By Teri DeVoe
Program Specialist, IMLS
If you asked random IMLS grant applicants about their first attempts requesting federal funding, few would probably think back to their senior year of high school. The reality is that many library and museum professionals likely filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at some point leading up to or during their post-secondary education. That means they applied for federal aid in the form of grants, loans, or work-study from the Department of Education, just like the more than 14 million students that FAFSA now reaches on an annual basis.
As the traditional school year starts up again and students and parents seek out information to assist them with long-range educational goals, the financial aid piece of the puzzle often figures prominently. Many libraries have become the go-to place in their communities for help with government forms such as FAFSA. Combined under the single web address http://studentaid.gov, the resources of the Department of Education are designed to help students navigate the sometimes complex process of pursuing and paying for higher education.
Here are just a few of the gems available under this umbrella URL:
- A checklist of college preparation “to dos” for learners in elementary school through adulthood
- A Why Go to College? chart that shows how education relates to salary
- Several interactive tools to help users find the right institutional fit
- A financial aid calculator for prospective applicants (the FAFSA4caster)
- A chart of federal student loan benefits compared to private loans
- A repayment estimator tool for monthly and total payments across different plans
- A consolidated listing of federal student aid resources that point to videos on the FAFSA YouTube channel, forms, fact sheets, and more (including resources in Spanish and Braille)
Though the rush of FAFSA applicants subsided at the end of June and won’t start up again until January, the year-round value of the site’s many resources is indisputable. Here are two new things we learned while combing through: 1) There exist federal loans targeted to parents of college students, and 2) the Federal Student Aid office holds monthly Twitter “office hours” through the hashtag #AskFAFSA. As a one-stop resource that covers the entire lifecycle of student aid, it’s easy to give StudentAid.gov top marks!