ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Scholarships can play a critical role in making a college education affordable, but some awards can be overlooked.

There are hundreds of thousands of dollars available for students in the Rockford region. Scholarships are available for students of all backgrounds with any educational aspiration. There is also money for non-traditional students.

An upcoming fair is all about providing information and access to those in need.

“We really just want to be sure that every scholarship seeker can access what they need right here in our community,” said Jennifer Smith, engagement director for the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.

The foundation will hold their 11th Annual “Community Scholarship Fair” in one week.

“It’s a really good opportunity to learn about what local scholarships there are available,” Smith said. “You’re not competing against any national audience, you’re only competing with those here in our region.”

Local scholarship providers will be at the fair with information. Organizers said that chances are that everyone will be eligible for at least one of the scholarships offered. There will also be seminars about applying for federal and other financial aid.

“I can say we are all super excited to be back in person, because the energy is so palpable,” Smith said. “The excitement of these families to be, like, actually able to ask their questions directly with providers and get answers to these very complicated issues of financial aid.”

Navigating the financial aspect of college can be overwhelming. People usually leave the fair with a sense of relief.

“I think people are even more energized and motivated to find ways to fill the gaps. Schools are facing the crunch too, right, like their expenses are going up just like everybody else,” Smith said. “Five hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a lot in the scheme of your whole college expense, the cost of going to school, but $500 now is worth like $700 by the time you graduate.”

Scholarships do not have to be paid back, unlike loans.

“If we can get all of these scholarships awarded that are available, all the better,” Smith said. “That is absolutely our goal.”

The fair will be held on Tuesday at Embassy Suites, 416 S. Main St. More information can be found here.