Event helps first-time FAFSA filers

College Goal Sunday began in 1989 in Indiana and now occurs in 28 states.

by Jamie VanGeest

Through some coaching and a pep talk, volunteers hoped high school students and their parents would score big on College Goal Sunday.

For the first time in Minnesota, 18 locations around the state offered step-by-step help to college-bound students with filling out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid form for the first time.

College Goal Sunday, which began in 1989 in Indiana and since has spread to 28 states, was an afternoon designed to address the needs of economically challenged and first-generation college families.

According to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, in 2004, 35 percent of graduating seniors did not enroll in postsecondary education in the 18 months after their graduation.

Julie Selander, senior associate director of One Stop Student Services and a member of the board organizing the event, came to help students fill out their FAFSA forms at Richfield Senior High School.

“Our goal today is to help as many people fill out the FAFSA as possible,” she said.

Volunteers from college financial aid offices around the state helped out at the locations. At Richfield Senior High School, employees from Augsburg College, Normandale Community College and the University came to help.

Also, translators were there so language wouldn’t be a barrier in filling out the FAFSA forms. At Richfield High School, they had translators for Hmong, Spanish, Vietnamese, Oromo and Amharic languages.

Ali Frank-Quick, a One Stop counselor, came to help students fill out their FAFSA forms.

Her goal was to help any of the students and parents who had questions.

College Goal Sunday started with a presentation over pop and cookies, and then volunteers walked around as people filled out paper versions of the FAFSA.

Nicole Perry and Ashley Miller, both seniors at Lakeville North High School, came with their moms to get help with filling out the FAFSA for the first time.

While also arguing over whether they were going to share a dorm room next year at the University’s Duluth campus, both were overwhelmed by the thought of having to fill out a FAFSA for the first time and hoped to get help.

Selander said financial aid is a way to prevent barriers that keep certain students from attending college; it shouldn’t be the barrier.

Along with receiving help with their FAFSA, the students were eligible to win a $500 scholarship and received coupons for a free cheeseburger.

The event was cosponsored locally by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the Minnesota Association of Financial Aid Administrators with a grant from Lumina Foundation for Education.