Every year, the United Way of Monterey County manages the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or “VITA,” program which provides free tax preparation services to thousands of low-income families throughout the county. Every year at Hartnell College, hundreds of students who are eligible for financial aid don’t complete the financial aid applications they need to get access to federal and state grants and scholarships. In fact, we estimate that college-going students in Monterey County leave about $2 million in grants and scholarships on the table each year because they don’t complete the application.
So this year, the United Way and Hartnell partnered to create the Volunteer Education and College Assistance Alliance, or VECAA. Through VECAA, Hartnell College financial aid counselors trained VITA volunteers on how to help parents and students to complete these forms using the tax information that they have in their hands. This program will help raise awareness of the importance of applying for financial aid and increase the number of students from low-income families who get the financial support that they need to pursue higher education.