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The FAFSA is worth it – especially now – Sentinel and Enterprise

Clantha McCurdy, Ph.D., is the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education's deputy commissioner for student access and financial aid. (MASS. DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION)

The Biden-Harris Administration has made significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that are estimated to qualify more than 600,000 additional students for Federal Pell Grants while helping 1.5 million additional students receive the maximum Pell Grant . The federal government is calling on states to help students complete this year's FAFSA – and Massachusetts is answering that call.

We know that many high school seniors in Massachusetts have had difficulty completing the FAFSA, but we want them to know that we are here to help them persevere by completing and submitting this financial aid application. Significant federal and state financial aid is available to those who qualify, and life-changing opportunities await you at Massachusetts colleges and universities.

Massachusetts has dramatically increased its investment in student financial aid, making it the fifth-largest state in increasing its investment in postsecondary education over the past five years. This allows students with the greatest financial need to receive free tuition and fees at all public colleges and universities in the state.

Thanks to an expansion by Governor Healey last year, Pell Grant-eligible students in Massachusetts can attend any of our state's public two- and four-year colleges and universities for freeā€”that is, without tuition or fees. These students may also receive a $1,200 grant for books and supplies. MASSGrant Plus also extends benefits to middle-income students or families earning between $73,000 and $100,000 per year, reducing out-of-pocket costs by up to half.

Financial support is also available for students attending private institutions in the Commonwealth. The state's largest financial aid program, MASSGrant, applies to students attending both public and private institutions in the state. We have also extended the priority deadline for applying for the MASSGrant from May 1 to July 1, 2024. Every student should complete the FAFSA and learn if they qualify for MASSGrant and MASSGrant Plus.

We also launched MassReconnect last year, meaning everyone age 25 or older without a prior college degree is eligible for free tuition and fees at our community colleges, as well as a $1,200 subsidy toward learning costs, regardless of income level.

And starting July 2023, undocumented students will be eligible for in-state tuition and can apply for state financial aid. Students who have attended high school in Massachusetts for at least three years, have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED, and meet other requirements may be eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in our state to qualify. Students can find out if they are eligible for need-based state financial aid programs at public and private institutions by completing the Massachusetts Application for State Financial Aid (MASFA), which is free and available at Mass.edu/masfa. For anyone interested, there is no reason to wait. The MASFA for the 2024-2025 academic year is currently available.

Always check with your school counselor about opportunities to learn more about applying for financial aid. There are also other resources available that can help. The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) offers in-person and online resources and information sessions found at mefa.org/fafsa. They can also be reached at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or [email protected]. Additionally, FAFSA completion events are scheduled each month; A listing can be found at masfaa.org/fafsaday/.

The Department of Higher Education's Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) is available to assist you with questions about financial aid programs, the FAFSA, and the MASFA. OSFA can be reached at (617) 391-6070 or [email protected].

Finally, I want to assure you that the Healey-Driscoll Administration is here to support you. We remain committed to promoting college access and addressing affordability concerns, and we firmly believe that every Massachusetts student who meets the requirements should be able to pursue higher education, without finances hindering him.

We firmly believe that Massachusetts is home to the best colleges in the world. But students must be able to afford to attend. Our college access and financial aid programs are designed to ensure that every student who wants to access higher education has that opportunity, and we must all work together to ensure that a challenging FAFSA season does not get in the way.

Clantha McCurdy, Ph.D., is the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education's deputy commissioner for student access and financial aid.

Anna Harden

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