Plea to students: complete FAFSA

By MIKE CHRISTEN, The Daily Herald

With only a few days remaining for prospective Tennessee Promise students to file their Federal Application for Student Aid, Maury County’s leaders in education and community development urge the region’s students to make sure they file the documents and remain eligible for the state’s scholarship program.

The deadline to complete the application is less than a week away, Tuesday, Jan. 17. The application’s submission is the second step in Tennessee Promise’s seven part application process.

“Put this newspaper down, put your phone down and fill out your FAFSA,” Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Marczak said. “Then come back and read the rest of the article.”

The superintendent encouraged all students to continue the application process no matter what their future plans are.

“Fill out your FAFSA,” Marczak said. “Even if you don’t think you are going to college. Fill it out because what if you change your mind and you are past the deadline? Fill it out anyway because this may change. Just fill it out and be done with it. Don’t get stuck because of a decision you make now.”

Launched in 2014, Tennessee Promise made Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer high school graduates two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees. Since the start of the program, first-time freshman enrollment increased 25 percent at community colleges and 20 percent at technical colleges in 2015, and the college-going rate increased to a historic high of 62.5 percent.

According to a press release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office, a record breaking 60,780 high school seniors completed the first step of the process, filing their applications for the Tennessee Promise this year.

Last month, Marczak said he saw that Spring Hill High School had a particularly low number of students fill out the form, so the superintendent incentivized the process with a complimentary Blow Pop for every senior who completed their application with FAFSA.

Columbia State Community College encourages students who might have questions about their FAFSA applications to visit any of the college’s campuses to receive complimentary assistance in completing the documents.

“We are here to assist students,” Columbia State Enrollment Services Coordinator Jolene Gairrett said. “We know the applications can be imitating.”

Financial Aid Coordinator Travis Krause said the application can be difficult to understand and “there is no such thing as dumb question” when it comes to the subject.