San Fernando Valley Sun: State Officials Urge Students to Fill Out Financial Aid Forms Before Upcoming Deadlines

By Gabriel Arizon

Sen. Alex Padilla, along with officials from the federal Department of Education and California Student Aid Commission, are strongly encouraging college-bound students to apply as soon as possible for financial aid before the state and federal deadlines end.

Speaking via a webinar on April 26, the officials focused on the Education Department’s new Better Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), providing tips on how to complete the process.

Although he understands this can be a stressful time for families, Padilla told his audience to complete the FAFSA forms before the extended state priority deadline on May 2, and the federal deadline on June 30.

The new form has caused problems for students from mixed-status families – families with people of different citizenship or immigration statuses – because some contributors may not have a Social Security number. The Department of Education has addressed some of the issues, but it has slowed down the number of students applying for financial aid.

“While the new processes may have delayed a seamless rollout, it’s still important for each student to fill out their FAFSA and look for all the sources of funding available to them to achieve their dreams of higher education,” Padilla said.

Melody Gonzalez, executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics, said the Better FAFSA is much faster to complete –  around 15-20 minutes – and would allow more students to access the Pell grants.

“Nationally, over 655,000 more students will receive grants than last year,” Gonzalez said. “Over 1.7 million more students will receive the maximum Pell Grant award than last year … [which] right now is set at $7,395. Remember, this Pell Grant does not have to be repaid.”

Gonzalez added that parents’ immigrant statuses will not be taken into account when determining a student’s eligibility.

Marlene Garcia, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, said that year over year, the number of FAFSAs is down 30% among dependent first-time and returning applicants. For those in mixed-status families, and who haven’t been able to complete a FAFSA, Garcia recommended they complete the California Dream Act Application so they can meet the May 2 deadline.

“What we are also committed to do is once they get their application in and they get their information, which is called the student aid index, that’s what allows the financial aid packaging to occur,” Garcia explained. “This is really critical because the number one issue for us right now is ensuring all students have information in hand about what their financial aid package is going to look like so they can make an informed decision about which college to select to enroll in.”

To fill out a FAFSA, go to https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.

To complete the California Dream Act Application, visit https://dream.csac.ca.gov/landing.

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