University's FAFSA push pays off--aid applications up 22 percent
The University of Alaska's efforts to encourage students to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year resulted in more than 4,400 students doing just that in February, a 22 percent jump in FAFSAs compared to February last year.
Financial aid managers from across the UA system for the past four years have promoted the February FAFSA Frenzy, as it's called. A FAFSA is required for all forms of state and federal financial aid, including scholarships. Each year, UA students receive about $97 million in financial aid. The FAFSA can be completed at any time during the year, but filling it out early helps ensure adequate processing time.
"Filling out the form is the first step, and doing it early is just as important," said Saichi Oba, UA's assistant vice president for student and enrollment services. "For various reasons, Alaska students are often reluctant to take out financial aid, but avoiding loans typically means working while taking classes. That often lengthens the time needed to complete a program or degree."
In addition to encouraging FAFSA applications, the frenzy also helps bust popular myths, such as aid only being available to full-time students.
"A bright spot in our current economic situation is that Alaska students benefited from over $27 million in scholarships and grants--essentially free money to pay for both part-time and full-time college. Additionally, students completing the FAFSA found they were eligible for low-interest loans," Oba said. "The return on investment is high. Just taking a single class can boost earning power in the workplace by 17 percent."
Students agree awareness has increased on UA campuses thanks to posters, postcards, advertising and drawings for computer jump drives. "I thought it was great, all the publicity that reminded everyone to do it and not put it off. The scholarship deadline was always missed before; this year I completed it," said University of Alaska Fairbanks student Heather Bryant.
As applications rolled in, they were counted online at a website that featured "Freddie the FAFSA Fish," who was threatened by a fisherman character who looked strikingly similar to UA President Mark Hamilton. See http://www.alaska.edu/fafsafrenzy/ for more details on this year's FAFSA campaign.