As mentioned before, your EFC truly matters. It effects the level of your aid more than any other outside factor. With the budget crunch still going on in most states, as well as the federal level, the Pell Grant has taken a hit. However it hasn’t been to the amount, but rather to who is eligible.
During the current administration, the maximum Pell Grant has increased from $4731 in 2008, to $5500 . However, for this budget appropriation year the administration had to compromise. In order to fund students at the previous years grant level, the Department of Education had to lower the maximum EFC limit for receiving the Pell Grant, from $5273, to $4995. This means a difference of $278 on the EFC can mean the difference between receiving the Pell Grant, and relying more on other forms of aid. So the game is on to make sure your EFC is accurate. Therefore, filling the Free Application for Federal Student Aid correctly is absolutely critical. Remember the following after you file:
1)Be Proactive – If you already know the school you are attending, carefully review your Financial Aid Award Letter before accepting it. If it reflects incorrect information or just doesn’t cover enough of your need, be prepared to argue your case to you Office of Financial Aid (OFA)
2)Changing Circumstances = Changing EFC – The EFC is based on the PRIOR YEAR INCOME, yet is often filed three to four months into a new fiscal year. Circumstances do change. What if one of your parents were laid off, injured at work, and/or not earning as much as before? All these factors can effect your EFC. So if things change, get on the ball and talk to your OFA and find out how to …
3) Appeal, Appeal, Appeal – No matter what, if you don’t agree with anything on the Award Letter you receive, you should always find out how to appeal. The appeal process gets fresh eyes on the problem, and allows you time to explain in detail changes that may effect your EFC. If the first appeal doesn’t work, do it again, and again, and again, up to the end of the line in the school. Don’t be afraid of ticking them off.
Remember to remain cool headed, as its usually not the OFA’s fault. They have strict guidelines to follow, and answer to many masters. They can only work with the information they have in hand, so its up to you to get that info to them. In the end, its up to you to go after the aid you need to get through school. With EFC limits actually going down during periods of inflation, you need to fight for every dollar.