Free service launched to help families work through FAFSA

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 5:16 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — The number of students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, has dropped 8.7 percent in Virginia.

Mary Baldwin University said they’re right in line with state and national trends.

“I think we usually get of new, incoming students between 3,000 and 4,000 FAFSAs per year, but we’re not at the end of the year yet, so we can see year-to-year comparison wise we’re trending downward, but we’ve not finished the year out yet,” Megan Speth, the director of Financial Aid at MBU, said.

The decline has been blamed on the pandemic and fewer opportunities for families to get help to work through the form.

“Our students are really burnt out at this point,” Speth said. “There’s just some fatigue there that they have to graduate, they have to get through their school work, and the FAFSA seems like maybe, oh, I don’t have to prioritize that at this point.”

She said this is especially typical for lower-income students because they do not have that in-person access to help like they normally would.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently launched a new service where students and families can schedule a free, one-on-one meeting with an advisor to help them complete the form until June 30.

The program is especially helpful if your financial situation has changed over the past year.

“It asks for 2019 taxes, even if your circumstances have changed, you need to file it that way, and then you work with each individual school. There’s a federal process, called a change of income whereas we as financial aid professionals can go back in and review,” Speth said. “We know family circumstances have changed so much this year with COVID, so that’s why we have the opportunity out there for students to get some advice from people who look at FAFSAs every day.”

The FAFSA service has flexible time slots, it only takes an hour and it could help you save more money than you might not have known you were eligible for, whether it’s federal, state or institutional funding.

“This advisor will be there to walk you through the process, you’ll share a screen, you can see what’s going on so that you’re comfortable doing it, and then when you go to file it the next year, you’ll have walked through it with a professional already and maybe remember some of those things that are there,” Speth said.

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