College-bound high schoolers leaving financial aid on the table

Georgia’s high school graduating class of 2017 left an estimated $70 million in free federal financial aid for college unclaimed by failing to fill out the required application according to information published by NerdWallet.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called the FAFSA, serves as the application for all federal student financial aid programs and most state of Georgia financial aid programs. The application for students planning to enroll in college for the Fall 2019 – Spring 2020 year just became available on October 1.

The Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC), the state agency responsible for administering all of the state’s scholarship, grant, and student loan programs, encourages high school seniors, college students, and parents to please take note and seek assistance if needed to fill out the form.  

Caylee Noggle

Caylee Noggle

As the Interim President of GSFC and a long-time college access advocate, I am troubled that countless students in our state are eligible for federal and state financial aid programs but fail to take advantage of those opportunities because of lack of information or knowledge about the application and financial aid procedures.

The Federal Pell Grant provides up to $6,095 a year for students with the most need. Coupled with state financial aid programs, such as the HOPE Career Grant, students seeking a postsecondary certificate or diploma in high-demand career fields that have nearly guaranteed job placement rates can attend college tuition free and with many of the other associated costs covered. And, many resources are available state-wide to assist students and their parents with the application process.

GSFC provides free financial aid information sessions, application completion events, and even one-on-one counseling to students and families. Events are hosted around the state and are publicized at high schools. Georgia’s College Connector, a free print and online publication, provides detailed information on the college financial aid process, including checklists and timelines (available here).

To find an event near you or for assistance, please call us at 1-800-505-4732 or email us at Outreach@gsfc.org.

Just as troubling to me though are the countless instances of students that pay for college planning assistance that can be accessed for free. If you are applying to an Ivy League or highly selective institution, by all means, utilize the services of a college entrance coach or consultant if you feel it’s warranted and you can. However, most students do not need to pay for assistance to attend most institutions. And, while we hope you stay in Georgia for your postsecondary education, we would encourage you to visit the site www.foryounotforprofit.org if you are seeking a private student loan or if you need financial aid assistance in other states.  All of the resources available there are provided by other state-based and non-profit agencies that have your best interests first!

Georgia has been ranked as the No. 1 state in which to do business for five years in a row by both Site Selection and Area Development, two leading economic development publications. These rankings reflect Georgia’s strong economy and the good jobs that are now waiting for our students. Programs are widely available to help students get the skills and training needed for those jobs. And, abundant resources are available to help students access and pay for those training programs. Parents and guardians – please help guide your students and work collaboratively with high school counselors and others to take advantage of these resources. Students – please do your part to get ready for the next steps in your education by reading your emails, following timelines, and listening to your advisors on how to proceed. So much opportunity exists for you and we’re here to help you take advantage of it!

– Caylee Noggle is the Interim President of the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC). For more information visit www.Gafutures.org or contact Outreach@gsfc.org or 1-800-505-4732.