LCCC finding ways to help students get more financial aid

Cheyenne, Wyo. - Wyoming high school graduates left an estimated $4.2 million in Pell Grant funding on the table last academic year, according to NerdWallet, a college funding research company.

Those students missed out on that money simply because they failed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, or FAFSA. NerdWallet reports that 58 percent of Wyoming high school graduates each year do not file a FAFSA.

Because they did not fill out this free and simple form, those students are not eligible for Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Work Study programs, federal guaranteed student and parent loans, Hathaway Need Grants, and many other forms of financial aid – money that in most cases does not have to be paid back by the student.

LCCC is attempting to change that. Julie Wilson, the financial aid director at the college, says LCCC has been chosen by the National College Access Network (NCAN) to lead the efforts to improve the FAFSA filing rate of Cheyenne high school seniors.

Cheyenne is one of 22 U.S. cities have been selected to receive up to $55,000 each for the FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant. The goal of the grant is to strengthen urban postsecondary ecosystems by raising their FAFSA completion rates among high school seniors. Through this project, generously supported through a $1.6 million grant from The Kresge Foundation, NCAN is challenging the 22 cities to increase FAFSA completion rates by at least five percent for the graduating high school class of 2017.

While the state's generous Hathaway Scholarship assists students and families with college related expenses, students often miss out on other financial resources. The Hathaway covers 50-100 percent of tuition costs at most community colleges, depending on the level earned. Filing the FAFSA can help students meet most or all of their remaining costs for tuition, fees, books, and other education related expenses.

"A Hathaway recipient who files a FAFSA can receive enough grant funding to pay nearly all of their college related expenses, including living in the residence hall," Wilson says. "LCCC has been working to improve the FAFSA filing rates of our students. This grant will help us expand those efforts to all area high schools and the state of Wyoming."

Filing the FAFSA is free and easy and may be done at www.fafsa.gov. More information about federal financial aid programs can be found at www.studentaid.ed.gov.