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Experts To Provide Online Help Filling Out Federal Financial Aid Forms

tan pictograph with steps on how to sign up for financial aid
file photo
The document known as the "FAFSA" has flummoxed many parents and students, but financial aid specialists will have the answers.

The document known as the "FAFSA" has flummoxed many parents and students, but financial aid specialists will have the answers.

Filling out the federal document that is required for just about any kind of college financial aid can be a daunting task. But now help is on the way in the form of an online tutorial with live experts.

Corrie Melton is a member of the Capital Region's ASPIRE program within the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

"We focus on college and career readiness and all the steps it takes to get them into school. And one of the things we know is a big barrier is money. And one of the biggest ways we can help them start getting the money they need to go to college is the FAFSA, the Free Application For Student Aid."

The form is required for such student aid as Stafford and Parent Plus loans, along with Pell Grants. But Kathy McDonald, assistant director of network partnerships with the Florida College Access Network, remarked it's also a prerequisite for other forms of student aid.

"Many colleges use the FAFSA to determine local types of aid, such as scholarships and grants, which are sources of aid that the colleges themselves distribute."

McDonald added millions of dollars in aid go unclaimed every year in Florida alone because students don't apply. Unfortunately, the FAFSA document is by no means the simplest or most user-friendly application ever devised. So ASPIRE's Corrie Melton said a special interactive seminar on how to fill out the complex form is coming up on the evening of Monday, May 17.

"We are having a virtual FAFSA completion night. During that evening - it will be from 6 to 7:30 - we will actually step students and their families question-by-question through the FAFSA."

Melton said some real experts will be part of the presentation, which will be interactive.

"We will have Bill Spiers from the Financial Aid Office at T.C.C. there to lead us, question by question. In addition to Bill, we'll have 10-12 financial aid experts from FSU, FAMU, TCC, Lively and some of our school systems as well to answer specific questions that students and their families pose."

Melton cautioned, though, that the information and instructions that will be given during this FAFSA online seminar will be targeted to a special audience.

"This particular FAFSA night is specifically designed for the graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021."

Presumably, most of the members of those graduating classes would like to ultimately have a good job. And the Florida College Access Network's Kathy McDonald said filling out the FAFSA is becoming more critical than ever in that regard.

"The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has estimated that 67% of all jobs by 2025 will require some form of degree or credential in order to qualify for those jobs."

But the first step, she stressed, is completing the FAFSA. For a link to the May 17 online application seminar, check out the Tallahassee Chamber's "Cash for College" weblink.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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