Filing for financial aid: how to ease the process

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Financial aid is a main resource to students before they decide which school to attend. The University of Northern Colorado’s Office of Financial Aid faculty prides themselves on helping students individually based on their own personal situations when applying for financial aid.  

According to the office, it has received and processed over 20,500 FAFSA forms with a staff of 17. After the processing of FAFSA and verification, the office has offered over 17,481 students over $355 million in potential aid from all different sources. The office has also answered over 13,000 phone calls with the help of peer counselors. Peer counselors can be work-study students who are knowledgeable about the process.  

Once the FAFSA application has been processed, some students are selected for verification. When students are selected for verification or have unsatisfied requirements, the staff sends automated messages to students as reminders about financial aid.  

According Marvin Somero, the director of the financial aid office, between 2017 and 2018 the OFA faculty sent over 9,015 automated voicemail and text messages to students regarding requirements for financial aid. Somero mentioned, in the same year, the financial aid faculty sent 8,339 text messages. Out of the text messages sent, 7,729 of them were read. 

For the 2018 to 2019 academic year, the office of financial aid counselors noticed an increase in the selection of verification. The verification process begins when a student’s FAFSA form is recieved and a counselor is requested to check additional information provided from the student to ensure all information on the FAFSA is accurate. Students who are selected must provide additional documentation or they are not able to receive financial aid by federal law. 

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The Office of Financial aid has completed over 900 more verification forms for the 2018 to 2019 school year and its faculty has voiced its concerns regarding verification. On June 8, 2018 the UNC Office of Financial Aid was featured on 9NEWS Denver speaking about the increased rate of verification selections. Students, guardians and parents can find the video on the office’s homepage.  

Students should keep in mind sitting down with parents or a guardian either in person or over the phone to see what requirements need to be fulfilled will help with the uploading of verification forms. The Office of Financial Aid is a walk-in facility. Counselors are available for students and parents to discuss the verification form. A few issues with verification that can cause confusion are:

  • The FAFSA priority deadline is March 1. Students are still able to fill out a FAFSA form after March 1, but will not be available to receive certain grants, scholarships or work-study
  • Parents filing an IRS 1040 with incorrect status, i.e., Head of Household. Financial aid officials are not expected or required to be tax experts, except in the cases in determining if a person must file and/or filing statuses
  • The “Legal Guardianship” question on FAFSA has a specific definition and does not mean “biological parents”
  • Parents who are divorced and remarried and don’t report new spouse information as required
  • Parents who are currently divorced or separated and not remarried but filed a joint tax return
  • Parents who are divorced or separated, but still living together
  • Parents who don’t accurately report family information as defined by FAFSA for number of household size or number in college
  • Parents who are undocumented and have not filed income tax forms but have taxable earnings
  • Wages on FAFSA that don’t match IRS information 

The easiest way to complete verification is when independent and dependent students use the IRS data retrieval tool on their FAFSA. The data retrieval tool allows students and parents to transfer over tax data to the FAFSA form. Parents who are not citizens, do not have a social security number and did not file are still able to receive a non-filling letter through the IRS which will be requested based on the FAFSA form. Students can help with verification by:  

  • Completing requested information with parents or guardians whenever possible
  • Accessing the verification form through URSA
  • Using IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA form whenever possible
  • Ordering Tax Return Transcripts on the IRS.gov website. On the IRS homepage, click “Get transcripts.” Students and parents can get a non-filing letter following the same steps
  • Taking time to review and answer questions
  • Parents need to e-sign the verification web form or provide a hand signature and upload the form
  • Turning in all requested items as soon as possible
  • Using legal names printed on Social Security cards, not preferred names
  • Reporting all student earnings, including work study
  • Asking questions if you don’t understand what’s being asked
  • Keeping names of people who helped you
  • Contacting the Office of Financial Aid when in doubt

Students must complete a FAFSA form and if selected, must complete the verification form to receive financial aid.  

Students can can contacting the Office of Financial Aid online or at (970) 351-2502.

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