Students get help filing for financial aid - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Students get help filing for financial aid

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YAKIMA, Wash.-- College tuition is skyrocketing for most schools, so now more than ever people are turning to financial aid.

Sunday, Yakima Valley Community College hosted "College Goal Sunday," an event aimed at helping students apply for federal dollars.

"We need financial aid money because the economy is bad right now and so it's kind of hard to get money," said Kassandra Pena of Yakima.

Pena and her mother walked in to YVCC's Deccio Higher Education Center hoping to get a lot of money in federal and state aid.

About 14 million other students around the country also fill out the, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to apply for their share of the $150 billion the Department of Education has to give out.

"It's one application that's used in all 50 states. So just one application, you're applying for all the free money that you can," said Laura Pendleton, director of financial aid at YVCC.

Pendleton says the event was a way for YVCC to help students fill out the FAFSA correctly. A lot of the times students and their parents know about the form but can be intimidated by it.

"Really the goal is to make people aware that the financial aid application is available and that they should be applying right now," said Pendleton.

The FAFSA makes a student eligible for several different state and federal grants. Once you fill it out, you're given an expected family contribution number that your school uses to determine how much money you need.

Pendleton says these days the competition for all that federal money can be pretty stiff.

"The difficult part is that there are so many people back in school right now, they're all competing for the same dollars," Pendleton said.

"I have to get that money. So then there's like other kids that need it too so it's going to be a competition," said Pena.

They recommend you fill out the FAFSA as early as possible.

Pendleton says the earlier you fill it out the more money the school has to give you.

But every school has a different deadline so check with your school to make sure you don't miss your opportunity. 

"If you wait too long, you have missed out on a lot of state and institutional dollars," said Pendleton.