FAFSA.com or FAFSA.gov?
Competition is high for the $168 billion set aside for financial aid this year. The cost of college has increased dramatically in the past 10 years – tuition, fees, and room and board at four-year public schools jumped 46% to $15,210 last year, according to College Board. Students are feeling the financial pinch and many are willing to do whatever it takes to make their dream affordable, including enlisting the help of professionals to squeeze every last penny they can from financial aid.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the difference between FAFSA.com and FAFSA.gov. FAFSA.gov is the U.S. Department of Education’s website where you complete the aid application yourself and file it for free. FAFSA.com is a fee-based FAFSA preparation service that helps you apply for federal financial aid. They offer one-on-one counseling, manage student aid deadlines, answer difficult or confusing questions, provide estimates of the amount of federal and state aid you can expect to receive, and check for errors to ensure that your FAFSA is accurate and you’re eligible for the most aid possible.
In the spirit of full disclosure, EducationGrant’s parent company partners with Student Financial Aid Services, the company behind FAFSA.com. However, I would never personally vouch for a company whose services I didn’t believe in, and there are a number of reasons why I feel a FAFSA preparation service like this could be a good option for many people:
- It’s similar to having an accountant prepare your income taxes each year – it’s something you can do on your own for free, but if you want to make sure all your ducks are in a row and that you haven’t made any mistakes, you might want to pay a professional to do it for you. The 130 questions on the FAFSA application can be confusing and if you make errors, you could be depriving yourself of money for college.
- The company is 100% up front about the fact that it is a fee-based alternative to preparing the FAFSA on your own. They don’t make any attempt to hide that fact.
- Their student aid advisers are fully trained so customers can rest assured that the advice and service they get is of the highest value.
- The company’s goal is to help students and families get the maximum amount of aid they are eligible to receive. They offer peace of mind for families that truly need financial assistance to go to college.
However, not everyone agrees with me. You’ll notice that if you Google “FAFSA.com” and the drop down menu is less than flattering:
The reason some people may think FAFSA.com is a scam is because Student Financial Aid Services charges you to prepare your FAFSA ($79.99 – $99.99 depending on the service). The company’s website clearly states that they are a private company and there is a fee, but some people still think they are filing the FAFSA through the government’s federal financial aid website, FAFSA.gov. If they suddenly find themselves being asked for payment information when they aren’t expecting it, they believe they’ve been duped.
Many students don’t even apply for aid because they are intimidated by the FAFSA form. For those students who may be overwhelmed by the process, working with a service like FAFSA.com could be incredibly beneficial. Errors on the FAFSA not only delay the process but they could negatively impact the amount of financial aid you receive.
Have you opted to use FAFSA.com? What was your experience?