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UNC Helped Lead Efforts in Development of Statewide Portal for Colorado ASSET Students

October 8, 2020

The Colorado Department of Higher Education recently announced a new online application that allows Colorado students who haven’t historically qualified for federal aid, to complete an application for state financial aid (Colorado Application for State Financial Aid (CASFA)). The University of Northern Colorado helped lead efforts in the collaboration and creation of this new unified state application.

Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow (ASSET) is a Colorado law that allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and receive the College Opportunity Fund stipend at Colorado public colleges.

Marty SomeroAfter attending a Colorado Association of Financial Aid Administrators conference and viewing a presentation by Metro State University (MSU) about their paper application for institutional aid for ASSET students, Marty Somero, UNC’s director of Financial Aid, reached out to Tom Biedscheid, Colorado State University’s director of Financial Aid. Somero shared with Biedscheid his idea of having one unified state application for ASSET students to use. The goal was to make the state financial aid application process for ASSET students easier through one application versus having to fill out multiple forms for each school the student applies to.

Somero said that both he and Biedscheid then invited the University of Colorado and MSU into the conversation, and all four university representatives agreed on the need for a statewide application. Eventually, the state mandated the use of CASFA that resulted in the unified state application for Asset students.

Once approved, UNC assisted in testing the application in its initial stages with input from UNC’s Office of Financial Aid and Information Management and Technology teams who worked closely with CDHE staff and others. The testing was successful and resulted in Colorado ASSET students being able to use the unified statewide application for the 2021-22 academic year.

“UNC remains committed to removing barriers for all of our students to pursue a higher education. This application will support our efforts in removing some of the financial barriers ASSET students face as they pursue their post-secondary education,” said Kim Medina, assistant vice president of Enrollment Management at UNC. “We know that their pursuits will not only change their lives, but the lives of their families for generations to come. UNC is fortunate to have a dedicated and innovative team of professionals in our Financial Aid office ready to help all students interested in pursuing their degree.”

According to the press release from CDHE, “In 2019, the General Assembly passed H.B. 19-1196, Financial Aid For Students With In-state Tuition, which allows state-funded financial aid to be awarded to students who do not have lawful immigration status but have resided in the state for at least three years before graduating from a Colorado high school or passing a high school equivalency exam, and admitted to a participating college within 12 months of graduating high school. They must also sign an affidavit affirming that they are seeking or will seek legal status as soon as they’re eligible. These students are historically called ASSET students after Senate Bill 13-033, Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow.”

Angie Paccione, executive director of the CDHE, says “CASFA positively supports families and is a logical next step in efforts to erase equity gaps and put college in reach for the families who benefit most from a postsecondary education. This is one example of how Colorado demonstrates its commitment to educating all of our students on their academic journey.”

The main focus of the CASFA is for Colorado ASSET students to complete the application to determine potential eligibility for institutional and state-funded financial aid. Non-U.S. citizen students can also complete the CASFA to determine their eligibility for any potential institutional aid. Institutional and state-funded financial aid, including grants and work-study funds, helps open doors to higher education for students who have attended high school in Colorado but aren’t eligible for federal financial aid.

The CASFA follows the same methodology for determining the Expected Family Contribution as exists in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and aligns with the FAFSA open and close date — a 21-month application cycle that begins on Oct. 1, nine months before the start of the award year, and ends on June 30, the last day of the award year.

Students eligible for Title IV financial aid should complete the FAFSA and not the CASFA.

More information on the CASFA

—Written by Katie Corder

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