Students Missing Out on Financial Aid

NANCY AGBENU
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Every year thousands of dollars of financial aid left unclaimed by GCC students who may be eligible for help covering their college expenses, according to the financial aid office.

Last year, $16 million went to more than 9,000 students, said GCC’s financial aid director Patricia Hurley.

“We have a higher percentage rate than other community colleges,” Hurley said. “Still, we think we have a number of students who are eligible but don’t apply for it.”

According to the financial aid office, all students enrolled in degree or certificate programs should apply for financial aid and not get deterred by the paperwork.

“Students should not assume they don’t qualify,” said Hurley. “If you don’t apply it’s for sure that you won’t qualify.”

More than half the students at GCC, 51 percent, are receiving some form of financial aid this year, according to the college’s anual student survey.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the government provides more than $67 billion to help students and their families pay for post- secondary education every year.

Most qualifying students receive financial assistance in the form of fee waivers, grants, loans, work study programs and state or nationwide scholarships.

Except for certain loans, financial aid is generally awarded based on the student’s financial need and does not have to be paid back.
Forty-five percent of GCC students are receiving the Board of Governors Enrollment Fee Waiver (BOG) which covers the enrollment and health fees for California residents.

To apply for a BOG, students who can be enrolled for any amount of units need to submit the application throughout the ongoing semester.
“BOG covers my fees so I can use the money on school supplies like paper, paint and pencils,” said student Anita Martirosian, 22, who minors in art and has a work-study job in the Career Center.

GCC also offers two main grant programs to California residents: Cal Grant and Pell Grant. According to GCC’s financial aid office approximately 4,000 students receive Pell grants each year.

Pell Grants range from $4,050 to $400 per year, depending on the student’s family income and the number of units they are taking. “A full-time student who has a zero EFC [Expected Family Contribution] is eligible for the maximum of $2,025 per semester,” said Hurley.

Nine percent of GCC students also receive Cal Grants. Type A and B amount up to each $1,551 per award year. The current maximum award for Cal Grant C, for occupational, technical and career students, is at $576.

The type of grant a student qualifies for is calculated after they submit the FASFA form (available at the financial aid office or online at www.fafsa.ed.gov/). To estimate their eligibility in advance students can use calculators at www.finaid.org or www.collegeboard.com.
The grant amounts vary each year depending on the program’s annual funding.

During the presidential debate on Oct. 14, Kerry criticized Bush’s claim to have increased Pell Grants during his term in office.
“In 1974, the maximum Pell Grant was $1,050,” said Hurley. “When adjusted for inflation…and measured against the rate of tuition increases…today’s Pell Grant is worth only $464,” she said.

GCC student and Pell Grant recipient David Petrosran said he is not surprised by the freezes and cuts in financial aid. “If these cuts continue I will need to work more to get the money,” he said.
Another source of financial aid is the Federal Work Study program (FWS). With FWS, based on the number of hours a student works and their hourly rate of pay based on unmet financial need, students usually earn up to $1,750 per semester.

Many students receive a variety of financial assistance including scholarships depending on academic performance, ethnic background, special talents and other criteria established by the donors.
According to Angela Battaglia, GCC’s scholarship program coordinator, students received close to 550 scholarships last year. “It does help, especially with the book prices,” said Tagui Nazaryan who holds a job in GCC’S work-study program and receives two scholarships per semester.

Scholarships can especially help transferring students said Battaglian. “Maria Richter, a student at GCC … was able to transfer in the Fall ’04 to Pacific Oaks because of the help of scholarships,” Battaglia said.

To apply, continuing students need to hold a GPA of 2.5 or higher and have completed 12 units at GCC. “Every year we have from 10 to 15 new scholarships to award for the first time,” said Battaglia. Applications for the spring are available at the Student Center Room 202 or online at www.glendale.edu/new/services/scholarships.htm.

For nationwide scholarships, grants and loans students can use Web services like “Fast Web” (www.fastweb.com), “College Board” (www.collegeboard.com) or “FreSch!” (www.freschinfo.com).

“These are free tools that students should really take advantage of,” said Hurley.
Another form of financial aid, available to all qualified students and their parents, regardless of income and asset, are loans.

For information on low-interest college student loans students can visit www.ed.gov/DirectLoan or visit the financial aid Web site listing loaners like local banks.

An Entrance Counseling Workshop on the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FELP) and private loans will be held on Wednesday, at 10.30 a.m. in the San Fernando complex, Room 108.

GCC’s Financial Aid office is located in the San Fernando complex, Room 110 and is open Mondays and Thursdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m..