The University of Texas-Pan American's Financial Aid Office will host its annual Financial Aid Fun Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in the University Ballroom.
Staffers will be on hand to help students and their parents with the financial aid application process and answer questions on different types of financial aid, including grants, loans and work-study.
"We want to make parents and students aware that the time to apply for financial aid is now," said Arnold Trejo, director of the Financial Aid Office at UT Pan American. "Hopefully, we can make the financing of higher education fun for them." Volunteers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program also will be at the fair to assist students and their parents in filling out income tax forms, which are required for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
"We'll also have financial aid counselors who will help students and their parents on a one-to-one basis to address specific needs," Trejo said.
About 20 local and national lending institutions are scheduled to have booths at the event, and representatives from all six of UTPA's academic colleges will be available to address specific program questions and career choices.
High school students, bused in from more than 10 school districts across the Valley, will begin arriving at about 9 a.m. In addition to financial aid assistance, the students also will go on tours of the university campus.
"We do this fair annually because we want to get the word out on the different types of financial aid programs," Trejo said. "We recognize that the student aid process is a complex and lengthy one, and we invite area high school students as well as our students here on campus. We want to help everyone that we can.
"We know that students are making a lot of decisions in terms of what institutions to attend and what methods to use to finance their education," he said. "That's our primary intent for the fair, to help students out with this information so they can make good, sound decisions in selecting higher education opportunities."
The fair will also feature snacks and drawings for door prizes and scholarships. Last year's Financial Aid Fair drew slightly more than 2,500 participants, and Trejo said he expects as many, if not more, participants at this year's fair.
The fair is part of Financial Aid Awareness Month, February. Financial aid administrators statewide are encouraging students to apply early for financial aid.
"Some grants and even work-study jobs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis," Trejo said. "The sooner you apply in the award year, the stronger are your chances of getting a very satisfactory package.
"We strongly encourage students and their parents to mail the FAFSA or file the electronic FAFSA no later than Feb. 28," he said. "The institutional deadline is April 15, and students should file the application with the U.S. Department of Education by mail or electronically by Feb. 28 to give us time to process it and offer a reasonable financial aid award."
Trejo urges students to take advantage of the university's Financial Aid Express workshops, at which students can file the FAFSA electronically.
For more information on the Financial Aid Fair and the free workshops, call 956/381-2999.