CLEVELAND — Paying for college can be a huge hurdle for many students and their families and it turns out many of them may be entitled to money and not even know it.
According to National College Attainment Network data analyzed by the Ohio Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Ohio high school graduates left $111 million in federal student aid on the table last year. .
This is because they failed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or better known as FAFSA.
Nakia Hudson’s daughter, Kennedy Bell, is in her senior year of high school and preparing to head off to college next year. So, last November, they both sat down to complete the FAFSA together. Hudson had her own experience with the process.
“This round, I have to say whatever changes they made to make it more user-friendly, it wasn’t that difficult,” Hudson said.
But still, with over 130 questions to fill out on the form, it’s not a total walk in the park.
“There are still things that are, you know, it’s a little confusing. The dates, the timelines, the wait and things of that nature. But we’re getting there,” Hudson said.
Now, Kennedy has a good idea of the kind of help she is entitled to from the universities that interest her.
“We were able to see at two schools the types of scholarships that would be available to him and the Pell scholarship that would be available to him at one institution,” Hudson said.
She is still waiting for more information about additional help, but what she has so far is helpful in determining which school to go to.
However, many Ohio high school graduates were unable to get this information or help last year simply because they did not fill out the form.
“Whether you think you could get something or you don’t think you could get something, you should still complete it,” said Maggie McGrath, executive director of the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland.
McGrath said many people don’t even consider the FAFSA because they think they don’t qualify for help, they find it’s too difficult to complete, or they’re facing other obstacles to doing so. But it’s the key to not only getting federal aid, but also state aid, scholarships, and federal loans at a lower interest rate. She said there was help for families who needed it.
“College Now Greater Cleveland. We have a resource center. You can make an appointment at any time and come and meet someone who will walk you through the process,” McGrath said.
Hudson said she tries to be that resource for other parents, and now she and her daughter are preparing for the next steps in her college journey.
“I’m excited. I think she’s a little nervous, but I think she’s more excited than anything,” Hudson said.
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