WARWICK-- The College Planning Center of Rhode Island (CPCRI) will extend operating hours beginning Jan. 4, 2011 to accommodate the rush of students and parents scurrying to get their Free Application for Federal Student Aid - more commonly referred to as the FAFSA - and other financial aid forms submitted prior to college deadlines.
Completing financial aid forms is a major hurdle for students seeking a higher education. The College Planning Center helps families understand their options for paying for college and assists them with filing cumbersome financial aid forms. All of the College Planning Center’s services are provided free-of-charge by the non-profit Rhode Island Student Loan Authority.
Student and parents can submit the FAFSA for the 2011/12 academic year on or after Jan. 1, 2011. Many schools require students to file their forms as soon as February 1, but students should check with their schools to be sure they understand their deadlines. “Families come to us absolutely baffled by these forms. The FAFSA is often seen as more complex than tax forms and students and parents can easily be overwhelmed,” says David DeBlois, Director of the College Planning Center of Rhode Island. “Families should know that there is free help available and they don’t need to struggle with these forms,” he continues.
Last year, RISLA and the College Planning Center established the Latino College Access Coalition, an initiative that helps Rhode Island’s fastest growing population get the support and assistance it needs to overcome barriers to higher education. As part of the initiative, the College Planning Center offers bilingual assistance through its Providence office, helping Spanish-speaking students and parents submit the FAFSA and better understand financial aid.
“Filing financial aid forms is a particularly daunting task for first generation college students and students from underserved areas,” states Charles P. Kelley, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority. “At the College Planning Center, we want to help all students access the same opportunities.”
The CPCRI’s flagship location recently re-opened in a larger office at the Warwick Mall. The new location can be accessed by an exterior entrance between Sports Authority and Liberty Travel. Beginning on Jan. 4, 2011, the extended hours for Warwick are noon to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Bristol office hours will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Cumberland will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and Providence office hours will be from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students and parents are encourage to make an appointment online at www.collegeplanningcenter.org  or call 401-736-3170.
The CPCRI, a free service of the non-profit Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, has been providing expert in-person and web-based college planning guidance to students and parents since 1998. The CPCRI offers one-on-one college planning counseling, informational seminars, and online tools to promote college planning and financial aid awareness among Rhode Islanders. During the 2009/10 academic year, the College Planning Center made nearly 7,000 contacts with students and parents looking for assistance with the college planning and financial aid process. For more information, please visit www.collegeplanningcenter.org .