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Over 60 NC colleges and universities to host ‘FAFSA Day’ to help students apply for financial aid

Two young women looking at a tablet outside in a courtyard.
RDNE Stock Project

This weekend, over 60 colleges and universities across the state will host FAFSA Day to help students and parents complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The events will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Kathy Hastings is the deputy director for outreach and communications for the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority. She said financial aid officers will walk participants through the FAFSA process one-on-one or in small groups.

“Most folks, when they're filling it out the first time, can find sometimes it's a little confusing,” Hastings said. “(Completing the FAFSA) is one of the most important steps that students can take in their college-going journey, because many families are worried about how to pay for college. And so FAFSA is a great information tool that helps you see what you qualify for.”

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a new FAFSA form. It came with multiple changes meant to streamline the application process. However, families have been experiencing complications with accessing and completing the form during the rollout.

“For those that are encountering hurdles, attending FAFSA Day is a great way to get that individual one-on-one help if you need it,” Hastings said. “If you have a particular challenge that isn't working quite right, you're making a connection with a financial aid office and they can answer those questions.”

In order to qualify for federal aid, students must complete a FAFSA form. Hastings said it also opens students to other types of aid at the college and state level, for private and public universities and colleges.

One new financial aid program for public in-state students is the Next NC Scholarship. It’s open to North Carolinians whose household income is $80,000 or less and are seeking to attain their first associates or bachelor degree.

Qualifying students will receive at least $5,000 to attend any public university in the state, which covers at least half of their tuition and fees. Those attending any of the state’s 58 community colleges will receive at least $3,000, which covers their entire tuition and fees.

According to the UNC System, a completed FAFSA form is the only application students need to fill out to see if they’re eligible for the scholarship. The financial assistance program is free, meaning that anyone who receives money does not have to pay it back.

“So many students and families find financial aid confusing — it's hard to know what you qualify for,” Hastings said. “So that's really what we think is helpful and unique with Next NC. You can determine from your household income whether you're likely to qualify … so at least you go into it knowing, 'OK, maybe college is for me, maybe I can make the finances work.'”

Before FAFSA day, Hastings said students and parents should set up an account at studentaid.gov. The day of, Hastings said one of the items participants should bring is their 2022 tax form.

Students and parents can register for FAFSA day ahead of time or walk in to any participating location on Jan. 27.

The following UNC System institutions will host a FAFSA Day:

  • Appalachian State University
  • East Carolina University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • North Carolina Central University
  • North Carolina State University
  • UNC-Asheville
  • UNC-Charlotte
  • UNC-Pembroke
  • UNC-Wilmington
  • Western Carolina University
  • Winston-Salem State University

Additional locations, including community colleges and private institutions, can be found here.

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC’s 2024 Fletcher Fellow and covers higher education in partnership with Open Campus.