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Onward We Learn hosting outdoor event open to any R.I. high school senior for completing financial aid application

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Oct. 1, 2020): The Onward We Learn of Rhode Island will host a Fall FAFSA Fest this month to help Rhode Island high school seniors apply for federal financial aid.

The free event will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, under tents at the BankNewport City Center – Providence Rink at 2 Kennedy Plaza, Providence. Seniors from any Rhode Island high school are welcome and must make an appointment online at bit.ly/2Rw9GUd. This event will comply with all state COVID-19 safety guidance and all participants must wear masks and social distance. Appointments will last 30 to 45 minutes.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for 2021-22 opens today, and completing FAFSA is the first step in applying for financial aid. Students also must complete the form to qualify for state and institutional funding, as well as some scholarships. The Onward We Learn helps nearly 400 seniors enrolled in its program complete their FAFSA form annually. 

“Every year, millions of eligible students who do not complete FAFSA miss out on receiving Pell Grants, subsidized student loans, work-study, and other aid that can help them afford college. This year, it’s more important than ever that we all work together to ensure students get the aid they qualify for,” said Andrew Bramson, the Onward We Learn’s president and CEO. “This event could bring more than a half-million dollars in financial aid to Rhode Island students.”

The organization typically holds FAFSA completion nights for Onward We Learnrs in its office but had to change tack this fall because of COVID-19. “We don’t want to lose momentum because FAFSA completion is too important. Governor Raimondo has encouraged us all to be creative with the ‘Take It Outside’ campaign and doing so has given us the opportunity to open our event to all Rhode Island high school seniors,” he said.

The state has set a goal of 70 percent FAFSA completion at every public high school. Rhode Island ranks sixth in the nation for 2020-21 FAFSA completion, tied with Connecticut at 70.6 percent.

Studies show that students who could most benefit from financial aid are less likely to apply. A 2017 paper commissioned by the National College Attainment Network found that that high school seniors in higher-poverty school districts in most states are less likely to complete the FAFSA than students in wealthier districts.

“This fall, low-income students have been more likely to drop out of college, take a reduced course load or not enroll at all. This jeopardizes their futures and, potentially, the long-term economic well-being of our state,” Bramson said. “Students who complete FAFSA are far more likely to enroll in college immediately after high school graduation, and their rate of persistence increases with every additional $1,000 in grant aid they receive. So there are real consequences when students don’t complete FAFSA.”

The event is made possible in part through contributions from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Cox Charities and the City of Providence, which donated the space.

Students attending the Onward We Learn’s Fall FAFSA Fest should bring only one parent or guardian and:

  • Their FSA ID, which they and one parent or guardian can create at fsaid.ed.gov.
  • Their Social Security number and driver’s license and/or alien registration number.
  • Their 2019 federal income tax returns, W-2 forms and other records of earnings, if applicable.
  • Their parents’ or guardians’ 2019 income tax returns and W-2 forms.


Participants should dress for the weather, as the event will be outdoors. Restrooms will be available. Students or parents with questions should contact Sarah Lessard at slessard@onwardwelearn.org.

The Onward We Learn supports more than 4,000 students in middle school, high school and college each year with one-on-one advising and year-round programs that focus on academic enrichment, social and emotional development, career education, and postsecondary preparation to help them become the first in their families to earn a college degree.