Washington has one of the most generous state financial aid programs in the country due in part to the Washington College Grant. Saint Martin’s University seeks to provide resources for navigating the financial aid process and affording a college education. Staff are offering increased assistance this year, as nationally, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is delayed by changes ordered by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Catholic Benedictine university in Lacey is dedicated to providing options for students and families to fund a college education. Saint Martin’s also joined a national coalition improving financial aid, offering transparency and communications, and rolling out strategies to support students impacted by 2024-2025 FAFSA delays.

Washington College Grant Provides Free Money to Qualified Saint Martin’s University Students

The Saint Martin’s University Office of Financial Aid is committed to making college a reality for its students in their academic journey through financing assistance and support. At Saint Martin’s, 99% of first-year, full-time students receive financial aid.

One such program is the state’s Washington College Grant (WCG). The WCG provides guaranteed college and career funding to eligible Washington residents based on income data and financial aid eligibility calculated using the FAFSA or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid ( WASFA). Most institutions include this grant in their financial aid award offer. Students do not repay the grants, making them “free money” for school.

“At this time, the Washington College Grant offers up to $9,739 for a student to attend post-secondary education,” says Saint Martin’s Director of Financial Aid Erin Schaffer. “This is a generous amount of aid that can make a huge difference in a family’s ability to pay and readiness to enroll, particularly as it relates to a private college education.”

Saint Martin’s Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Patty Lemon says the grant expands post-high school options. “The Washington College Grant is one of the most generous financial aid programs in the country,” says Lemon. “Washington students and families are not aware that the grant can be used for not only public and private colleges but also for apprenticeship and certificate programs in Washington.”

Saint Martin's University building
Saint Martin’s University is one of the higher education institutions around the nation committed to the College Cost Transparency Initiative’s principles and standards in making financial aid awards. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

Saint Martin’s Joins ‘College Cost Transparency Initiative’ To Clarify Financial Aid Offers

Saint Martin’s University is among the first five institutions in Washington, and hundreds across the nation, joining the College Cost Transparency Initiative (CCT). CCT partner schools voluntarily follow principles and standards providing students financial aid offers that are clear, accurate and transparent about college costs. Lemon explains that making financial aid easier to understand empowers students and families to make informed decisions based on actual costs.

“College costs can be intimidating,” says Lemon. “Not understanding financial aid is one of the barriers that many prospective students and families face after being admitted to an institution. Saint Martin’s partnership with the College Cost Transparency reflects its commitment to supporting students and families in navigating the complexities of college costs and financial aid. This means that students will receive financial aid offers that adhere to the CCT Initiative’s principles. This includes transparent information about tuition, fees and other costs associated with attending Saint Martin’s.”

two female students sit at a classroom table with microscopes in front of them
Saint Martin’s University in Lacey offers multiple resources for students and their families to navigate the financial aid application and award process. See details on the SMU Office of Financial Aid webpage. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

Saint Martin’s University Rolls Out Strategies to Help Students Manage Federal FAFSA Delays

Saint Martin’s is also supporting students impacted by the 2024-2025 FAFSA delays. “The biggest challenges colleges and universities are faced with in relation to the FAFSA delays are pretty universal,” says Schaffer.

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) typically opens the FAFSA each October to students applying for federal financial aid. This schedule means institutions like Saint Martin’s University that use the form’s income data can make timely financial aid offers for the next academic year.

In 2020, Congress required significant changes to simplify the FAFSA and adjust the award formula. The new FAFSA was not released until the end of 2023, unfortunately giving less time for families to complete the form for 2024-2025 and for schools to make financial aid offers. And the DOE recently announced that correcting the FAFSA award formula error means schools won’t receive FAFSA data until mid-March.

Schaffer says Saint Martin’s implemented the following strategies to ease the delay’s impact:

  • Extend the University deposit deadline and FAFSA filing priority deadline to June 1, 2024.
  • Stay in regular communication with students on their financial aid offer status as the DOE provides updates.
  • Provide a Net Price Calculator for estimating costs and potential financial aid.

“We definitely do not want families to be worried! These updates and delays impact the whole of higher education in this country,” says Schaffer. “As a result, there is now a brief period of time in which schools like Saint Martin’s have the ability to utilize our position as a College Cost Transparency institution to have preliminary conversations with families to help alleviate concerns about next steps.”

To learn more, contact the Saint Martin’s University Office of Financial Aid.

Saint Martin’s University
Office of Financial Aid
5000 Abbey Way SE, Lacey