Updates on Education Stimulus Bill and College Financial Aid

We have important information for students and their families: An education stimulus bill is making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature. Meanwhile, families can now apply for federal college financial aid.

EDUCATION STIMULUS BILL

Let's begin with that education stimulus bill. It would provide money for families to use toward educational resources but it is not without controversy and critics.

"The education stimulus bill for Pennsylvania families would empower parents to make the best decisions for their kids by giving them $1,000 of the Cares Act money to help their children educationally," said Jennifer Stefano of the Commonwealth Foundation.

It would be a one-time stimulus for families who send their children to public, private, or parochial school.

"There's no accountability measure built into the bill, to ensure that the funding would actually be utilized to help families with the student expenditures," said Tomea Sippio-Smith of the Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

Until November 16, only students who qualify for a free or reduced lunch program could apply, then the program would be open to everyone.

The money would go into an educational savings account, and parents could use it for anything from tutoring to technology to even tuition.

Critics argue low-income students would be better served if the proposed funding, $500 million from the Cares Act, went directly to public schools.

FAFSA APPLICATIONS OPEN

Families with college-bound students can now submit for Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA for the 2021-2022 school year. Up for grabs is $150 billion that will go unused if families don't apply for it. And it's given on a first come, first serve basis.

Sallie Mae said many don't apply because they don't think they will qualify.

"That couldn't be further from the truth. We know that nearly all who apply are going to qualify for some," said Ashley Boucher, spokesperson for Sallie Mae.

If you've been negatively impacted by COVID-19, fill out the special circumstance form when filing.

"As soon as possible after you file, contact your college's financial aid office, get the form and that's going to kick start a process that will review what's changed and if you might qualify for more aid," said Boucher.

Again, the money is awarded on a first come, first serve basis so the sooner you file, the better.

Do make sure you have what you need before you begin the application: W2s, bank statements, 2019 tax info, driver's license numbers, and social security numbers.
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