or no student loans.here…