Every year, tens of thousands of Hoosiers take an important and necessary step to become eligible for financial aid to help fund post-secondary education. But this year, the number of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicants is down significantly, and the April 15th deadline for generous State of Indiana grant aid is rapidly approaching. Residents across Indiana need to know they have a nonprofit ally ready to help them secure funds for education beyond high school.

While students and families across Indiana engage in college planning every year, 2021 is different. Many in the area have experienced job losses, unexpected expenses are derailing plans, and in a recent survey more than three-quarters (77%) of Hoosiers said they believe the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn has pushed higher education further out of reach.

That’s troubling news, but even now there’s still a great deal of need-based financial aid available to Hoosiers willing to take the short amount of time required to complete the FAFSA. This one application is the key to accessing a wide variety of financial aid and unlocking the door to post-secondary education with the least amount of debt possible.

As Indiana’s only state-created nonprofit dedicated to financial aid literacy, it’s our mission to help Hoosiers wisely plan and pay for education beyond high school. Here are a few key actions – and free resources – people should know about:

The most important thing students and families can do is complete the FAFSA by April 15th. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education distributes more than $350 million dollars in need-based financial aid. The FAFSA is mandatory to accessing those funds.  We’re helping families across the state at no cost, and we want to help all families that need it. They can reach our experts at (317) 715-9007 or via email at Outreach@INvestEdIndiana.org.

It’s never too soon to begin applying for scholarships and a key step for eligibility many times is…you guessed it…completing the FAFSA. Students and families are often surprised by the number of local businesses, community foundations, church groups and places of employment that offer scholarships. And colleges and universities also offer merit aid to students. We help Hoosiers find scholarships and more information is available at www.investedindiana.org/resources/for-families.

Workers looking to skill up through free state training programs must also complete the FAFSA. Indiana’s Workforce Ready Grant (WRG) program enables Hoosiers to access tuition-free certificate programs in high-wage, high-demand careers including: Advanced Manufacturing; Building & Construction; Health & Life Sciences; IT & Business Services; and Transportation and Logistics. It’s all part of Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs program and our team can provide Hoosiers free guidance on how to complete the WRG application.

We strongly encourage students and families to exhaust all sources of funding that don’t have to be repaid such as grants, scholarships, and institutional financial aid before applying for any student loans. Even at a time when conversations are swirling in Washington, DC regarding loan forgiveness, student loans should be viewed as the last piece of the puzzle. If a loan truly is needed, Hoosiers can utilize us to discuss the responsible education lending options that may be right for them.

We believe education beyond high school is more important than ever, but we realize many families do not know where to turn in navigating financial aid options, particularly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighty-one percent of Hoosiers think more state residents would pursue post-secondary education if they knew they had a free, trusted resource to help them plan and avoid student loan debt. The good news: they absolutely do. 

Four decades ago, Indiana policymakers created INvestEd to assist Hoosiers in wisely financing their post-secondary education dreams. That is our singular focus and mission as Indiana’s only nonprofit financial aid literacy and student loan organization.

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