Financial Aid 2012: What You Need to Know

It’s time to think about paying for college again – here’s some critical information that can help you make the right decisions!

By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2011

College Financial Aid 2012
College Financial Aid 2012

It seems that every year there are changes to how you apply for and receive financial aid, 2012 being no exception. So it helps to get an update on the details about paying for college with student assistance, just to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines or miscalculate how much you’re going to need.

Here is some information you need to know if you’re going to make good financial aid decisions in 2012:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

As always, filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the best place to start. Doing so enables the government to determine the types of assistance you qualify for, and how much. The federal FAFSA deadline is June 30th, 2012, and any corrections or updates must be completed by September 15th, 2012. States have their own deadlines, which can be found on the 2011-2012 FAFSA Deadlines PDF. Don’t miss out on critical financial aid by missing these due dates – get started on your FAFSA right away!

[Download U.S. News University Directory’s free financial aid guide now!]

Federal Pell Grant

Pell Grants are the best kind of financial aid – the kind you don’t have to pay back. The information on your FAFSA, along with data provided by your school, will determine how much Pell Grant money you are eligible for (if any). The maximum amount you may receive for the 2011-2012 award year – which ends June 30th, 2012 – is $5,500. This is expected to remain unchanged for the 2012-2013 award year, which begins on July 1st, 2012.

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Federal Direct Loans

Before July 1, 2010, many federal loans (Stafford, PLUS, and Consolidation Loans) were made by private lenders under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Now, however, all such loans come directly from the Department of Education under the Direct Loan Program. Some federal loans are subsidized, which means the government pays the interest on them while you’re still in school.

Dependent undergraduate students can borrow $5,500 (up to $3,500 subsidized) in Direct Stafford Loans their first year of college, $6,500 (up to $4,500 subsidized) their second year and $7,500 (up to $5,500 subsidized) their third year. Independent undergraduates can borrow significantly more, but the maximum amount that can be subsidized is the same. Graduate and professional degree students can borrow $20,500 per year, up to $8,500 of which may be subsidized. However, the subsidized portion is going away; after July 1st, 2012, all Federal Direct Loans for graduate students will be unsubsidized.

[Browse more College Financial Aid and FASFA information now!]

As of the 2011-2012 award year, the subsidized Federal Direct Loan interest rate is fixed at 3.4% for undergraduates and 6.8% for graduate and professional degree students. Unsubsidized loans are fixed at 6.8% for all students.

[Take advantage of the Federal Student Aid loan calculator!]

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