This year as millions of students prepare to go off to college, about two-thirds of them will use some type of financial aid.
Filling out the forms can be a headache and time-consuming, so Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit organization that removes barriers to prosperity through education, is going to help students better understand what they are reading and filling out.
For graduates in the Birmingham City School system attending college in the fall, Alabama Possible is teaming up with guidance counselors and peer mentors for students so they can get free assistance in figuring out their financial aid. It is called Cash for College.
Students will also receive assistance in completing college admission and registration forms, signing up for housing, planning a college budget and general college questions.
“Most of the students that we work with in the school system will qualify for at least $5,000 in Pell grants,” said Kristina Scott, executive director for Alabama Possible. “$5,000 is a lot of money to pay to go to college, but it doesn’t cover all of the costs.”
Scott said because it does not cover all of the cost, they encourage students to go for supplementary scholarships.
“The last thing we want our students to do is have their options limited because they’re saddled with a lot of college debt,” Scott said.
With an array of scholarships available, she said one misconception is that there are only academic scholarships for students.
“Students think that you have to make straight A’s to get scholarships, so part of what we do is disrupt that misperception and encourage students to apply for those outside scholarships,” Scott said.
One of the students they have helped is Rotosha Word, who in turn, volunteered with Alabama Possible as well.
“They focused on students who didn’t apply for college, and students who applied for [financial aid] like myself,” Word said.
Word, who will attend the University of Alabama in the fall, said Alabama Possible helped her get an extra $3,000 in financial aid.
“The folks at Alabama Possible made sure I went back in there and made sure I checked off the right things,” Word said.
Word, who is a Parker High School graduate, said she appreciated that Alabama Possible included all students in their activities, and not just the ones attending college. Their generosity actually made some students apply for financial aid and college, Word said.