WASHINGTON, DC – The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has increased the financial strain on millions of families and caused many more American college students to seek financial aid.

In an effort to ensure Rhode Island students and their families don’t lose out on access to critical financial aid resources to help pay for college, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is reminding all students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible.

The FAFSA window for the 2021-2022 academic school year opened on October 1 and runs through June of 2022. Filing early can give students a jump start on their financial aid package and ensure that they are considered for institutional or other funds that may be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Submitting the FAFSA provides students with the opportunity to qualify for their share of $150 billion in federal student aid such as grants, loans, and work study funds to pay for college. 

“With more families facing financial hardship, it is more important to get those FAFSA forms properly submitted as early as possible.  Completing the form early puts students first in line and offers families a more complete picture of their eligibility for federal, state, and school financial aid and their future college costs,” said Senator Reed, noting that the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority’s (RISLA) College Planning Center offers students free access to college planning assistance, financial aid guidance, scholarship search tools, and other resources.  Rhode Islanders can get personalized assistance from RISLA experts to help guide them through the process of accessing all available financial aid options.

“Planning for the future and taking all the steps possible to help pay for college must be a priority for Rhode Island students and families,” Reed continued.  “Completing a FAFSA can provide the aid that will help students pay for college and COVID has only heightened the need for such student aid.  I urge Rhode Islanders to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible and use RISLA’s College Planning Center resources to ensure they can get the best possible education at the best price.  Talk to your school counselor, take advantage of the services offered by the College Planning Center, and go to FAFSA.ED.GOV to get your questions answered.”

Reed notes that this year it is especially important to use resources like the FAFSA as the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the economy and more and more families are struggling to pay their bills.  And, according to information from the National College Attainment Network, fewer families and students are applying for the FAFSA as of late, with applications down over 4 percent for the school year starting in September.   Sallie Mae also reports that the number one reason for not submitting the FAFSA was that families mistakenly believed they wouldn’t qualify for any aid. 

There is no cost to file the FAFSA form on the federal website.