Augusta Schools, Nonprofit to Help Students Afford College
Each year, Augusta County high school students may be leaving thousands of dollars in scholarship money on the table. Now the county is getting federal help to target the students who are missing out.
A student advisor tells NBC29 of a high school senior who filled out the online application for federal student aid. Confusion over a hyphenated last name blocked enough grant money to cover tuition, books and expenses.
Augusta County schools and a nonprofit group hope to keep that from happening again.
Hundreds of Augusta County high school students bound for college or advanced training may miss out on grants, loans and other tuition assistance. But the county often doesn't know who needs the help.
Gordon Mowen with Augusta County schools said, "Frankly it's not clear to us whether the right students, whether the students who are the neediest, are actually the ones who are receiving student aid.
But Augusta has been chosen to take part in a two-year study to zero in on problems with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA Completion Project will identify who fills out the application, who gets financial aid and who doesn't, and the reasons why.
"You can fill out all the parent information and financial information, but then if the parent forgets to sign it, then it's not complete," said Mowen. "There can be very simple things."
GReat Aspirations advisor Lynne Hess said, "These all seem like ridiculously stupid things that have very large consequences. That's what I think is a little mind boggling."
But there's extra help in Augusta, Staunton and Waynesboro schools through the GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP). Their advisors help students grasp the money they need, by guiding them through applications and correcting the inevitable mistakes.
"Many of them don't have a lot of parental support," said Hess. "They're doing this on their own. And think about you at 17 - how daunting would that have been for you? I would have probably given up as well."
About 40 percent of Augusta County high school students move on to some form of higher education. The financial aid study will take place in two or three Augusta high schools in the coming school year, and then expand to all five.
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Wednesday, May 22 2013 7:36 PM EDT2013-05-22 23:36:22 GMT
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