What Whee need to know: FAFSA

“Do it early and follow through,” these were the words of Paula Coates, the assistant director of financial aid, on Western Carolina University’s campus.
    She is referring to students applying for financial aid.
    “Do it early. If we cannot stress anything else, let’s stress that. If a student does have financial aid, a lot of those need-based funds may run out early. Someone that doesn’t apply early may not get those funds because it’s too late,” Coates said.
    She works to  help  the students and parents  find  money that  is available for them.
    When applying for financial aid, students should go to the official Free Application for Federal Student Aid  website for a free application.
    The FAFSA website states, “Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. At the office of Federal Student Aid, our 1,200 employees help make college education possible for every dedicated mind by providing more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to more than 15 million students paying for college or career school. We are proud to sponsor millions of American minds pursuing their educational dreams.”
    Any other websites may make students pay, so students should be sure to go to this website for a free application.
    It is an online government form.
    Students should type in the school code, 002981, and the school should receive the FAFSA information at least eight weeks prior to the start of classes in order to allow good timing for the awarding process.
    According to the brochure, when applying for financial aid students will be applying for federal, state, and institutional grants; parent and student loans; and the federal work-study program; and scholarships.
    Grants are free money that do  not have to be repaid;  loans are borrowed money that have to be repaid with interest;  work-study is a need-based program in which students are given employment opportunities to work on campus; Parent PLUS loans are loans that parents   will need to complete information for.
    “Students can go to OneStop and can find out a lot of information. They should go to MyCat and go to their documentation status. They have an open-door policy in the Financial Aid Office,” Coates said.
    Students have access to their MyCat account 24 hours a day, seven days a week and all the requirements for aids are listed on there.
    To follow through with their financial aid, there will be emails sent out to inform the students to check their MyCat accounts.
    Academic performance is crucial for students to maintain their financial aid.
    The WCU Financial Aid Office’s website states, “Students are required to maintain satisfactory academic progress, SAP,  in order to remain eligible for aid. This includes maintaining a grade point average consistent with the university’s SAP policy and earning 67 percent of the hours attempted at WCU.”
    Their website also warns that financial aid  is not supposed to serve as a source of income. It’s purpose is to help cover student’s academic expenses, “not serve as a source of income.”
     Many students ask about the difference in financial assistance if they live on campus or off.
    The Financial Aid Office states, “You will be offered the same amount of financial aid whether you live on campus or off campus in an apartment. After your tuition and fee charges are covered for the semester, you will be refunded any financial aid funds that aren’t needed to cover those charges. You can then use that refund to help with your apartment expenses.”
    The Financial Aid Office’s hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.
    “The main advice I can give the students about FAFSA is to do it early and follow through,” Coates said.
    For even more information, students or parents can get into contact with the Financial Aid Office. The telephone number is 828-227-7290, and the email is finaid@wcu.edu.
    The FAFSA website also provides additional resources to assist students: fafsa.ed.gov