FAFSA Completion Efforts Helping More Students, Earlier

February 17, 2016

 

By Jayna Cobbs, FAFSA Campaign Program Manager

Annually, billions of dollars get left on the table by students who plan to attend college. Typically, money goes unclaimed due to incomplete or unsubmitted Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms. Often students don’t realize they could receive grant aid or they think the process is too difficult. Fortunately, due to FAFSA Completion events, students in New Jersey and Massachusetts are able to receive free assistance completing the FAFSA by well-trained volunteers.  

New Jersey Association of Financial Aid Administrators and Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators are two of 30 organizations to receive a College Goal Sunday grant to improve FAFSA completion. College Goal Sunday is a state-based volunteer program that helps students obtain financial aid for college by completing the FAFSA. NCAN assumed responsibility of CGS in May 2015 from USA Funds, and in January relaunched the CGS website, which provides tools and resources for both training volunteers and hosting a FAFSA Completion event. CGS grant awards for the 2016 FAFSA season totaled $300,000.

On January 9, New Jersey Association of Financial Aid Administrators held its first College Goal Sunday event of the year. Event staffers were overwhelmed by the number of attendees, who had not all pre-registered, but were able to assist many students. Many attendees stated that they had a February 1 FAFSA filing deadline established by the college of their choice. Eileen Buckle, director of financial aid, said, “I was pleased with this event because it was the first time we've scheduled an event this early that so many people attended. Usually we'll have one or two attend at such an early date.” The event, held at Ocean City College, was able to help attendees by providing one-on-one assistance. 

Massachusetts College Goal Sunday (FAFSA Day) held its first of many FAFSA completion events on January 31, helping students complete a total of 433 FAFSAs thus far. They have nine more events scheduled through March 5 to accommodate the need. To better serve students and their families, Massachusetts CGS provided translator accommodations at seven of the sites; languages included Spanish, Vietnamese, and Haitian/Creole. Most students reported that they accomplished what they came for when they attended a FAFSA Day event and thought favorably of the assistance they received. 

Additionally, because of the grant support, Massachusetts College Goal Sunday increased activity on social media, updating a Facebook page and Twitter with FAFSA day event photos and posting information regarding the financial aid process, scholarship opportunities, and deadline reminders. Efforts were recently acknowledged by the Massachusetts Governor with a Proclamation for College Goal Sunday. 

To see which organization is leading College Goal Sunday efforts in your state, visit www.collegegoalsundayusa.org




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