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Have financial need? Tell FSU, and your application fee will be waived

By Claire McNeill
LARA CERRI | Times (2004)
Florida State University's campus

With an eye toward increased access for underrepresented students, Florida State University is waiving its $30 application fee for prospective students who tell the university they have financial need.

In the past, FSU hopefuls had to jump a few hurdles to get the fee waived. They had to go to their guidance counselor and request paperwork. They had to make sure they tracked down all of the right signatures and materials, then send them by mail or fax to FSU.

Now FSU will take needy students at their word.

"We have a responsibility to increase access for first-generation and underrepresented students in our university community," said admissions director Hege Ferguson in a news release. "We feel obligated to remove as many barriers as possible to the admissions process, which reduces anxiety and increases participation."

The school will also begin letting prospective students self-report SAT and ACT scores, making FSU the first school in the state to offer that option.

Normally, students have to pay testing companies to send scores to universities. But FSU will only require official scores once students start the enrollment process -- saving money for many others.

School officials hope the changes reduce some of the financial stress on students at an already-hectic time.

Just a few days remain in FSU’s first admissions window. Students who apply by Nov. 1 will get an early admission decision by Jan. 25.

"As a public university, we need to be very cognizant about the cost of applying and going to college," Ferguson said. "Some families may not be able to afford the $30 application fee or the cost of sending all their test scores to Florida State. Now, those extra costs are no longer barriers."

FSU officials also said the university will participate in the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, a group of prestigious institutions across the country that helps underrepresented students prepare for college much earlier.

The coalition guides students as they start setting aside essays and other application materials in a digital "locker" starting as early as ninth grade. Teachers, mentors and parents can access the locker, too, and eventually, students can apply to any of the 134 participating institutions.

Locally, the Univeresity of South Florida generally recommends that students submit specific paperwork to get application fees waived, but said that their admissions director will consider waiver requests "based on evidence that the fee creates severe financial hardship and serves as a deterrent to your ability to seek admission to USF."