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Financial aid workshops can help parents figure the cost of college

Fran Tate, center, listens with other parents as Jackie LaTorella, the director of financial aid at Alonso High School, talks during the school’s Financial Aid Night this month. Five additional sessions are planned in January at Hillsborough County schools.

TYLER TJOMSLAND | Times

Fran Tate, center, listens with other parents as Jackie LaTorella, the director of financial aid at Alonso High School, talks during the school’s Financial Aid Night this month. Five additional sessions are planned in January at Hillsborough County schools.

TAMPA

The applications are in and the essays written, but how will you pay for college?

Hillsborough County School District officials can help you figure it out.

Five financial aid workshops are planned in January at high schools.

University financial aid representatives will be on hand to explain the centralized system known as FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

FAFSA is now a requirement for students who wish to use Bright Futures grants.

That change was one of several that came out of the last Legislative session. In addition, Bright Futures recipients have greater community service requirements, and higher SAT scores are expected of some recipients after 2013.

As the FAFSA must be error-free, families will appreciate the opportunity to learn step-by-step how to apply.

They'll also learn how colleges calculate aid packages, as well as other sources of state and federal aid.

While the gatherings are aimed primarily at high school seniors, all are invited. "Some people want to get a jump-start," said Frances Otero, the district's supervisor of career and post-secondary guidance.

The workshops are happening at a time of widespread concern about the cost of higher education.

The College Board estimated recently that the cost of studying and living on campus at the average public university rose by 5.4 percent since last year for in-state students.

With the economy continuing to lag in Florida, more and more families are finding a four-year college to be out of reach. The state's Bright Futures program is awarding less money, with more community service requirements.

Often, Otero said, parents underestimate the full cost of sending a child to college.

"A lot of people think it is all tuition," she said. "They don't think about books and fees, travel to and from, and all the incidentals. Even if you want to join a sorority or a fraternity. It all adds up."

In fact, economic difficulties have caused many families to take a closer look at two-year community colleges.

"There are more kids doing the Hillsborough Community College route," she said. "There are kids looking at living at home and going that route. And a lot of kids already have a job, and they don't want to give it up."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at sokol@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3356.

>>fast facts

Workshop schedule

Financial Aid Nights are planned at these Hillsborough County public high schools. All events start at 7 p.m.

Jan. 10: Jefferson High School, 4401 W Cypress St.

Jan. 12: Brandon High School, 1101 Victoria St., Brandon

Jan. 24: Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Road., Riverview

Jan. 26: Gaither High School, 16200 N Dale Mabry Highway

Jan. 31: Hillsborough High School, 5000 N Central Ave.

Financial aid workshops can help parents figure the cost of college 12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 3:30am]

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