College Goal Sunday Offers Free Help On Financial Aid
January 26, 2010
It's the sense of relief that parents and their high school seniors have when they are leaving "College Goal Sunday" that measures the worth of the financial aid workshops, which will be happening this year on Jan. 31.
Glenn Cassis, executive director of the African-American Affairs Commission, remembers one family a couple of years ago. They arrived nervous, with arms full of papers and folders.
After consulting with financial aid representatives, they got their son's application in order. "The mother was so happy, she was almost in tears," said Cassis. "She said, 'I've finally got him on his way.'"
The workshops, which are being held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 13 sites in Connecticut and others around the country, offer free hands-on assistance in completing the often befuddling Free Application for Federal Student Aid known as FAFSA. The form is vital for students appealing for federal financial aid and for many state, college-specific and private scholarships.
Financial aid officers from area colleges and universities will be on hand, along with accounting and tax professionals. Besides receiving help on the FAFSA, students will have a chance to learn about state and federal financial aid programs.
Ivette Rivera-Dreyer, financial aid director at Manchester Community College, said, "The purpose is to help mostly first-generation" college applicants, "but we will help anyone who comes." She said that Spanish-speaking professionals will be available at every site.
Margaret Wolf, financial aid director at Capital Community College, said, "We try to get them through the whole process efficiently in one day."
Mona Lucas, financial aid director at Eastern Connecticut State University, said it's important for parents to understand that they don't need to have filed their tax returns yet in order to fill out the FAFSA; they can use estimates from last year.
Lucas said it's an advantage to get these forms submitted early becomes some financial aid is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Among those colleges hosting the event in the Hartford area are Capital Community College, Central Connecticut State University, Manchester Community College and Middlesex Community College.
Almost two-thirds of students in higher education receive financial aid; the average total aid package is $7,400 a year. In Connecticut, College Goal Sunday has grown from six sites three years ago that served 320 students and their families to 12 sites and 790 participants last year. This year there will be 13 sites.
More information about the program, what families should bring with them, and a registration form is available at www.collegegoalsundayct.org. Additional information is available at 1-888-277-2270 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the items that are helpful for families to bring with them: the latest tax information and/or the last pay stub from the previous year; Social Security number; driver's license; W-2 forms from the previous year; and the most recent federal income tax returns. However, the organizers emphasize that participants should not worry if they do not have all the documents and should simply arrive with the documents they do have.
The snow date for the event is Sunday, Feb. 14, for all sites except one. The snow date for Norwich Free Academy is Monday, Feb. 1, from 5 to 9 p.m.
Other Connecticut host sites include: Gateway Community College in New Haven, Norwich Free Academy, Central High School in Bridgeport, Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Norwalk Community College, Ridley-Lowell Business and Technology Institute in New London, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut in New London, and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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