Three Financial Aid Myths We Need to Stop Assuming Are True

Are you questioning whether your student can afford going to college? Is there really any financial assistance available? The reality is that Harper College awards financial aid to more than 8,000 students each year--yet many families find all kinds of reasons why they won’t qualify for financial aid and never apply.

It’s time to debunk the myths about financial aid--once and for all. I have enjoyed a career in financial aid for 32 years. Oddly enough, some of these myths have been around since I was an undergraduate student:

1. Myth: My family makes too much money. I won't qualify for aid, so completing financial aid forms is a waste of my time.decisions

Truth: You won't know until you try. All students should apply for financial aid.

Students should apply by first completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any other forms required by the college. Harper College offers more than 150 scholarships so you should also plan to complete an online application. There are many types of financial aid programs with different eligibility requirements. The awarding criteria for some programs are based on financial need but income is used as only one part of the equation. There is no income cut off amount. Other programs consider the interests and accomplishments of the student in awarding assistance. It’s well worth the time to apply to see what funds you are eligible to receive.

2. Myth: I am working full time, so that makes me an independent student.

Truth: The federal government determines whether you are a dependent or independent student for federal financial aid purposes.

financeWhile you may be living on on your own, paying taxes, and not receiving any financial support from parents or guardians, that does not necessarily make you an independent student. Federal regulations define what constitutes being an independent student, such as being older than 24, being married, serving in the armed forces or being financially responsible for a dependent.  When you complete the FAFSA, there is a series of questions that determines whether you are a dependent or an independent student. All dependent students must include parent information on the FAFSA. An independent student won’t need to include parent information.  

3. Myth: The amount of financial aid I received this year will be the same amount I received last year.

Truth: The financial aid you receive can vary from year to year.

Students must apply for financial aid each academic year by completing the FAFSA. Circumstances and variables can change, and that may cause a direct impact on financial aid and the amount you are eligible to receive. Your family situation may be different in regard to income, household size, assets, a job loss, a divorce or the number of family members enrolled in college.  In addition, college costs, funding levels and program regulations may change from year to year.  Any of these factors can cause your financial aid to be different each year.