Listed here are helpful answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Free College benefit and our current online program offerings. For more information or additional support, call us at 888-590-9009.

+ What is the Free College Benefit?

The Free College Benefit is an investment in you and your future.  With the Free College Benefit, union members and their families do not have to pay out of pocket for any tuition, fees, or e-books for select programs at participating schools—resulting in cost savings of thousands of dollars!

The benefit works as a “last-dollar scholarship”, or institutional grant, that is intended to fill the gap between any federal, state, or employer education grants you receive and the cost of tuition, fees, and e-books for certain online programs at participating.  It does require an investment of your time and attention!

Students may enroll from anywhere in the country.  Online programs are offered from participating schools, including Central State University (OH), Franklin University (OH), Paul Quinn College (TX), and Eastern Gateway Community College (OH).  Not all programs offered by all schools are covered by the Free College Benefit.  The Student Resource Center’s Admissions Counselors (OPEIU 792) will help you determine the best plan for you.

+ Who can receive the Free College Benefit?

The Free College Benefit is open to members in good standing, who are full dues-paying members, retiree members, and their families. Family of AFSCME members are defined as children (or stepchildren), grandchildren (or step-grandchildren), spouses, domestic partners, financial dependents, siblings, and parents.

Your union defines who can take advantage of the scholarship and your union verifies membership and eligibility. A financial dependent is someone for whom you have financial responsibility.  We do not assess the level of financial dependence or the definition of a domestic partner.  Family members do not have to live with you and there is no age limit for the scholarship.  And there is no limit to the number of family members who can enroll and receive the scholarship!

+ Is this for real?

It is for real and students have been taking advantage of this great opportunity since Fall 2015. Over 100,o00 students saved more than $300 million dollars in tuition, fees, and book since we launched the program.

Eligibility requires that potential students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as well as apply for and use any employer or military tuition reimbursement or assistance for which they have eligibility. Once the FAFSA is completed, the college may request additional documentation, for a process called verification that is required by the US Department of Education. All students must comply with the document requests in order to complete the financial aid process to determine eligibility for federal aid.

The Free College benefit will cover the rest of the cost of tuition, fees, and e-books for participating online programs

+ What do I do next?

Submit an inquiry form to the college and begin the application process. You may also call 888-590-9009 to talk to an enrollment advisor.

+ Why do I have to complete the FAFSA if it’s free?

While the Free College benefit means you can attend a participating college online with no out-of-pocket cost, it does require an investment of your time.

The Free College benefit is a last-dollar scholarship; therefore, you are required to first use any federal or state aid you may receive toward your tuition, fees, and e-books. The amount of scholarship can only be determined after you complete the FAFSA. You will not be asked to take out any loans.

This means it is free to you and there is no out-of-pocket cost for tuition, fees, or e-books.  The “last dollar” scholarship means it covers the difference in what you have available for grants in state or federal aid, and the tuition, fees, and e-books.  It does not cover pencils, computers, computer access, internet, etc.  It also does not cover parking or professional fees, etc.

+ Can I use the Free College Benefit at more than one institution?

Students may not attend more than one school concurrently.

+ I have additional expenses (need a new computer, school supplies, etc.). May I take out a Federal Student loan to cover these costs?

If you are utilizing the Free College Benefit, your school may allow you to borrow up to $1,000 in Federal Student loans (if eligible) to help offset additional education-related expenses. While you may qualify for Federal Loan funding in excess of $1,000, should you elect to request more, you will forfeit your eligibility for the Free College Benefit*. This policy aligns with a primary goal of the Free College Program, which is to ensure that students are able to earn a degree with minimal or zero loan debt upon completion of their program.

*Rare and extenuating circumstances will be considered as an exception to this policy. In order to be considered for a one-time exception, you must submit a request in writing to the Financial Aid Office. The request must be signed, dated, and state (in detail): 1) the reason you are seeking an exception to the $1,000 loan limit, 2) the loan amount that you are requesting, and 3) an itemization of anticipated expenses that you intend to make with the additional funding. All requests will be reviewed, and if circumstances warrant, approved for a one-time authorization for funds in excess of the program loan limit ($1,000). Please note that an expense such as ‘needing a new computer’ may be covered by the existing program loan limit, and is not considered as part of an extenuating circumstance exception.

+ How do I maintain my Free College benefit?

Once you receive the Free College benefit to cover the cost of tuition, fees, and e-books, you must comply with all academic, conduct, attendance, and financial aid policies as required by the college and the U.S. Department of Education in order to continue to receive the benefit for each semester in which you enroll in classes toward your degree. You must also continue to be a full dues-paying member of your union (or an eligible family member). You are also required to complete the FAFSA, including any required verification, for every new academic year.

+ I am confused by the FAFSA. Can you help?

