Apply for FAFSA no matter what


Daniel Salomon

Students hang out in the lobby of the Student Services Building on the Arnold campus, located next to the financial aid office.

Editorial Board

Students can apply for the Maryland Promise Scholarship in March, so it’s time to fill out the FAFSA—Free Application for Federal Student Aid—to assure you get all of the state money you deserve.

The Promise Scholarship is a state program that could pay up to $5,000 toward your tuition if you qualify.

Although it’s a state program, it requires you to apply for federal aid first—just to see if you qualify for some. The Promise Scholarship is called a “last-dollar” scholarship, so if you qualify for a federal grant, the state can deduct that amount from the award it approves for you.

To get in on this, you have to fill out the FAFSA by March 1. The Promise Scholarship application will be available on March 1, too.
So don’t put it off.

Some people have called the Promise Scholarship “free tuition.” But that’s misleading. Only about a quarter of AACC students will qualify for any Promise money.

Only community college students who have graduated from high school—or gotten their GED—within the past two years are eligible. Only students whose parents earn less than a combined $150,000 a year are eligible; that ceiling is lower if you live on your own or with a single parent. Only students with a 2.3 high school GPA will qualify.

And the list goes on. You can see the full list at

Even if you qualify, you’re not guaranteed approval. The pool of scholarship money isn’t unlimited. The state allocated only $15 million for the scholarship, which is available to students at all 16 of Maryland’s community colleges. The scholarships go to the students who need them the most, regardless of how many come from which schools.

But please don’t let this be a deterrent.

If you qualify for this money, go for it. And even if you don’t win a scholarship, you might find out that you qualify for a federal grant or for work-study, which pays you to work at a job on campus.

About 30 percent of AACC students received a grant or scholarship from federal, state or private funding sources in the last school year, according to AACC’s financial aid office. Of the 18,734 credit students enrolled during the 2017-2018 school year, 13,047 signed up for FAFSA.

Maybe you’re worried you might not get any money because you’re in a better financial situation than those around you, but you’ll never know until you apply.

No matter who you are, what you do or where you’re from, you could get something. Everybody deserves some kind of help.