In the present day, it can quite expensive to attend a college in the United States, and the rate at which the tuition fee is escalating, college education is bound to get even more expensive. Five years ago the cost of education at a private college or university was $15,000 per year. Now, it has risen to $21,235 a year, that is, an increase of 40 percent. On the other hand, the average American household income rose by just four percent during the same period.
The picture is no different for state-run colleges and universities. Although they are less expensive when compared to private colleges, but they have also been compelled to increase their tuition fees. According to Patrick Callen, president for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “Public institutions have had their budgets cut by states, and they've been raising tuition fees to replace public money that's been taken out of their budgets.”
In such a bleak scenario, federal student financial aid appears to be the only feasible way to abbreviate the gap in the cost of education. However, you cannot apply for federal financial aid directly. The federal government will first determine your eligibility for the aid, and for this you would have to fill out the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In addition to the federal government, the state governments, schools and other financial institutions will also use the information from FAFSA to ascertain your eligibility for non-federal student aid programs.
The 102 questions in FAFSA are framed to retrieve your academic, personal, financial and identification information. After meticulous scrutinization of your FAFSA, the federal government will send you as well as the colleges, which you had enlisted in your form, a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR contains EFC (Expected Family Contribution) that is calculated on the basis of facts that you had divulged through the FAFSA. The federal government and other funding agencies use EFC to determine your eligibility for various kinds student financial assistance programs.
In nutshell, unless you fill out and submit FAFSA, federal as well as non-federal financial aids will remain inaccessible for you.