Financial Aid Awareness Month set for February 2004

Financial Aid Awareness Month set for February 2004 Governor Michael Rounds recently issued a proclamation declaring February 2004 as South Dakota Financial Aid Awareness Month. South Dakota Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SDASFAA), Education Assistance Corporation (EAC), and high school across the state have joined in this effort to inform South Dakota families about the availability of financial aid to help pay for college.

Financial Aid Awareness Month heightens the notion that students and parents need to be thinking about completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) sooner rather than later. Completing the FAFSA is required to determine eligibility for not only federal financial assistance, but is also used by many organizations that award scholarships. High school across South Dakota have been provided awareness kits courtesy of SDAFAA, EAC and the South Dakota National Guard to help spread the word about federal financial aid and issues students should be thinking of now in order to prepare themselves financially to enter college later.

Also, because of the heightened concern in recent years about families unnecessarily paying for assistance in completing the FAFSA, SDASFAA warns families not to be fooled by offers from scholarship and financial aid search companies that promise to locate financial aid for a fee. While some of these companies may be legitimate, all of the information they offer is available free of charge from high school counselors and through any college financial aid office. SDASFAA has taken a proactive approach to informing families that financial aid professionals across the state provide assistance in completing the FAFSA free of charge.

A special note to this year's activities includes a chat event in which South Dakota students and their parents can receive answers to their financial aid questions from the comfort of their home computer. Anyone with Internet access is encouraged to join the chat, which will be held Monday, Feb. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. To join, simply visit www.mapping-your-future.org, click on the "Live Chat" icon, and follow the directions. Mapping Your Future, a Web site offering free college, career, and financial aid information, is powering this chat.

EAC has developed additional resources to help high school counselors teach their students about financial aid. A Financial Aid Information Night video is available, which includes information on financial aid programs and processes. Two PowerPoint presentations are also available. The first, entitled Financial Aid Basics covers the same topics as the Financial Aid Information Night video and works well as either a companion piece to the video or on its own. The second PowerPoint covers the completion and submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

High schools across the state are also offering local Financial Aid Information Nights for students and their parents to attend. For more information, contact you local high school.

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