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Letter: Student Financial Aid Awareness Month

Each winter, New Yorkers and families across the country are directly confronted with one of the most crucial financial concerns regarding their teenage children – how to pay for their college education.

In recognition of this annual “rite of passage,” Governor David Paterson has proclaimed January 25 to February 25 Student Financial Aid Awareness Month – a period during which the State will host a series of events aimed at educating students and families about all the financial aid opportunities available for college, and how to apply for them.

Throughout the month, the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), New York’s student financial aid agency, will hold community outreach events for students and families to encourage completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the key that unlocks the door to nearly all types of free federal, state and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, some scholarships, loans and work-study programs.

Every Metro New York City and Long Island family with a college-bound student – as well as those with a child who is currently attending college – should aim to complete the FAFSA during January and February to have the best chance of garnering assistance.

While it is widely believed that aid is not available for someone who meets “my financial circumstances,” the reality is that there is an array of financial aid available. It is just a matter of completing the process thoroughly and early.

For more information and for help in getting started early, visit HESC’s informational website at www.StartHere Additional information is available by calling our toll-free hotline (1-800-808-1790), which is open every Wednesday, from noon to 6 p.m. throughout Financial Aid Awareness Month (Jan. 27; Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24).

Elsa Magee

HESC Executive Vice President and Acting President