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February is Financial Aid Awareness Month

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Kishwaukee College Financial Aid Coordinator Pamela Wagener reminds everyone who is enrolled in college or plans to be a college student in the 2013-14 academic year that February is Financial Aid Awareness Month. 

The Financial Aid process begins with students filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Programs. The FAFSA asks for information on income for both the student and parents or just the student in situations that meet the criteria for independence. The FAFSA is available online at www.fafsa.gov. Students who will be attending college in the fall semester should be sure to complete the 2013-2014 FAFSA (not the 2012-2013 FAFSA). 

Families are encouraged to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing the FAFSA. When selecting this tool, the FAFSA and IRS information is verified at the time of submitting the FAFSA. This will ensure that accurate information is filed at the time of submission. This means that copies of tax returns will not be requested by financial aid offices and can make the awarding of financial aid easier and faster for students and their families. 

The Kishwaukee Education Consortium and Kishwaukee College will hold a FAFSA Submission Night from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 27 in Room A-225 at the Kishwaukee College Conference Center. During the event, parents/guardians can receive assistance in filling out the online FAFSA form. Participants will need to bring: the Federal Student Aid PIN (available at www.pin.ed.gov); parents’ and student’s social security numbers; student’s drivers license number; Alien Registration Number (if the student is not a U.S. citizen); Federal tax information; records of untaxed income; and estimated tax information from the 2011 tax return (if no 2011 return has been filed).

Although Kishwaukee has a rolling deadline for submission of Financial Aid forms and documents, the earlier the FAFSA form is filed the more likely the financial aid package will be ready for the fall semester. Wagener said that her office is seeing a steady increase in applications for financial aid.

Last year the State of Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP Grant) was out of money by early spring; students who completed their FAFSA after March 14, 2012, could not receive a MAP Grant. Because of this, students are encouraged to complete the 2013-14 FAFSA as soon as possible to receive the MAP Grant, which is a tuition and fees scholarship for residents of Illinois to attend college in Illinois. The amount of state funding for this program for next academic year is not known at this time. However, additional funding is not expected.

Filing a FAFSA also is the first step to determine eligibility for a variety of scholarships and grants available through the college. Kish College offers several types of Achievement Awards. Academic Achievement Awards covering tuition and fees are available to area high school students in the top 25 percent of their class and will graduate in 2013. Athletic Achievement Awards are available to pay tuition and fees and/or books and are awarded by the coaches in each sport. Special Abilities Awards are tuition waivers available to KC students who show talent or skill in one of a variety of areas, including student leadership/government, forensics, journalism, and theater arts. 

There also are private grants and scholarships available exclusively to Kishwaukee students; most of these are administered through the Kishwaukee College Foundation. Information and applications can be found at www.kishfoundation.com. Eligibility for many of these awards begins with filing for financial aid.

Wagener also alerts parents and students to the “$6 billion” myth. Each year, parents and students are told there is more than $6 billion worth of unused scholarship/grant money available. Wagener dismisses this as not true and said the figure is arrived at by unscrupulous people adding together all available tuition waivers and employer benefits. Playing off the myth, parents and students are targets of many companies that offer to do scholarship searches for a fee. 

“Don’t pay someone else to do what you can do for free,” Wagener said in a news release. She suggests doing a web-based financial aid search or to use financial aid reference materials in the Kishwaukee College Library. 

For more information on the financial aid process and monies available from the federal government, state of Illinois, or from the private sector, call Kishwaukee College at 815-825-2086, ext. 2240, or visit the college website at www.kishwaukeecollege.edu. For information about state of Illinois financial aid programs, visit www.collegeillinois.org.

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