Need FAFSA help? Spartanburg Academic Movement is offering free workshops at local colleges through April.
Families in need of help filling out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms for their children can register for free workshop events on Tuesday, March 16 at Spartanburg Community College’s downtown campus or April 13 at the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Each of the events will take place from 5-7 p.m. with families signing up for a one hour time slot on Spartanburg Academic Movement’s website, www.learnwithsam.org. There are 15 slots available from 5-6 p.m. and from 6-7 p.m. on each date.
Meghan Smith, director of College and Career Readiness at Spartanburg Academic Movement, said the nonprofit was driven to organize the events because of the decrease they’ve seen in FAFSA completion numbers this year. As of February, SAM’s data shows that 1,179 students have completed the FAFSA, Smith said, a 7 percent decrease from last February.
“We’ve seen a decrease (in FAFSA completion) over the last two years, but it concerns us because we also see in our data that Spartanburg students who completed the FAFSA were three times more likely to enroll in college,” Smith said. “So we’re not just concerned about FAFSA completion numbers, but more what that will translate into for college enrollment numbers.”
Federal aid is given based on need, which is documented and determined by the FAFSA. Many forms of financial aid given by colleges are also based on the information in a student’s FAFSA.
“The FAFSA is essentially a gatekeeper to federal funds to help students to afford college. If you could qualify for a Pell Grant, which are for families in poverty, that can be up to $6,500 of free money to pay for college. If you never complete (the FAFSA), you don’t have a realistic idea of what kind of access to aid you can get,” Smith said.
Smith said the workshops were being held early in the year because it is important for students to get their FAFSA forms to the colleges they are interested in before the summer when much of the aid for the fall already may have been given out.
Financial aid professionals from the host colleges will be available to walk families through the process in-person. Families may wish to bring their most recent tax returns and social security numbers with them to help them fill out the form.
Smith emphasized that the host colleges will help any student who registers for the event, whether they plan to attend that college or not.
“We don’t want any of our students to be leaving money on the table,” Smith said.