Students failing to claim financial aid

By Keith Kessinger

According to a recent study by the American Council on Education, there are a large number of college students who would probably receive financial aid but are not even applying for it.

Between 2003 and 2004, 1.5 million students who were eligible for Pell Grants did not apply for them, according to the report.

Seamus Harreys, dean of Student Financial Services, attributes this trend to a lack of information on the process.

“Most students and families do not know where to start,” he said. “It can be overwhelming.”

In general, however, Harreys said he believes Northeastern students are not among those students who do not even bother to apply for financial aid, and pointed out that 83 percent of this year’s freshman class receives some sort of aid.

In order to be considered for any financial aid, either through the government or through Northeastern, students must first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Based on the form, the school and government determine how much aid, if any, a student will receive.

The form is available online, but junior journalism major Courtney Caterino said it can still be a tedious and time-consuming process.

“Being online makes it easier, but it is hard to find time to sit down with your parents and fill the forms out completely and correctly,” Caterino said.

Last year, about 75 percent of Northeastern students filled out the FAFSA form, and the university awarded over $100 million in grants and scholarships to eligible students.

The school and the government are not the only ways students can receive aid for college. Harreys encourages student to research different organizations that may offer scholarships or other aid.

He said it is not uncommon for towns or employers to offer scholarships, and many organizations and foundations provide financial aid to students who meet certain criteria.

“You’d be surprised at all the money available,” Harreys said.

Student Financial Services estimates Northeastern students receive about $3 million from external sources, but Harreys said students have to know where to look.

Brendan Crawford, a middler mechanical engineering major, said he believes it is difficult to find scholarships and grants.

“There isn’t a central listing for scholarships. It can be hard if you don’t know where to start,” he said.

Northeastern has tried to combat this lack of information with seminars on the issue. Northeastern participates in College Goal Sunday, started by the Lumina Foundation. Their goal is to simplify and explain the process of searching and applying for financial aid and scholarships.

Harreys said there are other avenues students can take to find scholarship opportunities. He advises students to check out a variety of Web sites, like College Board, to look for scholarship opportunities. But as always, people should exercise caution when using the Internet because some sites sell personal information to third-party companies.

Students should also check out their local public libraries. Some carry listings and information on scholarship and grant offers. Finally, Harreys said students should not be afraid to enter contests that offer scholarships as prizes.

If students have any questions about the financial aid process, Harreys said he advises students to ask for help.

“I encourage students to stop by and talk to our financial aid counselors. They are trained to help students get the ball rolling,” he said.

Leave a Reply