During the free event, counselors will guide students and family members through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process on Wednesday, March 30, from 5-8 p.m. at St. Petersburg College Gibbs campus SA building, room 118.
ST. PETERSBURG — If you or your family members are considering a higher education degree, counselors with the Pinellas Access to Higher Education (PATHe) program will be on hand to help you apply for financial aid at the Fries & FAFSA event on March 30.
PATHe is a community outreach program between USF’s St. Petersburg campus and St. Petersburg College to provide equitable and attainable pathways to higher education for all students. One of those pathways is through financial assistance. Such aid is essential for many students, but the forms and processes to apply can often be overwhelming.
Counselors will guide students and family members through the FAFSA process during the free event.
FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows students to be automatically considered for federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs. Any person considering a post-secondary education is encouraged to fill out the federal forms regardless of their income. In many cases, students can qualify for financial aid through low-cost loans, grants, school-based aid, merit-based scholarships, aid for military families, and international study.
“It opens up a lot of financial aid opportunities that they may not have been able to take advantage of without completing the FAFSA,” said Xavier Ramos, assistant director of PATHe and the COMPASS Student Experience at the USF St. Petersburg campus. “One of the greatest things about it is that they are not obligated to accept any of those options. But knowing they have them is valuable information.”
Ramos added that colleges and universities also use information from the FAFSA process for admissions. For example, first-generation college students are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. A university can target these students and support them through the admissions process by having that information.
“There’s a lot of effort to keep admission cohorts more diverse and inclusive, and a lot of times the information comes from the FAFSA, and that helps universities target those students,” Ramos said.
Those attending the event will need to bring necessary information, including a social security number or Alien Registration number (if not a U.S. Citizen), federal tax returns, W-2, and records of money earned. Students who fill out the FAFSA will receive a voucher to redeem a free order of fries at participating McDonald’s restaurants.
On Wednesday, March 30, the session takes place from 5-8 p.m. at St. Petersburg College Gibbs campus in the SA building, room 118.
The event is just one way that USF, Pinellas County Schools, and St. Petersburg College are working to increase the number of students who complete the FAFSA, which is free to do. Over half of all students in Florida qualify for some kind of financial aid, but many of them don’t take advantage of it.
Participants are encouraged to register first, but walk-ins are also welcome.