Program offers FAFSA help

Mark Schuster

One of the most difficult parts of college enrollment is about to get easier.

College Goal Sunday, an event designed specifically to help students complete their FAFSA will be held in the Billingsly Student Center from 2-4 p.m. Sunday.

This will be the second year for the event to be held in Missouri. In 2004, eight universities across Missouri were chosen to host the event, the closest to Joplin being Drury University in Springfield. This year, that number has increased to 23, with Missouri Southern among those chosen.

Cheryl Dobson, financial aid counselor and coordinator of the event for Southern, said she has high hopes for the success of the program.

“If the numbers show that this is a popular site, and a used site, the chances of being offered the event again next year would increase,” Dobson said.

She said the event is not about the promotion of any particular college, and volunteers have to wear neutral clothing with no indication of the institution they represent.

“The goal is to educate students on financial aid, not a particular college,” Dobson said.

She said there are nearly 20 volunteers lined up to help from several area colleges.

“There are people coming to help from Vatterott College, Crowder College, Cottey College, Ozark Christian College, Southern and Franklin Tech,” Dobson said. “Statewide, financial aid departments are a close-knit group who are always willing to come together to do an event like this.”

The event is scheduled from 2-4 p.m., but students will be able to work at their own pace.

Dobson said there will be two 20-minute presentations offered, one at 2:45, and the other at 3:15. Other than that, students can come and go as they please.

While the event is geared towards high-school seniors, Dobson said the door is open to anyone who would like assistance with the FAFSA.

“Southern students are more than welcome to come and use the system. Even though they are familiar with the FAFSA, they can come and have online help,” she said.

Current Neosho high-school senior Heather Schuster, who spent last year dual-enrolled at Crowder College, has already had to deal with the FAFSA and knows how complicated it can be.

“I had to fill it out on my own last year, and it took forever,” Schuster said. “It felt like a giant puzzle that I had to finish, but I didn’t have all the pieces.”

She said she knew about the event last year, but DU was too far away to make it worthwhile.

“Eventually, I did get it figured out on my own, but if the event had been held in Joplin instead of Springfield, I would have been there in a heartbeat,” Schuster said.

Students can pre-register online at, although pre-registration is not required.

Participants should bring the following documents and information to the event:

2004 Federal tax records

Social Security Number

Driver’s license (if applicable)

2004 W-2 forms and other records of money earned

2004 untaxed income records and social security, temporary assistance to needy families, welfare or veterans benefits records

2004 bank statements

2004 business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records

Alien registration card (if not a U.S. citizen)While judging potential turnout is difficult, Dobson is confident the event will be a success.

“We’ll have some good people there who can answer the more difficult questions,” she said. “We don’t know how many people will show up, but we’re ready.”