DENVER (CBS4) – It’s well known that a higher education comes at a high cost. That’s why the federal government, every year, provides more than $100 billion in grants and student loans. But every year, there is a lot of money left on the table.
In Colorado alone, some $30 million in financial aid is unused, according to the Colorado Department of Education. That’s why Metropolitan State University Denver is working to help more students across the state get that money.
“It’s important for students to access the money that they’re entitled to,” said Ryan Smith, an MSU Denver spokesman.
Smith works as a peer lead for the university’s financial aid team. He said many students aren’t filling out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), often because it’s daunting.
“It’s not necessarily the easiest application,” he told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “There are around 100 questions in it and it sort of looks like you’re filling out your taxes. So it’s kind of opaque with not so easy to read financial questions.”
That’s why he joined the financial aid team – to help his peers get the support they need and deserve.
“I am genuinely passionate about trying to make sure students are actually able to enroll, get the money they’re eligible for and need to attend class,” he said.
SECTION: Making Ends Meet
The university is passionate, too, about helping even more students access the money available both from the federal government and the state. Dr. Will Simpkins is the vice president of MSU Denver’s Student Affairs. He said right now some 30% of students don’t file the free applications not only because the process can be overwhelming, but also because many believe they’re not eligible.
“We looked at the data this year and the students who’ve not filed of one those forms tend to be younger, tend to be white, tend to be not first-generation,” Simpkins explained. “Our hunch is that some of those students think that they’re just not going to qualify for need-based aid so why bother with the 100 questions.”
Simpkins said there is an effort on the federal level to simplify the FAFSA form, which would likely make a difference. However, he wants students to know that there is state support available, too, and everyone should apply.
“Even if you think you’re not eligible, fill it out just in case,” he said.
After all, it made all the difference for students like Smith.
“I would not be here otherwise,” Smith said. “Obviously college is an expensive process and our job is to help students get through that.”