This spring, a new resource will be available to Elm City families looking to navigate the college financial aid process.
Local scholarship organization New Haven Promise established FAFSA New Haven at the beginning of this year to hold workshops on applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as well as other events discussing college affordability and external scholarships. The initiative also includes a website families can refer to for information on the FAFSA. This new resource, which focuses on parents of incoming first-generation college students, stems from a series of workshops New Haven Promise held last year, New Haven Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton ’82 said. FAFSA New Haven will hold its next event, a FAFSA workshop with volunteers from Yale’s Office of Financial Aid, on campus Thursday. This is the second year the University’s financial aid office has worked with New Haven Promise to offer local families assistance in completing the FAFSA, Associate Vice President for Federal and State Relations Richard Jacob said.
“It is helpful for [parents] to be in contact with actual financial aid professionals who can help guide them in their next steps, which is really important as we go into acceptance season,” Melton said.
Melton said New Haven Promise developed FAFSA New Haven after the organization recognized that workshops need to be held throughout the spring because families prepare taxes at different times in the year. The initiative focuses on helping Elm City families interpret and maximize their financial aid, she added.
Previous events in this year’s series include College Goal Weekend, held Jan. 30–31 as part of a national initiative on FAFSA completion, and First Gen, Next Gen, a screening and panel discussion about a documentary on first-generation college students earlier this month.
Promise scholar Mary Sanchez, now a junior at the University of New Haven, said she and her family had attended College Goal Weekend this year to receive assistance on her FAFSA. Although Sanchez has filled out her FAFSA each school year, the workshop streamlined her application process by answering her family’s questions. Previously, Sanchez and her family had to call a federal help line to resolve these issues.
“We never remember what we’ll put for a certain question, so we always have trouble finishing [the application],” she said.
FAFSA New Haven has served a significant number of families since its inception, Melton said, adding that the website has received numerous visitors. Over 1,000 seniors from New Haven Public Schools attended the First Gen, Next Gen screening held at Southern Connecticut State University, she said. Melton anticipates a significant number of attendees this upcoming Thursday, given New Haven Promise’s promotion of the event. A similar workshop with Yale financial aid officials drew nearly 40 people last year, said Director of Public Schools and Partnerships Claudia Merson.
New Haven Promise is also collaborating with Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs on the initiative, Merson said, adding that she has reached out to NHPS students who participate in University programs.
Merson said that in the future, she hopes to have the University’s financial aid officers train librarians at the New Haven Free Public Library to guide families through the FAFSA.
The deadline to fill out the FAFSA for this academic year is June 30.