CEC offers free help to fill out FAFSA forms

Students who will be attending college for the first time this year will benefit from a free upcoming event that offers the use of computers and professional expertise to help them complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). On Wednesday, Feb. 2, the Community Education Council of Elk and Cameron Counties (CEC) will hold application completion sessions in the computer lab at its downtown St. Marys location. Kris Kronenwetter, executive director at the CEC, explained that a representative from the Pennsylvania State Higher Education Association (PHEAA) will be guiding students and families through the online process so that when they leave, the application should be fully or nearly complete. "It can be a very confusing process, for parents as well as students, so we just thought it would be a good thing to do for the community," Kronenwetter said. The FAFSA is used by the federal government, states and individual schools to determine the amount of financial assistance students may receive for higher education, including grants, loans, work-study funds and many scholarships. It must be submitted each year the student is attending an institution of higher learning.Kronenwetter said although the FAFSA application has been made much easier to fill out because of its conversion to a digital format, it can still be daunting for first-timers. "The first year is the most difficult. After that, it's just a lot of updating," Kronenwetter said.The application completion event will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 2, at the CEC's space in the Marienstadt Center, 4 Erie Ave., Suite 200, St. Marys. There are two time slots available. The first session will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. and the second will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Families are asked to bring copies of parents' and students' 2010 tax returns if completed; if the 2010 returns are not yet completed, 2009 returns may be used. Because the number of computers is limited, reservations are required and must be made by Jan. 26.