WARWICK, RI – Prospective college students in Rhode Island left $6,772,300 in federal Pell Grant money unclaimed in the 2014-15 academic year, according to a recent study released by the personal finance website Nerd Wallet.  And U.S. Senator Jack Reed, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and state financial aid experts from the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) today hosted an event at the College Planning Center of Rhode Island at the Warwick Mall to encourage all students who plan to head to college in the fall of 2016 to apply for financial aid this year by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  This form is required for students seeking federal financial aid, including grants and loans, at educational institutions nationwide.  It is also the form Rhode Island residents complete to determine eligibility for Rhode Island Promise Scholarship, a program that is available to Rhode Island residents attending colleges or universities in Rhode Island.

Senator Reed holds an annual financial aid workshop for students across the state and encourages them to complete the FAFSA as early as possible because some types of grants are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  He also notes that many Rhode Island schools have earlier deadlines (March 1) for when they require FAFSA to be submitted.  The U.S. Department of Education has a FAFSA deadline tool for students at: fafsa.gov.

“Every student who is thinking of heading off to college needs to fill out FAFSA, and the earlier, the better.  Having the relevant financial aid information earlier in the process will help ensure that students and families, especially lower income and first-generation students, can compare college options and costs and make the best choice for their future,” said Senator Reed, who has led the effort in Congress to simplify the FAFSA to help ensure more students can complete the form and get financial aid.  “I will continue working to make college more affordable and the financial aid process easier for students and families.  The recent reforms we made to FAFSA helped remove one of the main barriers to aid, but we still need to spread the word and help more students access critical federal grants and loans.” 

“We strongly encourage high school seniors and their families to complete their FAFSAs as soon as possible to receive all the financial assistance they may be eligible for – including our CollegeBoundfund’s Rhode Island Promise Scholarship program,” Treasurer Magaziner said. “At Treasury, we understand the financial challenges families face with the skyrocketing costs of higher education. We want every Rhode Islander heading to college in the fall to take advantage of every available resource to help them pursue their dreams.”

Charles Kelley, the Executive Director of the RI Student Loan Authority stated: “The FAFSA is the gateway for federal, state and college financial aid.  Last year our College Planning Center counseled over 16,000 students and families, but there are still thousands of Rhode Islanders who are missing out on financial aid.” 

According to the report, nearly 4,000 of Rhode Island’s high school graduates (approximately 36 percent) did not complete the FAFSA form in 2014.  Of those, 1,897 likely would have qualified for a Pell grant, which is a free form of federal aid based on income that students are not required to repay.

The report shows that on average, students in Rhode Island who completed the application and got federal Pell grants for the 2014-15 academic year were awarded about $3,570 each.

RISLA provides visitors to the College Planning Center with access to a number of free and bilingual services, including: 

  • Help with conducting college searches
  • Guidance through the college admissions process
  • Instruction on financial aid procedures and policies, including financing options
  • Assistance in completing admission and financial aid applications
  • Help with reviewing financial aid award packages
  • Information on researching scholarships and careers
  • Financial education for students