CCHE helps students navigate FAFSA and other education resources
Kirsten Wisniewski

CCHE helps students navigate FAFSA and other education resources

Students across the United States have run into major issues this year as they have tried to secure financial aid for the 2024-25 school year through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Each year, 15-20 million American students fill out the application in order to access aid from colleges and universities, trade and technical schools, community colleges, and many scholarship funds. A delayed roll-out and reported glitches in the online application have left students and educational institutions scrambling to adjust.

Lenna Stever-Sobanja is a student support specialist at Cook County Higher Education (CCHE), a non-profit that aims to connect county residents with educational resources. She spoke with WTIP about the current FAFSA and the impact of the application’s issues on students. She explained that the application was overhauled this year in an effort to simply the process. The result, however, was a series of bugs. She said, “There were issues with a lot of the different questions that are on it that were causing errors to happen, so that people couldn’t submit their FAFSA. Or they were having to submit it with some incomplete or incorrect information.”

The result of this, according to Stever-Sobanja, has been both students and schools lacking the information they need to make decisions about financial aid. She added that the process of becoming a student and getting funding for educational programs is already complicated, and that the FAFSA this year has created an additional layer of complication. She said that first-generation students and those who have had trouble accessing resources for education in the past have been some of the most impacted.

Because navigating accessing higher education can be so complicated, Stever-Sobanja encourages any students or prospective students to contact her with any questions they might have. “My job is largely about solving individual people’s problems. Along the way, you know, from beginning to end, somebody’s saying I’m thinking about going to school, I don’t know how to do it. And we start there. And I’ll go, I’ll help you the entire way until you graduate.”

For Cook County residents who are unable to meet with Stever-Sobanja, CCHE has resources available on their website:

WTIP’s Kirsten Wisniewski spoke with Student Support Specialist Lenna Stever-Sobanja about the resources available for residents through Cook County Higher Education, as well as the impact of the issues surrounding the FAFSA process this year.