Low income students from 150 high schools are applying to Montana colleges free this week.

Montana Gear-Up Director with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, Zach Hawkins, explained the outreach to help students apply to college free of charge.

“Students from over 150 high schools throughout Montana have the opportunity to not only get structured support to complete and submit college applications to any campus they may interested in applying to across our great state,” said Hawkins. “In addition, our campuses will waive or defer the application fee so as to incentivize students to complete at least one application, but also to eliminate at least one potential barrier for our low-income students insuring that they would have a better chance to access college.”

Hawkins said last year over 3,500 students from 142 high schools submitted at least one free college application.

Hawkins said a college education can make an enormous difference to a student throughout their lifetime.

“A college graduate on average will earn a million dollars more in income over a non-college graduate,” he said. “In addition, timing is important for college applications. With all that’s going on in their lives, this is a good chance to just get this done and submitted so that is they also need to do the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) then the campus can put together a financial aid package to have a smooth path to acceptance at the school of their choice.”

All Montana postsecondary institutions have agreed to waive or defer the application fee for students from participating high schools since 2014.