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Greater Hagerstown Community Education Forum holds financial aid seminar

February 09, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Kristin Brezler, left, assists Melinda Staubs and her son Daniel Greenwood with filing of federal forms for college applications. Brezler is director of financial aid at Kaplan University in Hagerstown. Also working on forms are Sandy Cumings and Kaplan University financial aid officer Luke Meyers. The assistance for families was presented by volunteers Saturday at Valley Mall.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HALFWAY, Md. — Caitlyn Kinzer, who graduated from Williamsport High School in January and already is taking classes at Hagerstown Community College, showed up with her mother Saturday afternoon at Valley Mall for assistance on filling out her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“We’re looking for grants and anything that could help us,” said Kinzer, 17, who is going into nursing at HCC. “This helped us figure when and where we can get grants.”

The Greater Hagerstown Community Education Forum provided assistance for filling out FAFSA forms and financial aid workshops Saturday for students and parents and will have it again Sunday in the former Kay Jewelers store at Valley Mall near J.C. Penney. The FAFSA form is a form that can be prepared annually by current and incoming college students in the United States to determine what student financial aid they are eligible for.

College advisers from HCC, Kaplan University and the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown-Frostburg State University showed up to help parents and students fill out FAFSA forms on laptops with online access.

“With first-time students, it can be overwhelming to fill out the FAFSA, so if you have somebody guide you through the process, it’s a lot more helpful,” said Felicia Suders, financial aid officer at Kaplan University. “Hopefully in the coming years, it will make it easier for them to complete the application by themselves.”

Parents and students who showed up were asked to bring their 2012 income tax returns, if available, or their W-2s. They also could bring their own computers if they did not want to use the laptops there.

Kinzer’s mother, Andrea Kinzer, 45, of Williamsport, said Caitlyn, the youngest of her children, is the first to attend college and that the assistance Saturday would be very helpful in dealing with financial aid in the future.

“Now, it seems like the flow is going pretty good,” she said. “They’ve helped a lot with telling us what she needs to do to get financial aid.”

A table was set up in the mall as well with information and guides on different ways to receive financial aid for students and parents. Computers with workshop videos were on the tables that students and parents could view.

Jeanne Singer, chairwoman of the Greater Hagerstown Community Education Forum, said the idea for the event came up when trying to find ways to send more Washington County students to college.

“When we looked at the barriers that kids were experiencing while they were trying to go to school, the financial aid process seems to be a large barrier,” Singer said. “A lot of families don’t have much experience with the financial aid process. This makes the information a little bit more accessible.”

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If you go

What: FAFSA Frenzy
When: Today, noon to 4 p.m.
Where: Valley Mall, near J.C. Penney

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