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CSU to host financial-aid assistance day

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Ever had trouble figuring out if your parents' assets will disqualify you from receiving federal student aid, under the formula for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

How about other factors, such as income from your job, or how much you pay in taxes, or how many people live in your home?

The FAFSA formula can be difficult for a lot of people to comprehend, according to Clayton State University's director of financial aid, Pat Barton. And, since the formula is used by officials at the U.S. Department of Education to decide if a person gets federal student aid, it is important to get everything right, she said.

Since the formula can leave some people scratching their heads, Barton said Clayton State's Office of Financial Aid will host its first-ever, public "FAFSA Day," on June 5. The event will last from 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., in room 327, of the James M. Baker University Center, on the school's Morrow campus.

During the event, representatives of the university's financial aid office will help the public, regardless of whether they plan to attend Clayton State, or some other institution, fill out their FAFSA applications. Barton said the service will be free.

"We wanted to offer them some assistance with filling out their FAFSA applications, because we know the formula used to determine eligibility can be confusing to a lot of people," Barton said. "In the past, we've done it internally for our students, but this is the first year where we've opened it up to the public."

Various types of financial aid, ranging from the federal government's Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, to Georgia's HOPE scholarships, to loans taken out from private banks, are options many college students are using to pay for their college education.

Barton said 84 percent of the 6,587 students enrolled at Clayton State during the fall 2009 semester received some type of financial aid. It ranged from HOPE scholarships, to Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, to private loans.

The financial aid director said she has also conducted "FAFSA Night" presentations for students, and their parents, at Jonesboro and Union Grove high schools, upon the request of guidance counselors at those schools. Those presentations, however, were more like explainers, and did not include sessions where assistance was given in filling out applications, Barton said. It was during these activities that Barton realized the general public could benefit from help with their FAFSA applications.

"This seemed to be a pretty important topic to a lot of the people I talked to, so we decided that, instead of waiting to be invited to talk about the process, why not just have an event of our own?" she said.

Student financial aid can be useful in helping pupils pay their college expenses, but Clayton State's financial aid director said one form of assistance alone will not cover everything. A Pell Grant, for example, only pays a maximum of $5,550 per school year for college expenses, Barton said.

"That is not much money at all," she said. "If they receive a full Pell Grant, and are willing to take out some loans, and qualify for the HOPE scholarships -- if they can do all of that, they might be able to cover most of their expenses. It takes a combination. It's not just federal aid that's going to cover everything."

In addition to applying for financial aid, students interested in applying for admission to Clayton State will be able to meet with the university's Office of Admissions during "FAFSA DAY," according to Barton. She said the cost to apply for admission is $40.

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On the Net:

Clayton State University: http://www.clayton.edu/

Free Application for Federal Student Aid: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/