Lela to college-bound students: There's financial aid available. Apply now!

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The Louisiana Education Loan Authority (Lela) has a simple message for college-bound students: financial aid is available, and now is the time to apply.

But, students need to act quickly, and Lela can help, with free workshops, resources and even several chances to win numerous scholarships – worth $10,000 in all.

With financial aid application deadlines approaching, Lela, Louisiana's non-profit resource for college planning, is using the months of February and March to spread the word that, with $150 billion in federal aid available, no student should avoid college for financial reasons.

Lela works through high school guidance counselors, legislators and college administrators to spread the word about the availability of funds and the need for students and their parents to act quickly if they want to secure and be considered for all funds in time to enter college in the fall of 2013. For these students, most universities recommend completing the U.S. Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March 1 to be considered for financial aid.

Governor Bobby Jindal recently designated February as Financial Aid Awareness Month, encouraging "Louisiana institutions, foundations, governmental agencies and private community organizations … to promote and develop effective programs pertinent to student financial aid."

"A lot of families don't bother to apply for college aid, thinking that they won't qualify. We want all families to know that aid is available, no matter their income. Students could qualify for "free money," such as Pell Grants. They can also apply for a student loan, which can defer payments while students are in school," said Joni Leggio, Lela Assistant Vice President for Marketing. "There really are so many ways to finance a college education and to find options that are appropriate for each student."

Lela recommends parents prepare tax forms early and complete the FAFSA at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA is used to determine if students qualify for grants or loans.

This spring, in conjunction with Financial Aid Awareness Month and Financial Literacy Month, Lela is launching free FAFSA Completion Workshops at high schools, upon request. It's also offering free one-on-one assistance in filing the FAFSA. Those needing assistance simply have to contact Lela at info@lela.org or (800) 228-4755 (toll free) to schedule an appointment.

In addition to pointing students in the direction of student aid, Lela is again awarding scholarships -- $10,000 in all -- to assist with college expenses, with $6,000 reserved for top essays and videos answering the question, "What's Your College Game Plan?" First-, second- and third-place entries in each category will receive awards, with the first-place video and essay winners receiving the grand prize of $1,500 each.

The remaining $4,000 in the fund will go to eight, $500 winners, selected through random drawings. Students register for the drawings at the Lela table at a FAFSA workshop or online at www.GoFAAM.com. The deadline to enter is March 31.

Lela maintains a statewide calendar of free workshops and events, free resources and valuable links online at www.GoFAAM.com. The nonprofit provides frequent updates on this website and through its Facebook and Twitter feeds at http://www.facebook.com/AskLela and https://twitter.com/AskLela.

The Louisiana Education Loan Authority (Lela), a division of the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority (LPFA), is Louisiana's non-profit resource for college planning. Lela's mission is to develop projects and programs to make higher education more accessible to the people of Louisiana. LELA has assisted more than 400,000 students since 1984. Find more information at http://www.lela.org.