EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.
Sometimes, students and their families have to be educated about higher education.
There is enough confusion over financial aid, such as grants and scholarships. Enough concern over mounting costs. And enough anguish over going into debt for the sake of a college education.
However, there are libraries of resources to help alleviate the confusion, concern and anguish. There are counselors and websites and programs like the one going on this Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Florida State College Nassau Center campus in Yulee.
Fittingly named, “College Goal Sunday,” the statewide event will involve informative sessions and assistance with filling out federal financial-aid forms. These forms, known by the acronym FAFSA, can be complicated — but help is here and near.
As an incentive for local high school seniors and their parents to attend the event, there will be drawings for $20,000 in scholarships to local colleges. The scholarships will range from $500 to $5,000 in value and are from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, Edward Waters College and Florida State College. And there will also be a $500 College Goal Sunday scholarship for any Florida college.
You must be a high school senior and have completed the FAFSA to qualify for one of the scholarships. (And, of course, you must be attending the respective school.) Therefore, the odds are reasonably attractive that you could win something.
It’s easy enough. Attendees can receive help filling out the FAFSA forms directly on computers that will be available. (The name “FAFSA” stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.)
For most levels of financial assistance, these forms must be completed. This applies to students receiving Florida “Bright Futures” scholarships, even though those are administered at the state level.
Some students may be eligible for federal aid such as Pell grants, loans, or work-study assistance. These federal funds are often the most misunderstood. The FAFSA helps determine eligibility.
Students and their families are encouraged to attend even if they haven’t completed their 2012 tax return. There are several financial documents that you must bring to College Goal Sunday, however; they can be found on www.fasfaa.org/cgs.
For more information on College Goal Sunday, you can go to www.collegegoalsunday.fl.org. The Nassau Center is located at 76346 William Burgess Boulevard in Yulee and can be reached at 904-548-4432.
It’s indeed worth the effort. Plenty of evidence exists about the value of a college education.
For instance, a college graduate earns about $1 million more in his or her lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma. And the college grad is less likely to become unemployed.
However, a 130 percent increase in tuition and fees at public universities over the last 20 years has cast doubt about the worth and financial risk of going to college. All the while, incomes in general have hardly risen.
Middle-income families are getting the rawest deal. They can hardly qualify for as much financial aid as lower-income families, while they don’t have the financial capabilities of the wealthy.
Facing that disparity, families are taking on higher levels of debt or choosing two-year degrees instead of the traditional four-year model. All this to afford some kind of a college education for their children.
But there is help. And hope. One of the solutions is a convenient event like College Goal Sunday.