The rapidly changing workforce has increased the need for workers with post-secondary training. Family sustaining jobs for people with a high school diploma or GED are growing more difficult to find and all indications are that this trend will continue for years to come. It is projected that between 2008 and 2018 new jobs in Florida requiring postsecondary education and training will grow by 679,000.
Of course there are a wide range of post-secondary educational options ranging from pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degrees to shorter term certificate and industry credentialing programs. Post-secondary schools can include a variety of institutions including career and technical schools, community and state colleges, and universities, all of which students can be eligible for federal or state financial aid.
With many students starting post-secondary education in the autumn, now is an opportune time for teachers and tutors to talk with students about financial aid. The Florida Literacy Coalition has three Career Pathways Modules that address the transitional process, including financial aid, and are available for teachers and tutors who are interested in integrating Career Pathways in their curriculum.
Teachers and tutors are not expected to be authorities on financial aid, but they certainly can help students understand that financial aid is available, the basics of how to apply and where to go if they have questions or need assistance. Applying for federal financial aid requires a bit of time, effort, and organization. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is required in order to be eligible for federal aid.
Teachers can help students prepare for the process by sharing with them the documents that they may need to complete the FAFSA. These include a driver’s license/government ID, income tax returns, Social Security number, bank statements, investment records, and alien registration or permanent resident card if the student is not an American citizen. Students should apply for a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN). This number takes the paper out of paperwork by allowing applicants to complete the federal aid application process electronically, make any corrections, and view your aid records online.
The FAFSA can be submitted either online or by downloading a paper application and mailing it in. Typically, the online application may be more efficient since it processes quicker, allows the applicant to submit to more schools, and information can be saved for the next year. There are three categories of federal student aid:
- Grants: Funds that do not have to be repaid. Most federal grants are based on financial need. Grants and scholarships are often called “gift aid” because they are free money—financial aid that does not have to be repaid. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are usually merit-based.
- Work-study: Money earned through a job on or near campus while attending school. Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.
- Loans: Borrowed money that must be repaid with interest. The U.S. Department of Education has two federal student loan programs: The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program and The Federal Perkins Loan Program.
FAFSA applications are open on January 1st, but deadline to submit vary between post-secondary institutions. Visiting the financial aid office of a prospective institution with your student may be a good opportunity to learn more about the financial aid process, deadlines, and institution specific scholarships. Another resource students can use for help with filling out the FAFSA is Florida College Goal Sunday, an annual event that provides free assistance with the financial aid process.
State Financial Aid Programs
Students with GEDs in Florida can also be eligible for the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. Currently, the GED can serve as an equivalent to the standard diploma. In addition, students must meet the general requirements for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. To be determined eligible for the scholarship, GED students must meet the scholarship curriculum and grade point average requirements before taking the GED exam. The minimum test score must be achieved by June 30th of the year in which the GED is earned. Eligibility for a scholarship will be determined in the year in which the GED is earned. Other financial aid programs in Florida include the First Generation Matching Grant Program and the Florida Public Postsecondary Career Education Student Assistance Grant Program. Here are some additional resources about state financial aid programs and the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program.
Here are some additional resources that can provide more information for teachers, tutors, and students on the FAFSA process:
- Overview of the Financial Aid Process
- FAFSA Overview
- How to Fill Out the FAFSA
- Avoid Common FAFSA Mistakes
- USDOE College Affordability and Transparency Center
- Federal Student Aid- Adult Student Checklist
- Federal Student Aid Resources
- Federal Student Aid for Adult Students
- Deadline Calculator
- Financial Aid Infographic
- FAFSA4caster (estimates how much you will be paying for college)
- College Goal Sunday
- How to Make Changes and Corrections on Your FAFSA