Part of being a successful college student is knowing how to navigate college finances, because finances can directly impact your academic success on so many levels. One of the first challenges is understanding your funding options – in other words – the financial aid process. Towson University’s Financial Aid Office and the Department of Education Student Aid websites provide excellent relevant and current information to help you navigate this ongoing process.
A very important thing to note is that each year your must re-apply for financial aid, which begins January 1. The FAFSA is free – so don’t pay any money to complete it! TU’s priority deadline is March 1, but it can take about two weeks for FAFSA to process, so it is recommended you complete it by mid-February. Use Valentine’s Day, February 14th as a way to not only remember your honey – but also your money!
Meeting the March 1 priority deadline is most important because it is your best chance for getting the most financial aid for which you qualify. Also remember two weeks after submitting the FAFSA to login and make sure the Estimated Family Contribution field is not blank, all other information is correct and there are no error messages.
A common response to submitting the FAFSA by February 14 is that I’m a dependent and my parents haven’t completed their tax return (which has a April 15th deadline). If this is the case, provide estimated tax return data for the previous year using W2s, 1099s and other tax reporting documents, because they must be issued by January 31 of each year.
But what if I miss the priority deadline, can I still apply for financial aid? The answer is yes – but you may not receive as much funding. For fall, the last date to apply is November 15 and for spring it is April 15 of each year.
When it comes to your award notification – note that freshman awards will be mailed starting April 1; but returning students will be sent an email starting May 1. When you receive your award notification – review it carefully to determine whether or not your funding provides enough money to pay for actual expenses established under the Cost of Attendance, which is basically your student budget. It is critical that you know you have enough money to pay Towson University each semester so you can register for and attend classes and pursue your academic career.
If you don’t have enough money to pay your bill, this is how finances can impact your academic success. If you owe more than $200 on your account, you will not be allowed to register for next semester. The Bursar’s Office will make several attempts to contact you to pay your bill and if you don’t respond – then they will pass this debt on to Central Collection Unit (CCU) of the State of Maryland. This is when you will incur additional fees! First you will be charged a $25 late fee, and when your debt is passed on to CCU – you will also be charged a collection fee of no more than 20% of the outstanding balance. This unpaid deb may also be reported to credit bureaus. You may also lose many of your University privileges, including cancellation of your class schedule.
As you can see, not having enough money to pay your bill each semester can have a snowball effect on both your finances and academics. So if you find yourself in this situation – ask for help by going in person and meeting with someone at both the Financial Aid and Bursar’s Offices. Financial Aid can review your award and the Bursar’s Office can let you know if there are other payment options available.
Here are some other important things to consider when it comes to navigating college finances:
- A change in enrollment may impact your financial aid, so consult with Financial Aid Office before making any major enrollment decisions.
- Use TU Scholarship Seeker to apply for additional funding. Click here for a list of other options.
- The State of Maryland Higher Education Commission provides useful information about state aid programs and college planning at www.mhec.state.md.us
- Save money by using your Onecard to buy meals on campus – you will not be charged the sales tax!
- If you have to take loans – accept subsidized loans first! For more information about wise borrowing see: https://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans
- While you are in school – your loans are on your credit report, but in deferred status.
- And remember – student loans cannot be forgiven under bankruptcy!
- If you pay your student bill using a credit card, you are also charged a 2.75% fee.
- If you are about to graduate and are worried about repaying your loans – learn more about consolidating your loans. Use this link to learn more about the process.
Director of Financial Aid