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College Goal Sunday in Putnam

ELEANOR, W.Va. -- Jim Cliffton got about halfway through his daughter's financial aid application before realizing he needed help.

"I had questions that I felt better about asking someone rather than finding the answers online," he said.

Cliffton, of Liberty, and his wife Tammy sat with their college-bound daughter Lilli at the Putnam Career and Technical Center during College Goal Sunday, waiting for help with the lengthy forms.

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission set up 23 locations around the state to help students and their families complete the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA).

"A big percentage of [those in attendance] are first-generation college students. We see that statewide," said Karen Martin, with the education commission. "No one in their family has ever had to do this before."

Filling out a FAFSA can be an overwhelming experience, Martin said, noting parents can often be hesitant to give out personal information.

"Oh my goodness, it's overwhelming," said Linda Johns, who sat at a computer with her son Steven Nichols, 18. "We want to do it right."

Students must fill out the application to find out whether they are eligible for grants and loans to help cover college tuition.

"A lot [of students] aren't aware of what's available to them," said Debbie Moore, who handles financial aid at Putnam's technical center.

However, Beth Conner, of Winfield, does. She came Sunday to fill out the application for her daughter.

"I don't want to mess anything up for her," Conner said, pointing at her West Virginia Wesleyan College sweatshirt. "We have to apply every year."

Conner said she's not very computer savvy and always finds a place that offers help with the application. With college being so expensive, it's a must for the family, she said.

"It's nice for Mom and Dad's pocketbook," she said with a laugh. "When I saw in the newspaper it'd be here, I said, 'Yes! What a relief.'"

This is the first year the education commission has held a workshop in Putnam, according to Martin.

"We've had a really good turnout," she said. "He's number 34," Martin said while leaning over Nicholas Courtney to help him start the application process.

Courtney, 18, who attends Winfield High School and also the Putnam Career and Technical Center for classes, hopes to attend Kanawha Valley Community Technical College after he graduates this spring.

"Because of the trade school here I already have 30 hours of college credit," Courtney said. "My teacher was talking about this would be Sunday and I said, 'Oh I still need to fill those out.' "

Reach Kate White at or 304-348-1723. 



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