Filing the FAFSA can qualify Rhode Islanders for financial aid for college; Free assistance is available to help families apply for aidProvidence, RI – Governor Gina Raimondo, the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, and the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) are encouraging Rhode Island high school students to complete the application for federal student aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, to ensure every student who qualifies for federal aid receives it.
The FAFSA is the first step to applying for college financial aid. All schools use this application to award federal student aid, including the Pell Grant and low-cost student loans, and many use it to determine how much institutional aid a family is eligible for.
Last year, Rhode Island had the eighth highest percentage of high school students in the country completing the form. This year, Governor Raimondo wants Rhode Island to be number one in the country, making sure every student who qualifies for aid receives it.
“Every Rhode Islander from high school seniors to adults returning to school should have the opportunity to access as much financial aid as possible. Completing the FAFSA is the first step to receiving that funding,” said Governor Raimondo. “Our state, our schools, and our community organizations must collaborate to ensure families are not leaving financial aid on the table.”
October 1 marked the day the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, became available to families looking for college financial aid for the following academic year. The Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner is leading a collaborative effort with the Governor’s office, the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, and the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to drive up the state’s FAFSA completion rate this year, including outreach to more adult students, low-income students, and students of color to encourage them to file the form.
“FAFSA is a gateway to opportunity for Rhode Island students of all ages,” said Brenda Dann-Messier, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education. “Nationally, 85 percent of students are eligible for federal financial aid for college, but only 45 percent of high school seniors actually complete the FAFSA before high school graduation. And we know that financial aid is especially key to closing equity gaps for first-generation and low-income students, and students of color. Completing the FAFSA helps students approach decisions about their post-secondary education with a clear idea of what they can afford and what their financial aid options are.”
Some students and parents find the FAFSA, which contains over 100 questions, to be complicated and confusing. This summer, a new mobile application, myStudentAid, was launched by the US Department of Education to help simplify the process of filing the FAFSA. The app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play, customizes the experience of completing the FAFSA based on who is filling out the form.
“We expect that this mobile app will assist many tech-savvy students and parents, but we recognize there are still many families out there who prefer to have hands-on assistance when completing the FAFSA. We have been assisting thousands of families with completing the FAFSA for twenty years, and our services are completely free,” said Stacy Crooks, Director of the RISLA College Planning Center, a quasi-state public authority that offers free assistance completing the FAFSA.
To assist students and parents with filing the FAFSA, the RISLA College Planning Center will host nine free events during the 2018-19 academic year.
FAFSA Completion Nights will be held on the following dates:
Families who are unable to attend an event, or prefer to receive help in a more private setting, are encouraged to book a free one-on-one appointment in at the RISLA College Planning Center, located in Warwick and Lincoln, at www.collegeplanningcenter.org.
Students and parents can also learn more about the importance of filing the FAFSA by texting keyword “FAFSA” to 24000.
###The RISLA College Planning Center is a free service of Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, a non-profit state authority. The RISLA College Planning Center has been providing expert in-person and web-based college planning guidance to students and parents for twenty years. The College Planning CenterI offers one-on-one college planning counseling, informational seminars, and online tools to promote college planning and financial aid awareness among Rhode Islanders. For more information, please visit www.collegeplanningcenter.org