January 27, 2013

Editorial: Get help with college costs


---- — The biggest obstacle to college for many people is cost, but help is available for those who are willing to look for it.

This is the time of year when money is on the mind of many high-school seniors and college students who are thinking about grad school. It is a rare student today who can make it through college without needing some kind of financial help, whether that is through scholarships, awards from colleges or loans.

The New York State Higher Education Services Corp. is pushing financial-aid awareness this month, hoping that more people will take advantage of the funds available for students and their families.

The Higher Education Services Corp. is New York’s student financial-aid agency, and its “Start Here, Get There” campaign is designed to get people to fill out what it calls “the most important tool” in securing aid: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

“Financial aid is critical to increasing college access and success, and it’s most effective when students and families learn about it early enough to make the right choices and plans to prepare for college,” said Elsa Magee, who is acting president of the Higher Education Services Corp.

If you want any kind of help with the cost of college, the first step has to be completing the FAFSA. The earlier that is done, the better the chances of receiving aid. The Higher Education Services Corp. advises students and their families to complete the form this month.

The website StartHere has been created to help people tackle the FAFSA form. The site lists local events where people can learn about financial aid and get hands-on assistance with their applications.

One of those events will be held Saturday, Feb. 2, in Potsdam, and it is open to all graduating seniors from across the North Country and their families. The College Goal NY will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Clarkson University’s Bertrand H. Snell Hall.

This is a free program, so don’t pass it up. Families must register in advance at You will be informed about what documentation to bring and everything else you need to know.

Financial-aid experts from a number of area colleges will be in Potsdam to help with both FAFSA and the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) application. Students don’t have to be applying to a certain college in order to take part.

Students and families can also get help through an online chat weekdays on, by emailing or by calling 1-800-608-1790 noon to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Don’t let a fear of the FAFSA form keep you from getting the aid that could make your college dream a reality.