FAFSA form is first step in cutting education costs

Community college continues to be an affordable option for people looking for skills training or to begin their college education. 

This semester, one in five Grand Rapids Community College students is having their tuition covered by a grant or scholarship program, removing cost as an obstacle to a life-changing education.

Many more students could take advantage of free-tuition programs if they complete the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s often a form people fill out when going to more costly colleges or universities, but it can also pay off for those attending community college. 

The FAFSA is required to tap into federal, state and college programs that cover tuition, and GRCC has specialists and resources to guide students and families through the process. This online form requires financial and tax information for students and, if the students are dependents, from families.

“The FAFSA is the key that can unlock opportunities many students don’t know are available for them,” says Kristi Welling, GRCC’s associate director of enrollment services and president of the Michigan Student Financial Aid Association.

“We don’t want anyone to miss out on a life-changing college education. GRCC has specialists who can help students and families navigate the application and learn about ways to potentially lower or even eliminate college costs.”

The FAFSA can be completed at studentaid.gov using a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. The U.S. Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid also has information for students and families available at StudentAid.gov. Students also can complete the FAFSA through the MyStudentAid app, available for IOS or Android. The form can usually be completed in under an hour.

Students can connect with GRCC financial aid specialists by phone at 616-234-4030; email at financialaid@grcc.edu; and virtually or in-person by appointment.
The state Treasury Department’s MI Student Aid team is hosting virtual college financial aid nights. Registration and information is available online.

Of the 11,376 students enrolled at GRCC in the Winter 2022 semester, 2,346 – nearly 21% -- have their tuition covered.The Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners programs cover the cost of in-district tuition for eligible students. The Grand Rapids Promise Zone covers education expenses for students living in the city and graduating from public, public charter, and private schools based in Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids Community College Foundation also requires a FAFSA for students to be eligible for scholarships. The foundation awarded $1.4 million in scholarships last year to GRCC students. The priority deadline to apply for a foundation scholarship is March 15. Information and universal applications are available at grcc.edu/scholarships.

The FAFSA also is required for students to receive federal Pell Grants, which can cover all expenses for some students.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.