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Agency works to get more college-bound Louisianans to apply for federal aid

Louisiana has a dismal track record in the number of college-bound students who fill out the free application for federal student aid or FAFSA. A Louisiana nonprofit aims to change that. Employees of the Louisiana Education Loan Authority or LELA have done dozens of FAFSA workshops at high schools across the state in recent weeks. LELA's assistant vice president of marketing, Joni Leggio, said the FAFSA priority deadline at many colleges is April 1, and now is the right time to complete the form.

“It goes hand in hand with filling out your taxes," Leggio said. "Families are getting their tax information, and that information will be needed to fill out the application for federal student aid."

Leggio said $150 billion in financial aid is up for grabs through the federal government. Oftentimes, she said, families don’t fill out a FAFSA because they think their income is too high to qualify for aid. But she said another reason is that many families just don’t understand this procedure since they’ve never had a college-bound student.

“Their parents may not have attended college. They may be the first in their family that will be attending college, and they’re really at a loss," Leggio said.

LELA created a scholarship contest to draw attention to the FAFSA. The organization is awarding $10,000 of scholarships through the campaign. The theme of the contest is “What’s your college game plan?” LELA is accepting essays and homemade videos on the topic. The entry deadline is March 31.