Feldbush helps seniors navigate financial aid

While many seniors are writing names of the colleges they have been accepted to on the media-center window, some face difficulty completing their college applications due to family circumstances. 

“[In order] to receive your financial aid offer with your admissions decision, seniors submit a FAFSA form,” College and Career Counselor Angela Feldbush said. “The FAFSA essentially summarizes your family’s financial situation and gives a recommendation as to the level of support that the kid can expect”

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, an integral part of the application process, can be an asset to students, providing them with financial resources such as federal Pell Grants and other aid opportunities to mitigate the burden of college costs on families, but the process isn’t always easy. 

“[It] seems like it should be pretty straightforward,” Feldbush said. “And it is as long as you meet a very narrow set of criteria: If you’re a child with two parents, you live with both of them all the time, and they don’t have any small businesses or extra income.”

For the seniors who do not fit that criteria, the process has been anything but straightforward.

“I don’t have any ongoing contact with my dad right now,” senior Ryan Canavan said. “It’s kind of hard to report my dad’s tax information when I can’t even get in touch with him to connect him to my FAFSA.”

Although these circumstances may seem uncommon, Feldbush said such situations are far from rare. 

“Hardly anybody fits all of those criteria,” she said. “When I started this, I thought it would be mostly, you know, a kid who lives with mom or lives with dad and a divorce situation, but that’s a pretty straightforward scenario compared to some of the things that people have going on. [Instead, many situations involve] income coming from different places, or the failure to have access to one of the parents to get information from them.”

Some situations have left Feldbush, who is in the first year of her newly created position, seeking help from others. 

“I really do literally Google every question that families ask me,” she said. “I don’t want to tell them that this is the thing to do if I don’t know that that’s the right answer. Because if I tell them, ‘oh, you don’t need financial information on your mom,’ and they do, then I might be really putting them in a bad situation by giving them bad advice.”

As a result, Feldbush has reached out to financial advisers at many Florida colleges, so she can walk families through every step of the process.

“I’ve reached out to financial aid advisers at Kaiser and [Florida Tech], trying to figure out what the right answers are,” she said. “I’ve reached out to the district. I’ve reached out to other people at the school. I just keep trying to make sure that I’m getting the correct information to provide to our students.”

Her efforts have already paid off for Canavan. 

“The school has really been helping me out with the whole process,” he said. “Mrs. Feldbush has especially helped me, going through my college essay, walking me through submitting on CommonApp, and helping us figure out how to complete the FAFSA, with my current family situation. I am really grateful for her.”

Although Feldbush can only help seniors one-on-one, she has advice for all students who are facing challenges with the FAFSA process. 

“Just start at the beginning and get them the information you have and follow through with the questions that you can answer,” she said. “There are procedures in place, and we will help guide kids through the process as best we can. We want to do what’s best for [them]. That’s why we’re here.”

By Aidan Meyers