More than $120 billion in federal money is available to current and future college students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, but the process can be tricky.
That’s why local agencies are offering free workshops to help high school seniors fill out their FAFSA applications for the 2019-2020 school year.
Applications opened at fafsa.gov last week, and some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Though the federal deadline to apply is June 30, 2020, states and colleges use students’ FAFSA applications to calculate other forms of financial aid.
Florida’s deadline is May 15, 2019, and each college has its own deadline.
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UnidosNow, a local nonprofit, is offering workshops through a partnership with United Way Suncoast, the Manatee Community Foundation and other organizations:
Oct. 12 — 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
Oct. 16 — 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Palmetto High School, 1200 17th St. W., Palmetto.
Oct. 18 — 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sarasota High School, 2155 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota.
Oct. 23 — 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Booker High School, 3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota.
Oct. 25 — 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Manatee High School, 902 33rd St. Ct. W., Bradenton.
Nov. 14 — 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Lakewood Ranch High School, 5500 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton.
Nov. 28 — 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Bayshore High School, 5401 34th St. W., Bradenton.
Workshops are open to all high school seniors in the area. Students should bring at least one parent or guardian to help provide needed information, and families will need their 2017 tax and income information on hand.
The organization is also looking for volunteers to staff the workshops, according to a news release that quoted Luz Corcuera, the agency’s executive director.
“It is urgent for high school seniors to complete their FAFSA application as soon as possible since colleges have different deadlines, some as early as Dec. 1, 2019,” she said in the prepared statement. “They should not delay completing the form.”
Families and potential volunteers can get further information by emailing Juan Arcila, associate director of education initiatives for UnidsoNow, at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be reached by phone at 941-777-5184.
Manatee Technical College is also offering free FAFSA assistance:
Oct. 23 — 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at MTC’s open house.
Dec. 5 — 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the college’s job fair.
MTC will hold both events at its main campus, 6305 State Road 70 E., in Bradenton.
Federal aid comes in three forms: a work-study, which allows students to earn money for their education; a low-interest loan, which must be repaid; and perhaps the most sought-after award, a free grant.
Along with tuition, help is available for housing, textbooks and other supplies. And the odds of receiving money are high, according to Form Your Future, a campaign by the National College Access Network.
The campaign said 85 percent of students could receive financial aid, and that 92 percent of students from low-income household will receive grants.
In its news release, UnidosNow said completed FAFSA applications rose 2.5 percent in Manatee and 2.3 percent in Sarasota last year. It credited the work of community organizations and school districts.
“UnidosNow aims to empower first generation, low income students to successfully pursue higher education,” the release states.