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My situation is the following:

  • my wife and I are adults who are trying to complete our first bachelor degrees respectively (we started our degrees and dropped out years ago)
  • so far, we both have been eligible for our respective Pell Grants that covered all of our tuition expenses (in fact, we've been getting more money than our tuition costs, which somewhat concerns me)
  • at my work, there is an added benefit of tuition reimbursement, which is capped but should be enough to cover my tuition for the year. It is free money, but I have to stay with the company for a period of time after the last payment, which isn't an issue.
  • Tuition reimbursement only applies to my out of pocket expenses, and if Pell Grant covers all of my expenses - I don't get to use the tuition reimbursement money.

Question:

Is there any reason for me not to apply for FAFSA and opt for tuition reimbursement instead?

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(in fact, we've been getting more money than our tuition costs, which somewhat concerns me)

Pell Grants are designated to assist those in need to attend college. When I went there were some additional costs beyond tuition (such as books and scan trons). Nowadays, the amount of add on costs are a bit mind numbing. Things like voting devices/apps, limited use software licenses (like homework logins) and licenses instead of text books (that only last a term) add a lot to cost. I doubt the Pell covers all of those.

The bottom line is that you should not be concerned.

Is there any reason for me not to apply for FAFSA and opt for tuition reimbursement instead?

No, I would apply by all means. Not applying will lead to stiff resistance from the college staff. Also you may be eligible for partial grants or scholarships.

In fact you may not want to apply for your employer tuition assistance. For one it comes with strings attached. Lets say you get a degree and want to leave for a job that pays 25K more per year. Well you have a tough decision to make. Do you stay with your current employer at the lower salary or move on and pay back tuition?

How large of a business do you work for? Would your college expenses be a strain on them? If so you may be targeted in a layoff. Does your work only cover tuition that is job related?

If its me, I would accept the Pell grant and forego the employer reimbursement.

  • Thanks for the clarification! My only thought here was the following: is FAFSA family-based or individual-based? If I opted out of FAFSA (and tuition reimbursement instead), would it in any way impact my spouse's Federal Aid size? – FAFSA Recipient Feb 5 at 15:44
  • You might want to ask a follow up question. I am not sure. – Pete B. Feb 5 at 16:45
  • FAFSA asks about spouse's income, so I don't think it's going to matter whether you're both doing FAFSA or not. – mkennedy Feb 5 at 19:28
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Reading through, you can also apply for FAFSA to see how much they offer in grants and scholarships. Accept those as they are free money and avoid the loans. Calculate the total expenses above tuition (books, computer, software, apps, housing if applicable, etc.). If the grants and scholarships don't cover the other noted expenses, you can inquire with your employer how much is available, if it can be used for these expenses, and pry into what the expectations are on how long they expect you to stay should they provide the reimbursement. Essentially learn as much as you can about the FAFSA offerings and your companies reimbursment to make a better informed decision.

As noted in the first answer, take the grants and scholarships first with the no strings attached. Then weigh the costs and benefits of the reimbursement (if any is available) to decide if the money is worth the commitment.

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