FAFSA program helps students prepare for college

 Launch Manistee, West Shore Community College, Baker College and Northwestern Michigan and all six area school systems joined forces on Tuesday to sponsor a workshop to help students and their parents complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid  (FAFSA) at the West Shore Medical Education Center. Many parents and students took advantage of the program.

Launch Manistee, West Shore Community College, Baker College and Northwestern Michigan and all six area school systems joined forces on Tuesday to sponsor a workshop to help students and their parents complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at the West Shore Medical Education Center. Many parents and students took advantage of the program.

MANISTEE — Statistics have proven that today’s students are going to need a college education more than ever to succeed in the world.

However, one of the problems many students face is finding the financial means to pay for their education. It is why Launch Manistee, West Shore Community College, Baker College and Northwestern Michigan and all six area schools joined forces on Tuesday to sponsor a workshop to help students and their parents complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid  (FAFSA) at the West Shore Medical Education Center.

Launch Manistee Program Coordinator Mary Ann Behm said “the experts” were on hand from West Shore Community College, Baker College and Northwestern Michigan College to help students and parents fill out the application online. She said after Launch Manistee sponsored the College Application Week recently, this was the next logical step.

“That is why we are doing this here at the West Shore Education Center and we wanted them to do that here in Manistee County so families wouldn’t have to drive so far, or set up separate appointments,” said Behm. “This kind of gives them one-stop shopping.”

Manistee High School Counselor Paul Howes said an event of this nature is good for many students and their parents because it gives them the chance to work one-on-one with financial aid personnel.

“This program allows them to have that opportunity,” he said. “So to have a night or opportunity like this is beneficial for everyone.”

Behm said the next initiative from Launch Manistee will be the College Cash Campaign.

“We are going to be continuing to promote FAFSA completion and any other brands of college aid,” she said. “We are continuing to work collaboratively in this county and it’s awesome.”

Howes said he would like to see the numbers grow with the local FAFSA program.

“We don’t have as many signed up as we would like, but maybe it is because students have older siblings who have gone through the process, but I think this was a great opportunity for parents and students to build on,” he said.

Brethren High School counselor Gail Bennett said she is seeing an increase in students looking at options for college with the Launch Manistee programs.

“I definitely see a bigger interest in my districts, as there are a lot of first generation high school graduates and first generation students going to college,” she said. “I think it has encouraged students who would not normally know how to do it, or think college isn’t for them, to apply. This kind of opens up that opportunity.”

Bennett said she was thrilled with the response the students showed at the College Application Week.

“We have 31 students and I had 90 some applications go out, so I see it has piqued their interest more,” she said.

Cheryl Wolfram of Michigan Works! said she thinks the program is a good one.

“I think it is wonderful and people I work with are doing GEDs or alternative education, so they don’t have a guidance counselor at their side,” she said. “FAFSA is open to everyone and we made sure to publicize it at Michigan Works! and our learning lab.”

During 2014 over $191 billion was awarded to students seeking financial help to pay for college under this program. Behm said that 80 percent of all the college aid in the United States relies on the completion of the FAFSA application.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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