FAFSA workshops help Hoosier students secure financial aid still available

CBS4 This Morning

INDIANAPOLIS — Local experts say there’s still money on the table when it comes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

“So many people don’t realize that there are other options,” said Barbie Martin with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. “We obviously want students to file as early as possible so that they have access to as many options as there are, but that is the main message that it’s not too late. There are ways that you can receive funding.”

Made possible through a grant from the National College Attainment Network, or NCAN, the commission is hosting a series of FAFSA completion workshops. The goal is to target students who missed the state’s April 15th deadline to file and help them through the process to possibly secure funding that’s still available.

Martin says two options for students include the Federal Pell Grant and Indiana’s Workforce Ready Grant.

The Pell Grant offers money to help pay for educational expenses. Since it’s not a student loan, Martin says recipients do not have to pay it back.

“Most people obviously use it to pay their tuition costs, possibly housing, but it can be used for books, transportation, if you need a laptop to complete your coursework,” Martin said. “You can use a Pell Grant for anything as long as it’s truly educationally related.”

The Workforce Ready Grant comes through Indiana’s Next Level Jobs Program. It pays for a certificate program, helping students towards securing high-demand and well-paying jobs in the state.

“That’s a really good opportunity for students who may have missed that deadline, but do want to pursue something or for a student who’s not ready to commit to a two-year or four-year, degree,” said Martin.

“They can get one of these short term certificates,” she added, “and when they complete it, they’re going to be able to find a well-paying job in a field that has openings that are looking for employees. So that’s the appeal of that grant.”

While many view the FAFSA process as intimidating, Martin says it’s a simple process especially with guided help along the way. Taking the extra step, Martin says, could also unlock opportunities that save you money in the long run.

“You never know what you might qualify for,” said Martin. “We know that college is expensive, but there are ways to make it more affordable, and in some cases, depending on what they’re pursuing, it may be without any cost at all, or very low cost, if they get one of these grants.”

The workshops itself are more than just filling out paperwork. Martin says they’re also working to connect students to resources, like colleges and other programs, to continue their path while they’re there.

“Money is important, but it’s not the only thing that students need to be successful,” said Martin. “So we’re trying to encourage contact with their advisors, reaching out to faculty members if they have questions, finding a mentor at the college level. That way you can help guide them through these things.”

The first workshop is Wednesday, July 21, at Ivy Tech Community College (50 W. Fall Creek Parkway, North Drive). Organizers recently changed the time to noon – 5 p.m.

For a list of future workshops, and more resources on FAFSA, visit the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s website.

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