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MAGNOLIA, Ark.—Three students were recently announced as winners of the first Free Application for Federal Student Aid drawing at Southern Arkansas University.

More than 200 students participated in the drawing, which was for a free private room upgrade for one semester and two $500 book cards which were enticements for students to file their FAFSA applications early.

For spring 2019, Quinneyah Faulks was the winner of the room upgrade. Faulks is a freshman pre-nursing major from Lewisville, Ark. Dabreana Roy and Marcus Ford each won $500 book cards. Roy is a sophomore business administration management major from El Dorado, Ark., and Ford is a junior engineering/physics major, also from El Dorado.

More than 80 percent of students enrolled at SAU receive some type of financial aid, and the FAFSA is used to determine a student's eligibility for grants, loans and work on campus.

The FAFSA is released on Oct. 1 of each year, and SAU encourages students to file as early as possible to allow time to process and award aid before the upcoming academic year.

"At SAU, we have found that most completed FAFSAs are submitted to us with too little time left for processing prior to each fall semester," Marcela McRae-Brunson, director of financial aid, stated in a press release. "Students were included in the drawing by filling out the FAFSA and sending or bringing us the confirmation page between Oct. 15 and Nov. 30. We were excited at this first year's participation and hope to continue to expand our outreach efforts with our students to better help them receive financial aid."

Each participating student received a free T-shirt.

Summer financial aid applications will be available by the end of February.

"We will send an 'allstudents' email when the application is available and students may check our website for the updated Summer 2019 financial aid request," McRae-Brunson said.

The priority deadline for completion of the FAFSA for the 2019-2020 academic year is May 1. If all information is complete and correct by May 1, SAU can guarantee that a student will be processed by the prepayment deadline for fall.

"The process of applying for financial aid can be stressful for students and parents. SAU wants to make the process as painless as possible," she said. "We encourage our students to come by our offices anytime on the third floor of Overstreet Hall. We have an open-door policy and are here to serve them."

If students apply for assistance early and respond to all requests immediately, the Department of Financial Aid will have the awards finalized before August. SAU will continue to process all financial aid applications after May 1, but close cooperation with each student is needed to provide efficient service.