Life in the FAFSA lane can look grim

Courtney Kerrigan


Life in the FAFSA lane can look grim

Experts and students weigh in on alternative ways to get financial aid without help from the FAFSA.

Experts and students weigh in on alternative ways to get financial aid without help from the FAFSA

It’s around that time when students start filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid with hopes of plugging in all the right numbers that will land them enough money to suffice their next year of college.

For some students though, filling out the FAFSA form will offer nothing but wasted time.

Joshua Gautsche, sophomore computer information systems major, said he hasn’t received any financial aid because of a low grade point average.

“My first semester of my freshman year, I was an architecture major, and it devastated my grades and I haven’t gotten anything because of it,” Gautsche said. “I’ve applied every year through FAFSA, but I don’t know any other way to get aid.”

Like Gautsche, many students are not aware of alternative financial aid options available other than through FAFSA.

Kent State’s financial aid Web site,, offers information on scholarships through its Scholarship Search Qualifier and links students to outside resources such as, and These financial aid Web sites allow students to customize their searches and sift through scholarships.

“I usually use, and I’ve gotten one scholarship for $500,” said Nikki Gilmore, senior integrated health science major. “You have to fight to the nail for it, though, if you don’t want to take out loans.”

Students can search for scholarships on for departmental scholarships, new freshman scholarships and a general search throughout Kent State. Scholarship deadlines are in early spring for next school year.

There are more than 600 scholarships through the university ranging from the Honors College, athletics, band, art and many other departments on campus, said Mark Evans, student financial aid director.

“We’re trying to centralize one database with all of those scholarships,” Evans said. “To go outside of that, it’s a time consuming project and you have to be willing to persist in that process.” 

Private scholarships are also helpful alternatives to FAFSA that students tend to forget about. These come from businesses, high school booster clubs, rotary clubs and other organizations. Students bring in about $3 million from outside scholarships to Kent State, Evans said.

He added some good places to start looking for awards are Google, Kent’s financial aid Web site and around students’ hometowns or through their own families in terms of employers or associations they might belong to.

“Right now is financial aid awareness time, so now is the time to go out and research,” Evans said. “And having technology to sift through everything is priceless.”

Evans said families are considering using a private or alternative loan through their local bank as a last resort. Yet, he added, not all banks offer that service.

While loans can help students afford college, Jeannette Jones, student financial aid associate director, said students should start with the FAFSA form.

“We encourage students to always file the FAFSA, even if they don’t think they’re eligible for aid because we know they will qualify for an unsubsidized loan,” Jones said.

Unsubsidized loans are loans the government will not pay the interest on while students are in college, Jones said.

She added if students feel that they have exhausted all possibilities, then the office will suggest an alternative loan, which the average student at Kent State will need a cosigner for, either a parent or a relative.

There are about 9,000 more Kent State students applying for financial aid through FAFSA today than there were one year ago, Evans said.

This number comes from an increased enrollment, families needing more financial aid because of the economy and the overall promotion of financial aid availability.

Both Evans and Jones encouraged students to visit the financial aid office located in Michael Schwartz Center. If students have any questions, they can also log onto their FlashLine account and click on the financial aid tab to review their summaries.

“Financial aid is complex and we are using everything we can to simplify the process by using technology and making staffs available,” Evans said.

Contact student finance reporter Courtney Kerrigan at [email protected].