February 19th, 2015

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March 1, the date for many colleges to begin processing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA, is quickly approaching. While students can continue to fill out and submit their FAFSA after March 1, those who complete it before the deadline give themselves the best chance at receiving need-based financial aid from colleges and universities.

Birmingham-area high school seniors looking for help completing the FAFSA have two opportunities to do so next week through our  Cash for College Alabama campaign.

If you’re a high school senior seeking financial aid, Cash for College is hosting two free FAFSA workshops. The first will take place Saturday, Feb. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. During that session, United Way’s VITA program along with NABA will offer free tax preparation for individuals making up to $53,000. A second workshop will be held Thursday, Feb. 26, from 6 to 8 pm. at the A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club.

In addition, five in-school workshops will be held before the March 1 deadline.

Cash for College is also is hosting a contest: Birmingham City High Schools are competing against one another to complete the most FAFSA forms by March 1. The school with the highest FAFSA completion will win a free Taco Bell® breakfast for the entire 12th grade.

FAFSA is a key indicator of student enrollment in college, with 90 percent of students who complete a FAFSA enrolling in college the following fall. FAFSA allows students to apply for federal financial aid, such as the $5,775 Pell Grant and other need-based aid.

Cash for College, which has hosted 24 FASFA workshops in the past month, is a collaboration among Birmingham City Schools, Alabama Possible, the Birmingham Education FoundationAL.com, Bold Goals Coalition, and Leadership Birmingham Alumni. Cash For College aims to increase FAFSA completion from 39 percent in 2014 to 70 percent by 2020 in Birmingham City schools, and Cash for College is well on the way to meeting this year’s goal of a 15.4 percent increase. We have worked with 500 students in five Birmingham City high schools and at the YWoodlawn Family Resource Center. More than 120 adult volunteers have become part of Cash For College, volunteering their time to work with students, during the school day and after hours on FAFSA completion.

Information on Cash for College, FASFA and the workshops is available at www.cashforcollegealabama.org.