1/12/2015 — 

Sessions planned for Central Falls, East Providence, Middletown, Newport, Providence, Westerly, and West Warwick; Extended hours in Bristol, Cumberland, and Warwick

 New study shows that by neglecting to apply for federal aid, Rhode Island students forfeited $7.6 million in the 2013-2014 school year

WARWICK, RI – In an effort to help prospective college students access available financial aid, Governor Gina Raimondo today joined with U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in visiting the College Planning Center of Rhode Island to help kick off College Goal Rhode Island, which provides free assistance to students and parents in filling out their college financial-aid forms.

Starting this week, financial aid experts from College Goal RI and other leading organizations will hold a series of free events throughout the state to assist college-bound students and their families complete 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 State Grant Programs.

A study released today by the web site NerdWallet found that Rhode Island students left $7.6 million on the table in the 2013-2014 school year because they neglected to apply for federal aid.  Rhode Island students were not alone — nationwide, more than $2.9 billion in grants were not accessed by students across the country, according to the report, including: $41 million in Massachusetts, $23 million in Connecticut, $12.5 million in Maine, $8.7 million in New Hampshire, and $6.4 million in Vermont.

“Having a degree or certificate from a college or university is one of the surest pathways to the middle class,” Governor Raimondo said.  “We want to ensure Rhode Islanders have access to all the resources available to them.  Together, we can put students on a direct pathway to employment and make our state more competitive.”

“Students deserve a fair shot at an affordable education and College Goal Rhode Island does a great job of providing free, professional assistance to complete the FAFSA and guide families through the process,” 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 reforms we made to the FAFSA form took down one of the main barriers to aid and helped more students access critical federal loans and grants.”  

“There are many resources to help students and families pay for college. The first and most important step is completing and submitting the FAFSA.  Help is available through the College Planning Center of Rhode Island and College Goal Rhode Island,” said Noel Simpson, Deputy Director of RISLA.

The U.S. Department of Education has been implementing Reed’s initiative to streamline the online application and now allows applicants to skip several questions that don’t apply to them.  Thanks to Senator Reed’s law, students and their families filling out the FAFSA online now have:

Fewer questions: Enhanced technology like “skip logic,” which allows students to skip questions that don't apply to them.

Friendlier navigation: Students and parents are guided through a well-marked and color-coded web form, and screens include an easy-to-follow “help and hints” section.

Instant grant estimator: Some students may be eligible to get instant estimates of Pell Grant and loan eligibility.

And now families applying for aid will be able to import tax data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), allowing them to skip up to 18 additional questions.

In order to help students meet tight deadlines to complete their financial aid forms, the College Planning Center of Rhode Island is extending hours at their three locations (the Warwick Mall; in Bristol at 576 Metacom Avenue; and in Cumberland at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln).  The expanded hours are:

Warwick: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 9-7; Wednesday & Friday 9-7:30; Saturday 12-7 & Sunday 12-6.

Bristol: Monday, Thursday, Friday 9-4:30; Tuesday & Wednesday 9-7.

Cumberland: Monday, Tuesday, & Friday 9-4:30; Wednesday & Thursday 9-7.

The College Planning Center of Rhode Island is a free service provided by the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) that serves more than 14,800 students annually. 

During the event, Reed also discussed President Obama’s new America’s College Promise proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and skills needed in the workforce at no cost.

“I support the President’s goal of guaranteeing at least two years of postsecondary education to help hardworking students gain the right skills for better jobs,” said Reed.  “At a time when the gap in economic well-being between college graduates and those with only a high school diploma grows ever wider, figuring out innovative ways to help more Rhode Island students get some college or technical training beyond high school is essential to our economic future.  We will need to get the details right so that our community colleges have the capacity to meet the new demands.  I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to develop smart, effective, and sustainable policies to advance this goal.”

Starting Wednesday, College Goal RI sessions will be held at nine Rhode Island locations: 

  • Jan. 14 at 6:00 p.m. at West Warwick High School - Webster Knight Dr., West Warwick
  • Jan. 15 at 6:00 p.m. at Westerly High School - 23 Ward Ave., Westerly
  • Jan. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at Central Falls High School - 24 Summer St., Central Falls
  • Jan. 22 at 5:00 p.m. at Hope High School - 324 Hope St., Providence
  • Jan. 22 at 6:00 p.m. at Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex - 182 Thurbers Ave., Providence
  • Jan. 27 at 6:00 p.m. at East Providence High School - 2000 Pawtucket Ave., East Providence
  • Jan. 29 at 6:00 p.m. at Middletown High School - 130 Valley Rd., Middletown
  • Feb. 1 at 5:00 p.m. at Mount Pleasant High School - 434 Mt. Pleasant Ave., Providence
  • Feb. 12 at 6:00 p.m. at Rogers High School - 15 Wickham Road, Newport

For additional information and to pre-register for the event, visit: www.collegegoalri.org.

College Goal Rhode Island is part of the national College Goal Sunday program sponsored by the Rhode Island Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RIASFAA), RISLA, College Planning Center of RI, College Crusade of RI, and USA Funds.

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