BOSTON – While paying for college can be a daunting task, Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) is encouraging students and their families to take advantage of free assistance from American Student Assistance (ASA), a local nonprofit that empowers students and families to make better decisions about financing higher education and repaying student loans.

Last year, Massachusetts students secured more than $1 billion in grants and low-interest loans from federal and state governments, as well as millions of dollars in scholarships from colleges and universities. Students and their families need to know these resources exist and may need assistance navigating the complex process. ASA can help applicants through this process with free guidance.

“Access to higher education should not be cost prohibitive for students or their families,” said Sen. Moore, who serves a Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education. “Individuals who are seeking to enroll in a higher education institution should take advantage of the services offered by ASA, and make an effort to understand all their options.”

Federal and state governments, along with colleges and universities, are major sources of financial aid. Students begin the process of applying for both federal and state aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This document is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Many private colleges and universities also require a second form known as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which is available at www.collegeboard.org.

To receive free guidance on identifying sources of financial aid and completing applications, students and families throughout Massachusetts may call ASA’s toll-free information hotline at 1-877-332-4348 or visit one of ASA’s College Planning Centers. ASA’s hotline is made available through a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

“Time is of the essence, and students planning to attend college next fall should begin the financial aid application process now,” said Kristi Pierce, ASA’s Managing Director of College Planning Services. “Students should apply early – as soon after January 1st as possible – and investigate all possible sources of aid.”

ASA College Planning Centers provide one-on-one information and advice on applying for financial aid and other concerns related to college planning. All ASA College Planning Center services are free. For guidance or for information on the Center closest to you, please call 1-877-ED-AID-4U (1-877-332-4348) or visit www.asa.org/plan.