LA CROSSE, Wis. - Spring is here, and that means many college students are already thinking about summer break, but for many of them receiving financial aid, now is a good time to look towards the next school year.
If students haven't done it yet, officials are urging them to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA as soon as possible before some of the grants and loans run out.
And this year, the automatic budget cuts known as the sequestration, could have a slight impact on a student's financial aid package.19512710
Western Technical College students are paying for college in a couple of different ways.
"I actually pay it myself," said Tyler Grosh, a student.
"Financial aid helps a lot," said Emily Morris a student.
Ellen Kreger, a college access adviser said while just about everyone qualifies for some form of financial aid, about 25 percent of students aren't filling out the FAFSA.
That means those students could be missing out on some much-needed help to pay for college.
"I have heard that students are graduating with around $20,000 in student loan debt," said Kreger. "So it's unfortunate that some of the money could be kind of offset by getting grants and scholarships."
And the longer a student waits to fill out the FAFSA, it could mean receiving a smaller financial aid package.
"Some state loans that are available for students might be available on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner they apply, the more opportunity they have to access grants, particularly state grants because those are given out first-come, first-served," said Kreger.
But this year, because of the budget cuts, certain financial aid programs are taking a hit.
Fees to take out a loan through the direct loan program will increase slightly, from 1 to 1.051 percent.
Fees for Direct PLUS loans will increase from 4 to 4.204 percent.
The maximum amount for Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants will shrink by just more than $2,000 from $5,645 to $3,511.19.
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants or the TEACH grants will also shrink by just more than $500 from $4,000 to $3,496.
While these changes seem minimal, these students aren't happy about it.
"Everything helps and if you take away just a little bit, it does make a huge difference in the amount of money that we have to pay for education," said Morris.
But even so, students said taking on the changes is important for their future.
"For me, you can't put a price tag on your dreams," said Grosh.
The Pell Grant Program is exempt from the effects of the sequestration.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the maximum a student can receive in a Pell Grant is $5,645.
Once a student fills out the FAFSA, it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to receive their financial aid packages.
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