By Kevin McClintock
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Of the 5,800 students attending Missouri Southern State University, roughly 90 percent receive some type of financial aid. That's why renewing the 2013-2014 Federal Student Aid application form (FAFSA) before the April 1 priority deadline is paramount.
What that means, said Becca Diskin, MSSU financial aid director, "is it starts the ball rolling once we get that information into our system and start working with (students) to see what documents they need completed before we can award them. If they don't have an application, we can guide them to what that next step may be.
"Second, the state of Missouri has a hard April 1 deadline for state aid, so Missouri residents who want access to Missouri grant funding need to apply by April 1 to even be considered."
Those who fail to meet the April 1 deadline "are missing the boat on state money they otherwise could have qualified for," Diskin said.
Financial aid members will be prepped to assist students with application questions or problems from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, Monday, March 25 through Thursday, March 28.
"We try to get the word out to students here on campus so they don't procrastinate, but historically we've had juniors and seniors that wait," Diskin said. "That's not helping them financially."
During next week's four-day session, students should bring with them the following information: their 2012 student Federal Income Tax return; their parent's 2012 Federal Income Tax return (if a dependent student); their W-2s (if a non-tax-filer); and their FAFSA PIN (and parent's PIN, if a dependent student).
So far, Diskin is pleased with the number of students who have completed their applications in the winter months.
"We are importing applications now, and we have a backlog of students still waiting to get into the system, so we have had a lot of students who have already taken advantage of this and started back in January and February."
Some students and families put off filling out their FAFSAs because they haven't filed their taxes yet. Diskin urges those folks to do so.
"They can estimate their income on the FAFSA (form) and go ahead and submit it by the April 1 deadline, even without their tax returns finalized," she said. "They can come back in later and correct it, so the FAFSA reflects their taxes."
New FAFSA enhancements, in fact, allow students and parents to retrieve tax information directly from the IRS during FAFSA submission.
"We don't care if they do it online or they do it here in our office," Diskin said. "We just want them to do it, to get it completed."
Should the April 1 deadline be missed, FASFA applications will still be available during the entire academic year. Just remember that the later one waits, the longer it takes to receive money needed to help cover tuition payments -- whether it's from scholarships, grants, loans or from the state. Tuition fees are due on Aug. 27.
The longer the wait, the more difficult it is for students to guarantee everything will be ready for dispersement and be able to make the needed pay arrangements, Diskin said.
"So, why not do it now so you have all the answers and all the options in front of you?" Diskin said. "If you need to pay some money out of pocket, you can get on a payment plan and spread it out over four or five months instead of looking at two or three (much higher) payments."
The FASFA application process, which can be done online or at the financial aid office on the bottom floor of Hearns Hall, usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete, Diskin said.
MSSU students seeking more details may call 417-627-9325 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Crowder College students may call 417-451-3223 or visit the financial aid office on the first floor of the Arnold Farber Building.