WSU Helps Students Apply for Federal Financial Aid
OGDEN, Utah – The rate at which Utahns apply for federal student aid is the lowest in the nation. In an effort to help reverse that trend, Weber State University, in collaboration with many partners, is sponsoring FAFSA Frenzy.
It is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that students in low-income homes qualify for millions of dollars in financial assistance to help pay for college.
College students, high school seniors and their parents will receive free help from Weber State completing the financial aid process, no matter what college or university they plan to attend.
FAFSA Frenzy Dates and Times
The first event is Feb. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students and parents can drop in at either the Shepherd Union Computer Lab Room 230C or WSU Davis Building 2 Room 101. Additional sessions will be held March 26 and April 23 at the Ogden campus, as well as March 19 and April 30 at the Davis campus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the same locations.
Assistance is offered without appointment on a first-come, first-served basis in both English and Spanish. In addition, FAFSA help is available regularly in the WSU Student Services Center Suite 150.
“Many students would qualify, but financial aid is a process, not just a one-time application,” said Jose Limas, Office of Access & Outreach college initiative coordinator. “Our FAFSA Frenzy events educate students regarding what to expect and what steps to take after their FAFSA has been submitted.”
Weber State has adopted a new software program, called Financial Aid Verify that helps students complete the verification process after the FAFSA is submitted. Verify sends a text message to alert students to take a required step or notifies them if any data are missing. The system also allows students to upload documents for verification and sign documents electronically.
Use the new system, students can retrieve necessary tax information from the IRS electronically, which speeds the FAFSA process tremendously.
Since its implementation in November of 2015, 1,836 WSU students and 189 parents have used Financial Aid Verify said Jed Spencer, Financial Aid director.
“In our first test groups, we have seen great success in students completing this year’s financial aid process,” Spencer said. “We will be ready for 100 percent of students to use it for the 2016-17 application year.”
Weber State is the first institution of higher education in the state to adopt the system, and Spencer estimates the software reduces students’ time spent in the application process by 70 percent and decreases staff processing time by 50 percent.
Those who use Financial Aid Verify and its tax retrieval tool are more likely to have financial aid ready at the beginning of the semester and priority is given to those who meet the May 1 FAFSA deadline.
Income Tax Preparation Help
Applicants and their parents/guardians – or spouses if married – must have filed a 2015 federal income tax return in order to complete FAFSA. To speed the application, taxes should be filed a minimum of two weeks prior to attending FAFSA Frenzy events.
For help filing taxes, WSU’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free consultations for anyone with an annual income of less than $54,000, including the general public, whether or not they are applying for FAFSA.
The consultations are available through February 26. WSU accounting students, who are IRS certified, along with volunteers from the accounting faculty, are available at WSU Davis Building 2 Room 101, Friday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon.
Consultations are by appointment only and must be scheduled by calling 2-1-1. The scheduler will inform participants of the documents and information required when meeting with VITA volunteers.
“During the past six years, the WSU VITA program has prepared and e-filed more than 1,200 returns,” said Loisanne Kattelman, VITA faculty advisor. “Our accounting student volunteers gain practical tax experience and participate in valuable community service. It is rewarding to see students give back to their community in such a meaningful way.”
Weber State offers more than $90 million annually in financial assistance and scholarships, including Dream Weber for low-income students, federal work study, activity waivers for participation in campus organizations, Pell Grants and veteran’s benefits. Some of the available money goes unclaimed because no one has applied that meets the scholarship criteria. The Financial Aid office encourages students to fill out scholarship and financial aid applications fully to qualify for any money they may be eligible.
For more information about financial aid, please visit the FAFSA website.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.