Program to help Genesee County students, parents seek college aid

For high schoolers across the county, college preparation is well underway with school visits, standardized tests, and applications — but there is one application that can make or break those college aspirations: FAFSA.

Technically called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the application process can seem daunting, so a local organization is offering help to make sure local students and families take advantage of FAFSA.

First and foremost, the Genesee County College and Career Access Network, known as GCCCAN, wants to make sure people know about FAFSA — which determines how much financial aid students can receive. FAFSA applications have been open since Oct 1.

“It's not awful, but it’s not fun,” said Patti Yorks, coordinator of the Genesee County College and Career Access Network. “So we’re trying as a county to … make this a little more pleasant for people.”

Part of the effort includes a marketing campaign called “Possible.” Visible on billboards and other advertisements throughout Genesee County, it features a graduate painting over the “im” in “impossible” to show college is accessible and direct people to fafsaGenesee.org for help.

The network also is coordinating a countywide FAFSA night 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, at the Genesee Valley Center Library in the former Sears wing of the mall. Computers, snacks, and advisors will be available for parents and students. Participants will need Social Security numbers, their 2018 Federal Income Tax Returns, and their W2’s. 
   
“We know as a state that Michigan is below the national average for residents (that have a post-secondary education),” said Yorks. “And then within Michigan Genesee County is significantly lower. So we know as a county, we have to put special effort into this area.”

Santino Guerra, a Flint City Councilman and board member of the Genesee County College and Career Access Network, said it is important to offer support for students and families completing FAFSA. He himself continues to fill out the FAFSA every year as he continues to work toward earning a degree from the University of Michigan-Flint. And, having support in the process remains valuable, he said.

“It was definitely a difficult process, a lot of questions that were not clear,” said Guerra, reflecting on first filling out the application in high school. “I moved out of my mom’s (home) when I was in high school, I graduated. For FAFSA, you have to have your parents information, so that made it difficult as well.”

For more information, email Patti Yorks at [email protected] visit fafsaGenesee.org.

Read more articles by Alexandria Brown.

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