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June 09, 2016

New deadline set for Missouri’s largest student financial aid program
Report shows 66,000 students received state grants and scholarships for 2015-2016

More than 66,000 students received state financial aid to help pay for college during the 2015-2016 school year.

Scholarships and grants awarded by the Missouri Department of Higher Education totaled about $121 million dollars, according to a report presented Thursday to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

“State financial aid is essential to helping many students earn a college degree,” said Leroy Wade, interim commissioner of higher education. “Missouri is fortunate to have a number of grant and scholarship programs, and funding for several of those programs has increased in recent years.”

Wade noted that the application timeline for the state’s largest financial aid program – the Access Missouri Grant – is changing for the 2017-2018 academic year. The 2017-2018 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which also serves as the application for the Access Missouri Grant, will be available Oct. 1 – three months earlier than in previous years.

This change will allow students to file a FAFSA sooner, enabling colleges to provide financial aid information to students earlier than in the past.

“The changes in the FAFSA ultimately will give students more time to make important decisions that are part of planning and paying for college,” Wade said.

In addition, the department set Feb. 1, 2017, as a priority deadline for completing the FAFSA to be eligible for the Access Missouri Grant. The final deadline will be April 1, 2017.

Students who meet the program requirements and file their FAFSA by the Feb. 1 deadline will be guaranteed a grant award. Students who apply after Feb. 1 but before the April 1 final deadline will be eligible to receive an award if sufficient funding is available. Missouri previously did not have a priority deadline.

The Access Missouri Grant is the state’s only student aid program based on financial need. Last year, more than 48,000 Missouri students received funding through the program. The average grant award was $612 for students attending a public two-year college and $1,582 for students attending a four-year college.

Grant amounts are determined primarily by available state funding and the number of students eligible to receive the grant each year. Specific award amounts are determined by students’ financial need, the type of college they attend and other financial aid they receive.

The first step in completing the FAFSA is to obtain a FSA ID – a user name and password needed to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites. In 2015, the FSA ID replaced the PIN that students and families previously needed to fill out the FAFSA.

“It is important for students and parents to understand the changes in the FAFSA and how to get an FSA ID in order to qualify for grants and scholarships,” Wade said. “High school counselors and college financial aid officers can answer many of the questions families have.”

More information about obtaining an FSA ID can be found at fsaid.ed.gov.

Improving college affordability is a primary goal in Missouri’s new coordinated plan for the state’s higher education system, adopted by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in January. Helping more Missourians access student financial aid is one way the department is working to make college more affordable.

For more information about financial aid – including all eligibility requirements – visit dhe.mo.gov/ppc/grants/.