Free advising service launches to assist Virginia students, families applying for financial aid

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Posted at 12:04 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 12:31:19-04

RICHMOND - Governor Ralph Northam announced Monday the launch of a new free advising service to help Virginia students apply for financial aid.

According to a press release from Northam, the new service will also help address the COVID-19 related decline in completion rates of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Virginia College Access Network (VirginiaCAN) and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) have partnered to offer free, one-on-one FAFSA completion assistance.

From March 22 through June 30, one-on-one virtual meetings can be scheduled here to connect with an advisor who can answer questions and walk students through filling out the FAFSA application.

“The FAFSA is the first step in helping Virginia students qualify for thousands of dollars in state and federal grants and scholarships,” said Governor Northam. “Completing the FAFSA can be difficult under normal circumstances, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote learning have added to the challenge of assisting our high school seniors with filling out their forms. This free one-on-one advising service will support our goal of ensuring every eligible student in our Commonwealth completes an application, and open the doors to affordable higher education and technical training for even more Virginians.”

According to the release, so far this year 4,315 fewer high school seniors have completed the FAFSA, which is down nearly 10% compared to last year. This stat mirrors the 9% decline in FAFSA completion rates nationally.

For students attending Virginia high schools with high concentrations of low-income students, FAFSA completions are down 33%.

A 2018 study shows about 15,000 Virginia high school seniors that would have been eligible for Pell grants did not complete the FAFSA, amounting to more than $58 million in federal aid that students left on the table.

The governor has also set forth a long-term goal for every eligible student in Virginia to complete a FAFSA application each year.

To meet his goal of ensuring that every eligible Virginia student completes the FAFSA, Northam has directed Secretary Qarni to convene a work group tasked with forming long-term legislative and budgetary recommendations to improve Virginia’s FAFSA completion rates.

The group will include representatives from SCHEV, Virginia Community College System, and the VDOE, along with other key stakeholders and college access experts. The work group will conduct listening sessions with community groups to collect input which will inform their final recommendations to the Governor.