College Goal Sunday offers financial aid assistance

Jackson French

Current and prospective college students worried about financial aid will have a chance to ask their questions at College Goal Sunday at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mass Media and Technology Hall.

College Goal Sunday is an annual event that provides free help to Kentucky families applying for financial aid. WKU will be one of 17 locations across the state.

Cindy Burnette, WKU’s director of student financial assistance, will be a site coordinator and presenter at the event. She said College Goal Sunday will offer guidance from financial professionals.

There will also be presentations that show what sort of aid is available, the questions that might be asked on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the form students must submit to receive federal and state student aid, and information about other scholarships. Families can fill out the forms at the event.

“There will be counselors that can meet with students one-on-one,” Burnette said.

Participation in state aid programs, according to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, has more than quadrupled since the 1990s.

“We have seen an increase in student aid,” Burnette said.

Kate Ware, College Goal Sunday’s public relations coordinator, said the recent economic downturn is a main reason for the rise in financial aid involvement and has led to an increase in the number of students in need of the Pell Grant.

“There are more families with higher need than there were in the past,” Ware said.

After the forms are filled out, the Department of Education decides which applicants will receive the Pell Grant, money the government gives students who need help paying for college, Ware said. The department makes its decisions based on home income, the household’s financial status and other monetary obligations.

Ware said many unemployed adults have decided to go back to school, leading to “an influx of adult learners.”

“The economy has made more students eligible for federal aid,” Ware said.

Ware said the recent rise in participation in federal aid programs is also due to heightened public awareness and understanding of the FAFSA. She said that in recent years, the government has simplified the process of applying for federal aid and increased its outreach to needy families.

This increased participation has led to fiercer competition for limited government funds, Ware said. College Goal Sunday, normally held at the end of January, has been pushed forward this year because many Kentucky grants dried up sooner than expected last year.

“With the FAFSA, timing is critical, and funding is limited,” Ware said.