The Student Resource Center is happy to help you on how to fill it out. Students are invited to call 888-590-9009, or review the information on the US Department of Education FAFSA website. There are many other resources on the U.S. Department of Education website.  There is NO CHARGE for the FAFSA (if you encounter a charge, please call us so that we may re-direct you to the correct site).  Please plan to allow an average of 30 minutes for completion.

+ Is there a time limit on the Free College Benefit?

The Free College benefit is an individual scholarship and amounts vary based on the student’s cost of tuition, fees, and e-books at the participating school and program. The scholarship will be renewed each term as long as the student (or the family member) is a full, dues-paying union member, and the student maintains satisfactory academic progress as defined by their school and the U.S. Department of Education for federal financial aid. As long as the student is actively participating and working toward their degree, there is no time limit for degree completion. Students must, however, complete the FAFSA and any required verification, for each new academic year.

+ What if I am not successful in my course?

As long as you complete all required verification for FAFSA and you attend and participate in your classes as required by the instructor and the college, the Free College Benefit will cover the cost of your tuition, fees, and e-books at your participating school and you will no be required to pay back the scholarship.

Academic considerations are the up to each school and program.

+ Do I have to pay any money back if I don’t complete my class or program?

Members in good standing who have submitted their current year FAFSA to the participating school, as well as any and all required verification forms, and who follow all rules and policies of the college, will not incur a bill for tuition, fees, or books. There is no minimum waiting period before you can enroll in Free College—you can do so on the first day of your union membership.  Students who voluntarily leave the union will no longer be eligible for the scholarship. However, if you must leave your union through no fault of your own (such as lay off, furlough, promotion), you must get approval from the union in order to continue to be eligible for the scholarship.

+ What if I don’t want to use my Pell for this?

The Free College benefit is a last-dollar scholarship; therefore, you are required to first use any federal or state aid you may receive toward your tuition, fees, and e-books.  If you do not want to use your federal or state aid, you will not be able to receive the Free College last-dollar scholarship to cover the difference for tuition, fees or e-books.

+ Will my union see the information on my FAFSA?

Only the U.S. Department of Education and your school’s financial aid office will know your grant status. Your privacy is protected.

+ What if I do not qualify for any federal financial aid?

Even if it is determined that  the student is not eligible for federal or state financial aid, or not eligible for employer grants or tuition reimbursement benefits, a last-dollar scholarship will be applied to any remaining balance for tuition and fees.

The cost of e-books is included, so students will have no costs other than internet access and equipment (computers, software, etc.).

You can also call directly to the U.S. Department of Education toll free at 800-621-3115.

+ What if I don’t have tuition reimbursement through my work?

Then the last-dollar scholarship will still apply.

+ What if I do have tuition reimbursement?

Please check with your employer as to the details on how it works.  We will work with you to ensure compliance.

+ Do I have to apply any other scholarships or benefits for which I am eligible to my tuition, fees or e-books?

If you are eligible for Veteran’s education benefits or tuition reimbursement through your employer, we request that you apply those benefits toward your enrollment.

+ What if I graduated in a foreign country?

You will need to have your transcript evaluated and translated by an official education evaluation service.  Of example is the service World Education Services, www.WES.Org.  Any related cost for the transcript is not covered by the scholarship.

If you have difficulties obtaining your transcript, please give us a call back to discuss your individual situation.

+ Do I need to send in my college transcripts?

Yes, please send in your official college transcripts in order for them to be evaluated for transfer credits to by your participating school.

+ Can I take just one class?

To be eligible for the scholarship, which is a form of financial aid, you must enroll in a degree program.  However, many programs programs are flexible in that you can take one class at a time.

+ I’m worried I won’t have time for college work.

The Free College Benefit allows you is designed for working adults.  Talk to an advisor about the best way to balance your life and studies.

+ Is online learning for me?

Online learning has helped many students overcome the scheduling challenges of completing their degrees. However, the format is not for everyone. The following self-assessment, developed by Miami of Ohio University, may help you understand if this will work for you.

Even as an online student, you will have a support system available to aid in your success, including access to your instructor through office hours and direct communication, academic advisors, an online writing center, and free access to online tutors.

+ I know my union is a great advocate for me and I want to officially join the union. How do I do that?

Please call your union.

+ What if I leave my union?

You shouldn’t leave your union—they are providing you Free College!  That said, if the circumstances are out of your control, you won’t be dropped you from your current classes.  You may  be able to continue to the next term with the scholarship, depending on your situation.  If you are laid off, your union wants to ensure you continue to have the opportunity to complete your education.  Eligibility verification happens with your union, not the college

+ What are some of the grounds for termination of the Free College Benefit?

We may terminate your scholarship if you have:

  • Refused to complete FAFSA or first use your available grant money.
  • Failed to maintain satisfactory academic progress.
  • Failed to meet the school’s code of conduct.

Your union may also determine that you are ineligible to receive the scholarship based on your membership status.

+ I want to find out more. What do I do next?

Submit an inquiry form to the college and begin the application process. You may also call 888-590-9009 to talk to an enrollment advisor.