Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Missed deadline halts his college career

snowy playground

It will be a bleak Christmas homecoming.
     This past fall, a Washington State University freshman moved to Pullman to start a new life. Then his financial aid ran out. He can’t register for spring semester. He can’t stay in the residence hall. He will pack his university career into cardboard boxes and go back home.
     WSU financial aid counselor Kathryn Sutton met with the student and his father in October. “It was a sad day,” she says. And one that was easy to avoid.
     “They missed the priority FAFSA date,” Sutton says. “I showed them what would have been available if they filed on time. More than $7,000. I remember their faces. They were ….” Sutton can’t find the words. She sighs. “That money could have let the student stay at WSU.”
     The funding they lost was the State Need Grant, which is first-come, first-served: “When it’s spent,” Sutton says, “it’s spent.” Filing the FAFSA by the priority date also increases the chance for other grants and scholarships, she says.
     Sutton did her best to help for the student and his father. She outlined possibilities, including community college and WSU Online, both of which allow students to live at home and save expenses while continuing their studies.
     “When I last talked to them, they were planning to return home,” Sutton says. She invited them to contact her if she could help, but never heard from father or son again.
     “I think students get annoyed with us for harping on the deadlines, but they don’t always understand what’s at stake. When it hits home like this, it’s really hard.”

     The priority deadline for the fall 2011 to summer 2012 FAFSA is February 15. Please go to finaid.wsu.edu for more information.

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