Streamlined steps simplify financial aid process

Securing financial aid and working out a payment plan can seem like a daunting process, even for seasoned seniors. But the folks in the Student Financial Services office are constantly looking for ways to make the process easier.

This will be especially important now that a new federal law mandates that all students must have their student accounts paid in full at the end of each academic year. This means you will need to have your previous 2013-2014 balance paid before completing fall registration as well as make your first monthly payment for the 2014-2015 year by August 1.

While each student who chooses to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required to complete the application online, now the rest of the process can be completed online, too. “The biggest improvement we’ve seen so far is how much quicker financial plans are able to be put together for next year,” said Taryn Rouse, director of Student Financial Services and hero to many a Union student. “For instance, at this time last year only 80 students had completed their FAFSAs and as of today we have 387 FAFSAs already completed. And the financial plans are also much more complete and have less room for human error with our new system.”

This year, Student Financial Services has decided to simplify things even further. “I think our biggest hope with our new streamlined step-by-step plan is overall better customer service,” explained Rouse. “Our students and parents are our number one priority and by being very clear with our communication plan and what is expected of students, parents and Union College we hope we are making things easier for everyone. Finances are a tough are for a lot of people and we want students to feel comfortable talking with us.”

Follow these steps to complete your financial plan before May 1.

  1. File your 2013 taxes (they’re late at this point . . . so get those in!)
  2. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You can find it at, and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool makes the process fast and easy on the headaches. This is extremely helpful tool. If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you won't be eligible for federal aid, including federal loans.
  3. Log in to your portal, click on the My Financial Aid button, then the Apply Online tab and complete the My Financial Aid questionnaire. This makes it easy for the folks up in sixth floor to process your financial plan and awards.
  4. Once your FAFSA and questionnaire have been received and processed, you will be notified of your awards and financial plan by mail. You then have to confirm details in My Financial Aid in the portal by clicking on “Accept/Decline Awards” to accept, decline or revise your financial awards.
  5. Finalize all other financial paperwork or items pending under the “To Do” tab in “My Financial Aid.”
  6. You can now make your first payment! Pay it at

“I hear a lot of rumors from students that a friend isn’t able to come back to school due to finances, yet that student has never reached out to us and let us know that they are having problems,” said Rouse. “We are here to help and we want to help. But we can’t if we don’t know what you need. So please feel free to make an appointment, email or call us and we will always do our best to make it work for you.”