ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- College-bound high school students do not need to look any further than their thumbs and cell phones for answers to their most pressing financial aid questions.
Monday, the national Get Schooled Foundation announced an expanded texting service that gives students and their families quick and personalized access to answers about college applications, scholarships and financial aid, including the notoriously confusing Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which determines eligibility for student financial assistance
Earlier this year, the organization's FAFSA text program kicked off in California with a cadre of financial aid experts fielding questions. Organizers see the nationwide expansion helping tens of thousands more families. The goal is to partner with 50 college-access organizations across the country to train volunteers who will bridge the information gap between high school and college. Get Schooled announced the expansion at the National College Access Network conference in Orlando, Fla.
"As college has become a critical stepping stone in preparing for career and life, it is important that all students can get their questions answered so they can make informed decisions," Marie Groark, Get Schooled's executive director said. "At Get Schooled we believe passionately in meeting students where they are with the expertise they need."
Through the program, any student in the United States can text 335577, in either Spanish or English. So far, questions have ranged from the simple, such as ways to gain access to FAFSA forms, to the complicated, involving U.S. citizenship and immigration status.
The program comes at a time when families are leaning on college financial aid to make it through higher education, but applications and forms are more confusing than ever. College costs are sky rocketing and the national student loan debt load is at a tipping point, but a growing number of students simply don't apply for aid.
"FAFSA is hard because families are complicated, and the thought of getting your family sorted out on that form is intimidating," Groark said.