Record Number Of Financial Aid Forms Being Submitted

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

February 9, 2009

As the nation grapples with the economic downturn, colleges and universities around the country are reporting a marked increase in applications for financial aid.

In North Carolina, the Times-News reports that at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, financial aid requests have gone up 13 percent, and an additional 15 percent is expected. Meanwhile, according to the Reporter-Times in Indiana, the U.S. Department of Education reports that Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applications are up 10 percent over last year, and that's just for the month of January.

"This is definitely a message to families," noted Kristen Campbell, national director of college prep programs for Kaplan Test Prep and admissions, in an interview with the Reporter-Times. "It's not an ordinary year."

The surge in applications was particularly evident yesterday, when institutions of higher learning throughout the country marked "College Goal Sunday" by providing assistance filling out FAFSA forms. The application is required to receive federal and state financial aid and loans as well as to qualify for scholarships and grants at many schools. FAFSA applications are due in some states as early as March.

With many colleges and universities reporting major increases in admissions and decreased funding, officials fear that students who qualify for aid but don't apply early might find financial sources depleted. For this reason, experts are advising families to apply as soon as possible.

Don't be discouraged by schools with high tuitions, says Robyn Hadley, executive director of North Carolina's Alamance-Burlington School System's What's After High School program. In many cases, she told the Times-News, students will not know how much financial aid will be offered until after being accepted.

As families scramble for aid, they are being cautioned to beware of letters or websites requesting money to apply for financial aid. The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that parents are being misled by official-looking letters asking $49 for scholarship information available online for free. The company, College Financial Advisory, urges parents to send in a two-page profile with a student's personal information and the fee to compete for available scholarships and financial aid. Yet the company is actually a research service that provides lists of possible scholarships for which students may be eligible-information easily available through college financial aid offices or on Web sites such as fastweb.com.

The letters prompted officials at University of Wisconsin-Madison to post a warning about the company on its Web site.

The same scam has taken place before. After College Financial Advisory solicited students in 2007, University of Wisconsin-River Falls sent e-mails throughout the campus clarifying that students never need to pay to apply for financial aid. The same warning was echoed in 2008 at Virginia Tech University and Ohio's Bowling Green State University-Firelands.

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