College application season can be stressful for families, but College Goal Sunday events aim to ease the financial stress.
The College Goal Sunday event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 3 at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington. Students and their families can attend to get free help filling our their Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
“Too many families across Indiana miss out on financial aid they didn’t even know they were eligible for,” said William Wozniak, College Goal Sunday co-chair. “They walk away from education because they think they can’t afford it.”
The event started 31 years ago when the Indiana State Grant Division recognized a need for assistance, as many students were not completing the application. Sue Allmon, one of the founders of College Goal Sunday, said they approached the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association and created the event, which started with three locations in Indianapolis.
This year, there will be 37 sites around Indiana having an event this year. Wozniak said, according to past data, they are expecting to help around 15,000 families in Indiana.
But Indiana is not the only state that organizes these events, as they have spread nationwide.
“It started right here in Indiana 31 years ago, and it caught fire,” Wozniak said. “Now there’s events across the country.”
If students are planning on attending the event, they and their parents need to bring income or benefits information such as 2018 tax information and bank statements. But it is open to anyone who is heading to college, not just high school students.
Students older than 24 and older can bring their completed 1040 IRS tax return from 2018.
Students who attend the event and submit their applications are also entered into a drawing for a $1,000 scholarship.
Financial experts will also be at the events to make sure all families are being helped. Some sites, including Bloomington, also have a Spanish interpreter for families who need it.
“It’s very important, make sure the family is comfortable and get their questions answered,” Wozniack said. “We don’t want students to overpay or take on too many loans because of financial reasons that often can be fixed by filing the FAFSA.”
Patt McCafferty, the Bloomington site coordinator for the event, said computers have made filling out the FAFSA an easier process.
“It takes maybe 20 to 30 minutes to fill it out with the help of our staff,” McCafferty said. “If someone is doing this form for the very first time, it helps ease the process and helps ensure they’re doing it right the first time.”
The first College Goal Sunday event of the school year is Nov. 3, but another is scheduled for February.
“We have about the same number of students who come for the fall and spring; it’s almost an even split,” Allmon said. “The goal is for the family to come in, complete the form and submit it in the same afternoon.
She said she estimates there will be at least 100 students coming to the Sunday event in Bloomington and close to 15,000 across Indiana, Wozniak said.
“We need to provide opportunities as no cost until we get 100% of our students filing financial aid forms on an annual basis,” Allmon said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled FAFSA in the headline. The IDS regrets this error.