Assistance available to those seeking money for education

Help in navigating federal forms needed for college financial aid is available for local high school students and their parents.

With a March deadline looming for scholarship applications, Financial Literacy Coalition representatives are offering several upcoming help sessions.

The coalition works to improve awareness about financial literacy issues and will guide students through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The series of sessions in Bartholomew County begins tonight.

Bill Jenson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. director of secondary education, asked the coalition to create the no-cost project to help parents and students complete the financial aid forms.

“We still have a lot of parents that struggle with finding time, getting necessary help or understanding all of the FAFSA components,” Jenson said. “Here’s an immediate area of need that we could really make a difference pretty quickly and without a lot of financial resources.”

Students who complete the financial aid forms may qualify for student loans, grants, scholarships and work-study funds through the federal government. The Indiana deadline for filing the FAFSA form is March 10, but some colleges and universities may require an earlier deadline.

Jenson said the Indiana Commission for High Education is monitoring how many Indiana high school students have completed a FAFSA and will let the high schools know when the forms have been submitted and if they contain errors.

Lyn Morgan, president of the Centra Foundation and a coalition member, said some parents and students don’t file the federal forms because they don’t think they can afford college. She hopes the coalition can help some individuals determine eligibility for financial aid.

“The whole goal of the community here is to get more kids to graduate from high school and then to go on to college,” she said.

Applying for financial aid is one step toward meeting that goal.

“Fill out the form,” she said, adding that applicants may receive far more assistance than expected.

Yellow folders designed to help students and their families navigate the financial aid process are available at the help sessions as well as at Harrison College, IUPUC and Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus.

In addition to the yellow folders, help session organizers are asking students and families to bring needed financial paperwork to complete the forms, which includes Social Security numbers, federal tax information and income information, for example.

Coalition member Jalene Hahn said completing a FAFSA form is similar to filing taxes in that a lot of the same financial information is required.

Help with the FAFSA has been offered in the past, she said, but coalition members thought there could be a broader, more efficient way to get families’ questions answered.

“This is really an expansion of the College Goal Sunday program. You could get help at the Learning Center, but it was just one day a year,” she said.

This program brings the help session to local public high schools rather than requiring students and parents to travel to the Learning Center, she said.

List of sessions

Hauser High School, 9423 State Road 9 North, Hope

Tonight and Feb. 18, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Columbus North High School, 1400 25th St.

Feb. 12 and 16, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Columbus East High School, 230 S. Marr Road

Feb. 17, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.

Feb. 22, 2 p.m.

What to bring

Here is a list of the information students will need to bring with them to the FAFSA help sessions at Hauser, Columbus East and Columbus North high schools:

  • Basic information (name, date of birth, address, driver’s license number)
  • Social security number or alien registration number
  • Any government benefits received in the home of the students in the past two years
  • Federal tax information
  • Records of untaxed income
  • Current banking and investment account statements

Parents will need to bring the same information and marriage information.

For more information, contact Jalene Hahn with Warren Ward Associates, Columbus, at 812-379-1120.