Completing paperwork for college applications can be confusing with all the steps and signatures required, said Darlene Latten, the director of counseling at Homer Central School District.
For low-income families, especially during the pandemic, extra application fees may add further stress to students looking to apply to colleges, she said Tuesday.
To alleviate this issue, the State University of New York recently removed application fees for students from low-income families.
Eligible students are those who:
- Qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs.
- Live in a household where the combined income does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty guidelines.
- Are from foster families.
Students can apply up to seven SUNY colleges or universities.
“Too many barriers from food insecurity to fees stand in the way of many qualified students — from low-income and communities of color — and a college education,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in the release. “We must do everything we can to break down barriers and empower students no matter their economic status or background, especially as a vast majority of all new jobs created requires some post-secondary education.”
Application fees to SUNY schools are $50, Latten said, meaning low-income students could save up to $350.
“During COVID, this is perfect,” she said, noting that financial insecurity has increased among low-income families who may have had a parent lose a job.
Latten said she no longer needs students to fill out a waiver application to have the fees removed. Instead, she can now simply mark a student eligible and it will be received by SUNY.
The biggest issue facing many low-income families and colleges is affordability, Latten said. The problem though is that for families to see financial aid packages for schools, they have to first apply to them.
“As we say, ‘Fill out the paperwork to see what the financial aid package is,’” she said.
Latten and other counselors can help students and their families through the application process and understanding their financial needs.
“This is something very positive, but the financial aid process needs some barriers broken for financial aid paperwork,” she said. Specifically, filling out paperwork can be long and confusing.
Following this change, Latten said she hopes the state will look at “the next barriers” including applying for financial aid.