FAFSA Fiesta Begins in February

Rebecca A Eckland
FAFSA Fiesta logo

During Financial Aid Awareness month in February, TMCC will host a series of events to help students complete their FAFSA applications.

February—traditionally the month associated with past presidents and St. Valentine—has something else to celebrate at TMCC: Financial Aid Awareness month. This month, TMCC’s Financial Aid Office is hosting a series of events called the “FAFSA Fiesta” to help students complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA applications, which is the first step for any student seeking scholarships or grants to help fund their education.

Here are a few facts about the FAFSA every student should know: the application is free, it must be completed online and it provides TMCC Financial Aid team with the financial information they need in order to create a financial aid package for you that may include federal, state or institutional funding sources.

“A lot of students think that the deadline to apply for FAFSA has already passed,” said Financial Aid Coordinator for Scholarships and Outreach, Elisabeth Saldana, who created TMCC’s FAFSA Fiesta events based on research on what works and models presented by other institutions of higher learning. “But there is still time to complete the FAFSA application process.” The financial aid team recommends that students complete their FAFSA and financial aid file by June 30 in order to determine their financial aid for the Fall semester, before fees are due. In other words, the earlier you apply, the better prepared you will be.

Who can apply? Any student who is enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a degree-seeking program, and who is taking—or is scheduled to take—at least 6 credits. The month-long event is intended to support every TMCC student in completing the application and verification process.

Why you should apply for the FAFSA

The FAFSA is your gateway to receiving not only federal funds to defray tuition costs, but also state and institutional grants and scholarships (like TMCC Foundation Scholarships). Recently, the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at UNLV completed a survey of 2017–2018 high school graduates currently enrolled in an institution of higher learning in the Nevada System of Higher Education. Those students who applied for the Nevada Promise Scholarship indicated that the requirement to complete the FAFSA was the most effective in learning how to navigate the demands of going to college. In other words, learning how to complete the FAFSA mattered… a lot.

FAFSA Fiesta month is intended to support every student—not just Nevada Promise Scholars—in learning how to apply for financial assistance. “The event is based on student feedback,” said Executive Director of Financial Aid and Student Success, Sharon Wurm. “This was our third year of hosting ‘Fastober’ (a Financial Aid event in October) but this is the first time we are offering students extra events to complete their FAFSA applications at this time of year. Our goal is to increase the number of completed FAFSA applications… thereby increasing the number of students who will be considered for the first round of funding.”

Since 2012, 63–71% of completed FAFSA applications received funding at TMCC, which means the odds are in your favor of receiving some sort of scholarship, grant or federal aid if you apply. “We want to encourage students to come and get started… or, if their application has been selected for the verification process to complete the list of required items,” said Saldana.

The need for financial aid for TMCC students is great. According to Wurm, the “unmet need”—the cost of education that TMCC student FAFSA filers had to cover themselves by either working or borrowing—was $25 million last year. Completing your FAFSA early means you’re more likely to receive some sort of financial assistance, and you will know the amount you will receive well in advance of the Fall semester.

Financial Aid can be fun

The month-long FAFSA Fiesta event promises to have a little something for everyone: if you’re a “pragmatic-get-it-done” type, the FAFSA Marathon Day on Wednesday, Feb. 6 offers 10 non-stop hours of dedicated FAFSA support (9 a.m.–7 p.m.) in RDMT 204. If you like to celebrate after you complete something important like the FAFSA application, join our TMCC experts for snacks, a photobooth and other fun “fiesta” activities on FAFSA Fiesta Night, Thursday, Feb. 28 from 5–8 p.m. in RDMT 204.

For more information about FAFSA Fiesta, stop in RDMT 315 or call 775-673-7072 and ask to speak with a member of the TMCC Financial Aid Outreach team.