RICHMAND, Virginia (WRIC) – At the Virginia Science Museum on Saturday, volunteers handed out free food, enjoyed music from the presiding DJ – and helped local students fill out a bunch of federal documents.
The FAFSA / VASA Pop-Up Party was created by The College Place, a group that helps students seeking higher education, and the Virginia State Board of Higher Education (SCHEV).
Tomika Brown, director of The College Place, said their focus was on helping students and parents navigate the complex process of applying for state and federal funds.
“We provide individual support to FAFSA and VASA, and so we have volunteers from across the state who are committed to sitting down and helping students with this information,” she said. “And then we have a fair of opportunities with more than 30 colleges and universities.”
Anyone who has applied for college since 1992 (or helped a child in the process) is familiar with the dreaded form of FAFSA, which can be difficult to fill for first-generation families unfamiliar with higher education.
But less familiar with the VASA (Virginia Alternative State Aid) app.
“This is for students who can’t complete FAFSA,” said SCHEV Assistant Director Erin McGrath. “Undocumented students and students who have a DACA, among others.”
But while subsidized loans and grants can change the lives of many students, Brown said there are problems.
“We are seeing a decline in the number of FAFSA completions,” she said. “This year they are lower than in the past and previous.”
In addition to initiatives such as the Pop-Up Party, they are also working on a number of other initiatives to help increase those numbers.