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Education officials urge students to apply for federal financial aid amid decline caused by COVID-19

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence are urging all high school seniors, college students and returning adults to apply for federal aid this year amid a decline in applications due to COVID-19.

The number of Kentucky students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – known as the FAFSA Form – is down 3.7 percent, raising concerns that some students and parents are not preparing financially for the fall 2020 semester.

Aaron Thompson

CPE President Aaron Thompson said he understands the financial anxiety for many parents and students during the COVID-19 outbreak. But he stressed that filling out the FAFSA form can alleviate some of the unease in college planning and college going.

“This process is not only free, but it can provide certainty in uncertain times,” Thompson said. “I encourage every family to take advantage of this opportunity to plan ahead and secure resources for the future. Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from achieving your goals.”

FASFA completion is strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment. The National College Attainment Network reports that 90 percent of high school seniors who complete a FAFSA attend college directly from high school, compared to just 55 percent of FASFA noncompleters.

According to Gene Hutchins, executive director of KHEAA, “Completing the FAFSA is one of the critically important steps for students and families to take in preparing for postsecondary education in that it provides access to federal, state and institutional grant assistance. It can be the first step along the pathway to a successful career and life.

“Last year, Kentucky students received more than $373 million in federal PELL grants and KHEAA distributed more than $258 million in grants and scholarships. Most of the funds are distributed based on FAFSA data, so we urge everyone considering college to file a FAFSA,” he added.

To get help from KHEAA’s outreach counselors, go directly to KHEAA’s website.

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“Having a marketable degree or credential pays more in the immediate as well as over a lifetime, and those with higher levels of education experience lower levels of unemployment,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, president & CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. “As a state that ranks fifth from the bottom of the nation in poverty, increasing our college-going rate while continuing the work to increase our attainment rate to the national rate – is a key strategy to ensuring a big, bold future. Completing the FAFSA is the first step on the path to a larger life.”

Students can apply for aid by visiting studentaid.gov/apply, which offers instructions for submitting a form electronically or by mail along with other details about the process. Submitting a form online starts with creating an FSA ID at studentaid.gov/create-account, and parents will also need to create an ID if the student is dependent.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education distributes more than $120 billion in federal grants, loans and work-study funds to help students pay for college or vocational training. About 20 million FAFSA forms are submitted each year.

From Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

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