College Goal Sunday Across Arkansas

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- Future college students and parents Sunday spent some time learning how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. According to officials at Arkansas State University, 75 prospective students filled out paperwork and attended small seminars on the registration process.

The FAFSA is one way college students can pay for school. Students and parents provide personal information about taxes, income and what schools they're interested in. Students can select multiple schools in order to see what financial aid is available.

To fill out the FAFSA, click here.

College Goal Sunday is a one-day event held during the school year to help high school seniors find financial aid. For more information about College Goal Sunday, click here.

According to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, several scholarships are available for qualifying students. One such program is the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship, which has provided financial assistance for thousands of former and current students.

"I have accepted my scholarship already at ASU, but any other financial aid will help so that's why we're here today, for the FAFSA," said Erin Flagg, senior at Manila High School.

Erin and her mother, Becky, said they want to reduce the amount of debt they'll have once Erin graduates college. It's not uncommon for a student to spend 2-3 thousand dollars each semester. That can add up to a huge sum of loans to pay back.

"We've been blessed with a scholarship right now, but there's a lot of different fees and expenses that the scholarship doesn't cover everything," said Becky.

College Goal Sunday teaches future college students and parents the ins and outs of filling out financial aid applications.

"There's always unexpected fees that come up with sending a child to college so, we're just trying to be prepared," said Becky.

Erin said she wants to be a high school English teacher or college professor.

"One reason I thought about majoring in education is that it's such a broad field, I could possibly do, I could easily get a job I feel like, and in this area really, because I don't want to move away, I think I could find a job easy somewhere," said Erin.

College students are having a hard time finding work right out of school. Becky said that's one reason she hopes to keep after-college debt to a minimum.

"I'm hoping with her chosen major that she'll find a job, but we just didn't want her to come out of college with a lot of financial debt, and there's a lot of scholarships and opportunities out there for people to look for," said Becky.

"I'm hoping to see more scholarship opportunities from this after I fill it out, maybe receiving more scholarship opportunities," said Erin.

According to Terry Finney, Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at ASU, people get nervous about filling out the FAFSA.

"A lot of questions, mainly, just how to fill the FAFSA out, how to start, a lot of them don't know that they got to get a personal identification number, or pin number. what that does is allow, parents and students to be able to fill out the free application electronically which makes the process a lot faster," said Finney.

"A lot of them are not sure when they get their tax returns or W-2's where they put that information on the fafsa," said Finney.

Finney said more people are filling out the FAFSA early this year. He said that could be credited to a poor national economy.

"The filings of the free application for federal student aid were up over 20-percent compared to what they were last year. So that indicates that a lot of people are filling out the fafsa a lot quicker this year, and a lot earlier," said Finney. "There's probably more that's going to be filling it out this year than every before."

There are also other issues regarding financial aid.

The economic stimulus package signed into law by President Obama added $500 to Pell Grants, bumping that assistance up to $5250 for the 2009-2010 school year.