Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

February 21, 2013

Program offers help with filing financial aid


CNHI

INDIANAPOLIS — Financial aid professionals will volunteer at eight locations throughout Indianapolis and 40 other Indiana sites to help college-bound students and their families open the door to financial aid during College Goal Sunday, set for 2 p.m. Feb. 24.

The free program is designed to assist Indiana students seeking undergraduate admission to a college or technical school in 2013 in filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is required for students to be considered for federal and state grants, loans, and scholarships at most colleges, universities, and vocational/technical schools nationwide and must be filed by March 10 to be eligible for state aid.

Completing this required form correctly and by the deadline is sometimes perceived to be complicated and time consuming. In one afternoon at College Goal Sunday, students and their families can get free help and file the form online.

Now in its 24th year, College Goal Sunday, a charitable program of the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association (ISFAA), has helped more than 88,000 Indiana students and families complete the FAFSA properly and on time, opening the door to financial aid for college.

To make filing the FAFSA easier, volunteers walk through the form line-by-line and answer families' individual questions. All sites offer FAFSA online capabilities and many have Spanish interpreters. A complete list of sites is available online at www.CollegeGoalSunday.org.

Students should attend College Goal Sunday with their parent(s) or guardian(s) and bring their parents' completed 2012 IRS 1040 tax returns, W-2 Forms, and other 2012 income and benefits information. Students who worked last year should bring their income information. Students 24 years of age or older may attend alone and bring their own completed 2012 IRS 1040 tax return, W-2 Form, or other 2012 income and benefits information. Students and parents may apply for their U.S. Department of Education Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) online at www.pin.ed.gov before coming to the event.

"Nearly half of Indiana's college students qualify for financial aid from the State of Indiana,"  Donette Cassman, chairman of College Goal Sunday, said in a press release. "College Goal Sunday helps students and families better understand the financial aid process and brings students one step closer to fulfilling their educational goals."

According to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education's Division of Student Financial Aid (SFA), programs like College Goal Sunday are reaching first-generation college students. In addition, according to SFA statistics, in recent years, more single-parent Hoosier families have filed for financial aid, indicating programs like College Goal Sunday are reaching high-risk students and their families.

"Financial aid professionals have seen firsthand the disappointment of students who don't complete their financial aid paperwork properly," Cassman said. "That's why the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association continues to provide College Goal Sunday. If our assistance gives students a better chance at higher education, we're fulfilling our mission."

Students who attend any of the College Goal Sunday sites and submit a completed evaluation form will automatically be entered in a drawing for an educational prize. Winners will be notified in March; prizes will be sent directly to the higher education institutions selected by the winning students.

Twenty-first Century Scholars are income-eligible students who sign a contract in the seventh or eighth grade promising they will graduate from high school, meet grade point requirements, fulfill a pledge of good citizenship, and apply for college financial aid. Upon high school graduation, scholars who have fulfilled the commitment receive state funds to help cover their college tuition and fees for eight semesters at eligible Indiana colleges. To fulfill their pledge, scholars must submit a completed FAFSA form on time.

College Goal Sunday has more than tripled its reach, from 10 sites statewide in its first year to 41 sites currently, and it has become a national model to other College Goal Sunday programs. In addition to Indiana, College Goal Sunday now takes place in more than 35 other states.

ISFAA's College Goal Sunday is one of the highlights of Financial Aid Awareness Month. In February, students and their families can call the Learn More Resource Center helpline at (800) 992-2076 and have their questions answered by financial aid professionals. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education supports the Helpline.

College Goal Sunday locations in Indianapolis include Decatur Central High School, 5251 Kentucky Ave.; George Washington Community High School, 2215 W. Washington St.; and Pacers Academy High School East in Washington Square Mall, 10202 E. Washington St., Suite 304.