FERPA, FAFSA and Finances: Oh, my!

Who doesn’t like a little alliteration (and Wizard of Oz homage)?  And, let’s face it, when it comes to matters of doing business at Ohio State, we’ll take anything that can make it appealing!  However, it’s a good midway point in the year to pay attention to business. Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to suit up for this conversation.


I’m sure you all remember from your orientation program that we introduced the hottest acronym ever to hit the federal law books: FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99 for those of us nerdy enough to want to read it in its original codified glory).  FERPA basically instructs what, when and with whom Ohio State can share information about students and their records.  For you, that means that we can’t share anything about you other than directory information with anyone, unless you give us permission to do so.  That means that when your mom or your dad or your great aunt Betty calls to check to see if your bill has been paid, we can’t tell them unless you specifically tell us it’s okay.  Believe me when I say that your dad can get quite upset when he’s been on hold for 20 minutes only to be told that we can’t answer his questions because you didn’t complete the student information release like he’s asked you to do a million times.

For his sake – and ours – complete the release form.  You can control what information we share and with whom – and it’s relatively simple.  You can sign off on the release of academic information or account information or financial aid information – or any combination of the three.  (Three – it’s the magic number.)

Simply follow the instructions found on the Student Service Center website.


Yet another amazing acronym – FAFSA.  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) needs to be filed annually in order to determine your financial aid eligibility for a number of need-based programs for next academic year (Summer 2014-Spring 2015).  At Ohio State, we expect you to file your FAFSA by February 15 each year for priority consideration.  It’s important to apply by that date, even if you and your family will need to estimate income information because your 2013 taxes aren’t complete yet.  There’s also a PIN number involved, so don’t wait until the last minute in case you need to get that reset – it will take a few days!  And, no, it’s not that kind of pinsetter.


I know I just glossed over the word in the FAFSA section, but another aspect of tending to your finances as a college student is doing your taxes.  Even though we’re months away from the April 15 deadline, ‘tis the season.  Something that you’ve probably not had to include on your taxes in the past is your financial aid.  You should note that any amount of a scholarship, fellowship or grant that exceeds the cost of tuition, mandatory fees, books and required supplies will be considered taxable income and is subject to federal tax.

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever heard when it comes to finances in college is pretty profound: Live like a student now, so you don’t have to after graduation.  The translation?  Live way within your means now – learn to live on the cheap and within a budget.  Want some ideas on how to create a budget, how to start building your credit score or even start building an investment portfolio?  Ohio State students can access resources on these topics and others by reaching out to the Student Wellness Center.  It’s okay: there are ways to live on a budget and not be entirely dependent on Ramen…

I could go on for days about other things to keep in mind when doing business with the university, but all good things – including this post – must come to an end.