LEWISTON — Financial aid experts will be at Lewiston High School on Thursday to help parents and seniors fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. and is open to any high school senior and his or her parents, not just those from Lewiston, said Doug Dumont, aspirations coordinator at Lewiston High School.

Finance Authority of Maine experts, as well as financial aid officers from Bates College, Kaplan University, Bowdoin College and St. Joseph’s College of Maine will be available to help parents and students, Dumont said.

The goal is to also help seniors and families get the applications filed, because the earlier they’re filed, the more financial aid students could receive, Dumont said.

A student applying to a private college that charges $40,000 a year could get $20,000 in aid, if they file in January, he said. If they wait until April, their financial aid could drop to $10,000. If they wait until June, it could drop to $8,000 — less than half of the money they would have been eligible for had they applied in January.

The earliest the forms can be filed is Jan. 1.

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More students and parents are understanding that filing the form is critical to getting financial aid, Dumont said. The form can be a little overwhelming, he said, comparing it to filing taxes online.

Some families don’t file early because they haven’t yet done their federal income taxes. The household income from the tax return is required.

Dumont recommended that families file the FAFSA using 2013 income figures, then update the information when the 2014 figures are available. 

In addition to tax returns, other documents needed are parent and student Social Security and driver’s license numbers, records of any untaxed income, a list of student and parent assets and all of the schools where the student plans to submit a college application.

FAFSA can also be filed online at www.fafsa.gov. FAME offers online help by calling 1-800-228-3734.

This year, Lewiston High School has 259 seniors. Dumont said he’d like each one to fill out the form.

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“In January, they may have no intention of going (to college),” he said. “But six months from now, when all their friends have gone, they may decide they want to go.” 

If they had filed their FAFSA in the winter, they could apply to a college at the last minute and still be eligible for financial aid. If they didn’t file and decided they wanted to go at the last minute, they could be shut out.

College costs vary greatly. A two-year community college charges about $4,000 a year for tuition only. The University of Maine System charges about $15,000 for tuition, housing and meals; private colleges, $40,000 for tuition, housing and meals; and Bates, Bowdoin and Colby colleges cost about $60,000 a year.

While many students and parents get sticker shock from high-priced private colleges, many offer more lucrative financial aid than public colleges and universities do, Dumont said.

Fifty-eight percent of Lewiston High School students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because of their family’s household income. That also means a higher number of Lewiston students would qualify for federal Pell grants, which give students up to $5,000 a year for college.

It’s money that doesn’t have to be paid back.

Students who file their FAFSA Thursday night will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a $500 scholarship.


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