CHARLESTON — Charleston native and Hollywood actress Jennifer Garner has issued a challenge to high school seniors: Fill out the FAFSA.
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form the state and federal governments use to determine if students pursuing higher education are eligible for financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study jobs and loans.
Garner, an alumna of George Washington High, recorded a video message for Charleston-area seniors that was shared by Kanawha County Schools on its YouTube channel Friday.
“I know it has been a challenging school year for all of you and for all Kanawha County students,” Garner says. “But I want to encourage you today by telling you about free money for college or career school.”
Garner goes on to explain what the FAFSA is and encourages seniors to sign up regardless of what their grades are, what their family income is or what kind of higher education they’re pursuing. She noted there’s aid available for associate degree programs, apprenticeships, technical training, and 2- and 4-year schools.
State higher education Chancellor Sarah Tucker noted Wednesday that FAFSA applications are down 25% from where they normally are this time of year, likely due to the pandemic. Applications for the Promise Scholarship, which pays up to $4,750 per year for up to four undergraduate years or completion of a bachelor’s degree, whichever comes first, are down nearly 50% as the March 1 deadline approaches.
For West Virginia students, filling out the FAFSA is required to be eligible for the Promise Scholarship, the West Virginia Higher Education Grant and the West Virginia Invests Grant, among other funding opportunities. Information and resources can be found at the College Foundation of West Virginia website, cfwv.com, and FAFSA’s website, studentaid.gov.
State Treasurer Riley Moore also echoed the call to students, encouraging them to fill out their FAFSA, apply for the Promise Scholarship and participate in college savings programs offered through his office.
“While we’re currently navigating unprecedented times, it’s important to remember this pandemic will not last forever — we will return to normal,” Moore said in a news release. “When we get there, it will be critical to have prepared for the future, and that includes preparing for a college or vocational education.”