Filling out the FAFSA is a Family's First Step to Managing College Costs

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With the cost of college at an all-time high - projected to reach $220 billion this year, $86 billion of which will be financed by students or their parents - thousands of families nationwide require multiple loans each year to cover tuition and fees. But before parents and students can even qualify for most free aid or federal loans, they need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about how to pay for college and the first step is filling out the FAFSA.

The best thing students and parents can do is fill out the FAFSA now. The reason? Sorting out financial aid from college and federal sources can be a confusing process; the sooner families and students complete their paperwork and submit their aid applications, the more time they'll have to sort things out and make smart financing decisions.

"While many high school seniors are engrossed in completing college applications, it's also important for them and their parents to be thinking about paying for school. Many will need multiple loans to cover the burgeoning costs of college," says Kevin Walker, CEO of SimpleTuition, Inc., a company that helps students and parents objectively compare education financing options. "Now is the perfect time to start thinking about how to pay for college and the first step is filling out the FAFSA."

"Families of high school seniors need to make some very important financial decisions related to college and how a college budget affects the family budget and whether the student or parent take out the loan," said Mick Endersbe, president of College Planning University. "But this is just the tip of the iceberg in what families need to consider when paying for a college education. The impact of each of these issues and how a family chooses to deal with them involves complex and personal decisions requiring a unique combination of data-based, emotion-based and values-based information."

Walker advises parents and students to consider the following:

Aid is Available, But Apply Now

According to the College Board, federal and local governments, as well as colleges, have been giving out $135 billion a year in aid. File your FAFSA before the end of January, if possible, so that you have more time to sort through the options you may qualify for.

Don't Wait to File Your Taxes

Part of the FAFSA requires tax return information. If you haven't filed your tax returns and don't have exact numbers for your 2006 income-and-tax situation, don't hold off on submitting your FAFSA. Estimate your 2006 income now, as you can amend your form later if need be.

Think You Don't Qualify for Aid? Think Again

The criteria and the deadline for submitting the FAFSA varies for each institution. Some families, particularly those in the middle class, think they make too much money to even qualify for aid, therefore, do no bother to complete the FAFSA. However, you could very well be pleasantly surprised when aid awards are announced.

Kevin Walker and Mick Endersbe are available for interview.

About SimpleTuition, Inc.

Founded in 2005, SimpleTuition is dedicated to helping students and parents make sense of education financing options. Recently featured as one of Fast Company's Top 12 Web 2.0 sites, SimpleTuition is the only company to offer an independent and objective solution for researching and comparing private, PLUS, Stafford, GradPLUS, federal consolidation and private consolidation loans. SimpleTuition is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts and is funded by Atlas Venture, IDG Ventures Boston and North Hill Ventures. For more information visit http://www.SimpleTuition.com.

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Jan Jahosky
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