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Hidden Opportunities for College Financial Aid
At Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, we offer a host of seminars to help them come up with a solid answer.

In the gamut of financial aid, there are two categories; need-based and non-need-based.

Types of aid span Gift Aid, which is money that does not have to be paid back and is awarded on the basis of merit, skill or unique characteristics (scholarships and grants), and Self-Help Aid, which is money students and parents borrow to help pay college expenses that's repaid after the education is finished (loans and employment).

Each year, about 15 million students file a FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid)form to apply for federal, state and institutional grants, work-study and loans. In the fall, we hold a workshop to demystify this complicated standard form, which collects demographic and financial information about the student and family online.

Most parents have questions and concerns about filling out the FAFSA - and there are changes this year - so we break down the process by bringing in financial professionals to offer straight answers and knowledgeable explanations. Our featured speaker, Claudia A. Wenzel, director of financial assistance at John Carroll University, provides a line-by-line explanation of the form.

Since most of student aid is awarded ona first-come, first-served basis, parents appreciate being able to file confidently ahead of the deadline to receive the maximum amount of aid.

A significant change that President Obama announced in September 2015 is that starting next year, students will be able to submit FAFSAs as early as October 1, rather than awaiting until the previous date of January 1.

Another change is the timetable guidelines for the tax year families may use to report income. Beginning with the 2017-2018 FAFSA, families can utilize a "prior-prior year" basis and go back two years, using 2015 rather than 2016 if they wish.

Special Circumstances Make a Difference
If there are special circumstances that are not included in the FAFSA form (such as a change in parents' employment, or unusual costs for other dependents, such as private tuition, or medical expenses not covered by insurance), Claudia recommends families communicate them to the financial aid office of each college the student is interested in attending. The representatives will review them and might ask for additional documentation before factoring that into the award process.

Over the years, we've found that a common misconception is families think they wouldn't qualify for any aid, so they don't bother to file a FAFSA. Really, everyone should file one.

How to Attain a Maximum Award
Claudia's biggest tip for success is getting in contact early with guidance counselors, both in high school and college, and staying in touch with them throughout the process.

She says each year she has the regrettable job of telling families they would have been eligible for scholarships or aid, but they missed the deadline.

In addition to federal, state and institutional aid, there are many scholarships locally that never get awarded because no one applies for them.  Students should research community-based organizations such as Kiwanis, or clubs, or even mom or dad's place of employment.

FAFSA Workshop
Join us on Wednesday, October 19th from 7 pm-8:30 pm for our free FAFSA Workshop. We will assist in navigating the FAFSA form. Online registration is available.

By Darden Blake, Community Liaison, CVCC
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Brecksville, OH 44141
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