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Bernie wants you to FAFSA.
A new video from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) makes the case for filling out the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
“As tuition costs continue to skyrocket, it is more important than ever to know what help is available to pay for college. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid – commonly known as the FAFSA – is the key to securing financial aid,” Sanders said. “Filling out the FAFSA can open doors to federal, state and college-specific financial aid.”
Senator Sanders’ video is part of an ambitious get-the-word-out campaign from Vermont Student Assistance Corp. and statewide partners, including the Agency of Education, University of Vermont, Vermont State Colleges System and Vermont Principals’ Association.
In Vermont, about 40 percent of high school seniors don’t file a FAFSA. According to NerdWallet, Vermonters are leaving about $4.6 million on the table each year, which works out to about $5,400 per year for eligible students. That’s over $21,000 in four years.
When it comes to financial aid for education and training after high school, the sooner you file the better, said Marilyn Cargill, vice president of financial aid services at VSAC.
In fact, if you fill out the FAFSA before Nov. 30, nine Vermont colleges have an extra incentive – an additional $1,000 FAFSA scholarship drawing when you apply to one of these schools: Bennington College, Castleton University, Community College of Vermont, Northern Vermont University, Saint Michael's College, Southern Vermont College, Sterling College, University of Vermont or Vermont Technical College.
“The FAFSA is the key, literally the gateway, to all financial aid – federal Pell grants, the Vermont State Grant, many scholarships, institutional aid, work-study programs and loans,” Cargill said. “If you decide not to fill out the FAFSA, you are very likely going to overpay for your education. Or you may choose not to go, which is an even bigger, more expensive mistake.”
The FAFSA is easy to complete and takes about 30 minutes, Cargill said. “There’s even an app for the FAFSA so folks can fill it out on their phones, if they want.”
Still, first-time filers may have questions or need additional assistance. VSAC will offer financial aid forms workshops in over 50 high schools during October and November; a schedule can be found at vsac.org.
FAFSA Fridays are back, too, where families can call or make an appointment with a VSAC counselor for individual assistance. Call 833-802-VSAC for more information.
And that’s not all: VSAC is sponsoring a FAFSA Completion Challenge with all public and private high schools in Vermont. Every high school that has 70 percent (or better) of their seniors completing a FAFSA will be entered in a drawing for $1,000 for a school-approved senior class activity. Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School and Proctor Junior/Senior High School won the last two $1,000 drawings.