What’s in your wallet?

By Kristin Caveretta

With the March 1 priority date fast approaching, students need to start the process now. According to the Financial Aid Office, more than 13,000 awards are given out each year, totaling more than $70 million.

Students who file before that date will be in full consideration to receive campus-based funding. Those who wait still might receive an award package, but no guarantees are made.

“We don’t want students to get stuck where we run out of funds and they don’t get the best aid package,” NIU financial aid counselor Kathy Johnson said.

Last year’s funds were cut on Aug. 13, two days before the published deadline for continuing students, and more than a month before the deadline for new students.

Financial aid counselors have no way of knowing when state funds will run out, which is why they urge students to file early to get the best package.

Not only would students be stuck with a tuition bill if they wait, but they also would miss out on the possibility of having other expenses paid for with their award.

Award packages are based on a $13,700 student budget. This figure includes yearly tuition and fees, living expenses, books and supplies, travel and miscellaneous expenses.

Items on the bursar bill automatically are credited, and leftover money then is refunded to the student.

The FAFSA now can be accessed through the Internet. Built-in edits prevent mistakes on the forms, eliminating the previous process of mailing back forms that had errors.

A mailed FAFSA takes four to six weeks to process; the online version takes two to three weeks. Students who file early may receive their award package as early as April, which allows for better financial planning for the upcoming year.

For information, visit the financial aid Web site at www.fa.niu.edu, or call the office at 753-1395.