PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University students seeking need-based federal grants and other types of financial aid for the 2005-2006 school year should file a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March 1.

Completion of a FAFSA before the upcoming deadline should be considered an important step for students contemplating a need to supplement their financial resources during the upcoming school year, said Wayne Sparks, WSU director of Student Financial Aid.

Students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov, rather than by mail, he said.

“FAFSA on the Web applications are processed much more expeditiously and received much sooner by the school the applicant designates,” said Sparks. “In addition, the online FAFSA application has a built-in edit feature, reduces the possibility that mistakes will be made in completing the form.”

He said students who completed the FAFSA for the 2004-2005 academic year also can file a Renewal FAFSA online for 2005-2006 year.

“The FAFSA must be completed for each year that aid is received, so students who are currently receiving need-based aid in 2004-2005 need to complete the FAFSA for 2005-2006,” said Sparks.

Because the federal formula used to determine aid eligibility takes into consideration a number of factors besides family income, Sparks said there is no single fixed maximum limit to the amount of family income that will qualify or disqualify a student for need-based financial assistance.

“Most financial aid officers advise that the best barometer to use is whether you and your parents, after an assessment of your family’s resources, conclude that you need financial assistance to supplement what resources you can realistically provide,” he said. “If this is the case, then applying for financial assistance via the FAFSA is probably a prudent course to take.”

Some federal student aid loan programs are available to students or their parents regardless of their financial circumstances. Two of those are the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) and the Unsubsidized Stafford Loan.

Although students are generally relying more and more heavily on borrowing to finance their education, Sparks said the “good news” regarding student loans is that interest rates are at historic lows.

“The current interest rate for Federal Stafford Loans is 2.77 percent for in-school periods and 3.37 percent during repayment, after school, grace and deferment periods,” he said. “The current interest rate for Parent (PLUS) Loans is 4.17 percent.”

The WSU Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarship Services administers a myriad of student aid programs from several sources. Financial assistance is available in three primary forms. The first is grant or scholarship assistance, which is known as “gift aid” because it is not repayable after the student graduates. The second major form of aid is work study (federal and state) which enables recipients to work 10 to 20 hours per week during the academic year and be paid a commensurate wage. The compensation from work study employment enables students to earn a part of their college expenses as they are incurred and reduce reliance on borrowing. The third major type of financial aid is loans. Loans must be repaid after graduation.

Students seeking need-based financial aid have some opportunity to express their preference for one type of assistance over another, said Sparks. When completing the FAFSA, students are asked whether they are willing to consider either work study or loan assistance as part of their financial aid offer. Once a student’s aid eligibility has been determined they will receive a notification of financial assistance, indicating the types and amounts of assistance they are being offered. At that time they have the opportunity to accept or reject each type of assistance they have been offered.

Additional information on financial aid and completing the FAFSA can be obtained through the WSU Office of Financial Aid, Room 380, Lighty Student Services Building, or on its Web site at www.finaid.wsu.edu.