WINOOSKI >> Vermont Student Assistance Corp., the state advocate for Vermont students in their pursuit of higher education, wants you to file your FAFSA. Now.
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the crucial first step to receiving financial aid, including federal Pell grants, VSAC's Vermont State Grant, financial aid from the school that the student attends and for student loans.
"Simply put, no FAFSA, no financial aid," said Scott Giles, VSAC president and CEO. "Vermonters know the cost of continuing their education is a big investment. Whatever you're doing right now, stop. Take the 30 minutes to file the FAFSA and get all the financial aid that you are eligible for."
Unfortunately, high school graduates across America miss out on as much as $2.7 billion in free federal grants each academic year because they don't complete or submit the FAFSA. The average amount of money left on the table per eligible high school graduate who didn't apply was $1,861.
In Vermont, high school graduates missed out on about $5.5 million dollars in free federal Pell grants. That's because about half our high school graduates don't complete the FAFSA. The average federal grant for eligible students would be $3,546. That's a lot of money to leave on the table for about 30 minutes of work.
Some people think they're not eligible for assistance, but there's no income cutoff to apply for federal student aid, experts say. Families can use the FAFSA4caster to gauge how much federal financial aid they may receive based on an estimation of expected family contribution.
Last year, one study found that some 40 percent of potential applicants had not finished a FAFSA by mid-April, only weeks shy of the traditional May 1 deadline for most incoming college students to finally select which school they are going to attend.
Students can learn more about the FAFSA and file online by visiting www.vsac.org/fafsafirst. VSAC also has links to the online applications for the Vermont State Grant, available to Vermont students enrolled full-time or part-time.
The earlier students apply, the better, Giles said, because many schools and colleges have deadlines for submitting financial aid applications. And, some student aid is only available on a first-come, first-served basis until the money runs out.