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Students, parents across state get pointers on financial aid

Financial Aid PresentationLEXINGTON PRESENTATION DRAWS CROWD OF MORE THAN 200

By Delano R. Massey / dmassey@hearld-leader.com
Courtesy of the Lexington Herald-Leader

The sounds of worksheets rustling and pens and pencils rhythmically scratching across paper echoed throughout the large auditorium at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.It wasn't your typical school day, but on Sunday afternoon, more than 200 people traded glances between an overhead projector and the speaker who commanded everyone's attention in the Oswald Building. The subject: filing for financial aid.

Families crammed into the lecture hall for College Goal Sunday, a statewide charitable program that provides free information and assistance to those applying for college financial aid. The program, sponsored by the Kentucky Association of Student Financial Aid, was held at 20 sites in 19 Kentucky communities.

Lexington's program was led by Katie Conrad, director of financial aid at Midway College.

Conrad covered a variety of topics, providing parents and their children with useful tips on applying for aid without a hitch -- or, at least, with a limited number of roadblocks.

To increase the chances of receiving aid, families should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before March 15, the priority date for Kentucky. Conrad said the priority date "doesn't mean you can't file after March 15"; it's just best to file early.

"The sooner you get your financial aid application in, the better," she advised. "If your kid's going to college in August, you need to be filling this out right now."

In Kentucky, seven grant and scholarship programs help some 57,000 students every year. Participation in state aid programs has more than quadrupled since the 1990s.

In the 2006-07 academic year, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority awarded about $188 million in higher education grants and scholarships to more than 121,000 students.

Conrad discussed a variety of topics, including the sources and types of aid available, assets that needed to be reported, common errors that are made on the forms and the formula used to determine how much financial aid is needed.

She also explained the difference between an unsubsidized loan, which accrues interest while a student is in school, and a "subsidized" loan, which does not. (She said students often call her and refer to this loan as "the good one.")

There were several inquiries about who should be on the application if the student's parents have divorced or separated.

She encouraged parents to "get away from who claims who on taxes" because that "has nothing to do with support." She said that "whoever provides more than half" the support should be the parent on the form with the child.

After wrapping up her presentation, there was a $500 scholarship drawing. LeAndra Longoria, 17, received the scholarship.

The East Jessamine High School senior wants to attend Western Kentucky University in the fall.

The scholarship was good news to her parents.

"That's $500 I don't have to worry about," said her mother, Linda.

Her husband, Noe, agreed.

"Oh yeah, absolutely. The less I have to pay the better," he said.

TO LEARN MORE

On TV: For more information about financial aid, tune in to College Financial Aid Call-In 2008 at 9 p.m. Wednesday on KET1. Experts from Kentucky colleges and universities will answer viewers' questions about paying for college.

Reach Delano Massey at (859) 231-1455 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1455.

Photo: At Sunday's financial aid presentation at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, LeAndra Longoria of Nicholasville won a drawing for a $500 scholarship. The East Jessamine High School senior, 17, plans to attend Western Kentucky University. Photo by Gabriel B. Tait