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'FAFSA Fests' open to Rochester students seeking college financial aid

Amy Stein with the Rochester Education Foundation speaks at City Hall on Jan. 10, 2024.
Noelle E. C. Evans
Amy Stein with the Rochester Education Foundation speaks at City Hall on Jan. 10, 2024.

Students in Rochester applying for college can get additional help with financial aid forms now through March.

The Rochester Education Foundation announced on Wednesday a series of “FAFSA Fest” events at public high schools and charter schools in the city. The events are designed to help students and their families navigate the new financial aid form through the U.S. Department of Education, known as FAFSA.

“We know the financial aid process can be daunting and complicated,” Superintendent Carmine Peluso said. “I am so thankful we have the resources to put students in touch with counselors who can help navigate the application process for federal aid.”

It’s the 10th year that the events have been held in Rochester, but the first since the U.S. Education Department updated the form. The application was modified in compliance with a law passed in 2020 called the FAFSA Simplification Act.

“You have experts in the room that work in financial aid that can answer a lot of the questions in regard to assets and income,” said Janee Slade, director of College Access Initiatives at the Rochester Education Foundation. “That's why these programs are so important. By making sure that the majority of the students not just start the FAFSA, but 100% completion is what we're looking for."

David Buyan, a senior at Rochester Early College International High School, filled out the new financial aid application this week.

“My family has never been to college before. I’m a first-generation college student,” Buyan said. “So, my mom never had experienced filling out the FAFSA, so I had to go right to my counselor.”

He said as intimidating as the process may seem, it’s worth taking advantage of the help that’s available. He and the guidance counselor were able to complete it within a hour, he said.

“You want to make sure that you advocate for yourself,” Buyan said. “So you get all the need that you possibly can and don't feel afraid. I know it's very challenging — trust me, I didn't know how I was going to fill it out — but when you sit down with someone who actually knows what they're doing ... it's so easy.”

Food, drinks, and the opportunity to win prizes are included in each event. Here is the FAFSA FEST schedule:

  • Wilson: 8:30 am-12:30 p.m. Jan. 11. 
  • East: 2:30-5:30 p.m. Jan. 11.
  • Vertus: 3-6 p.m. Jan. 16
  • SWW: 4-7 p.m. Jan. 17.
  • Rochester Prep: 4-7 p.m. Jan. 18.  
  • New Progressive Cathedral: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 20.
  • Northeast: 9 a.m,-noon Jan. 24.
  • School 58: 5-7 p.m. Jan. 25. 
  • Franklin: 4-6 p.m. Jan. 31.
  • Edison: 3-5 p.m. Feb. 13.
  • Hillside Work Scholarship, 1 Mustard St.: 3:30-6 p.m. Feb. 28. 
  • SOTA: 3:30-6:30 p.m. March 7.

Students and parents are encouraged to sign up for their FSA ID before attending the FAFSA Fest event.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.