Financial aid changes set to impact students

More students are applying for financial aid, while less students are being awarded monetary help. In this time of budgetary crisis, financial aid eligibility is being revised.

The Board of Governors Fee Waiver C is awarded to students who show financial need through the Free Application for Federal Aid.

Currently, students must show financial need of at least $1 to receive the BOG Fee Waiver C, but beginning summer 2012, students must show a minimum need of $1,104 to qualify, according to the Financial Aid Fact Sheet provided by Cosumnes River College financial aid supervisor Alice Kwong.

To receive federal aid, “students enrolling in a program of study for the first time on or after July 1, 2012 must have either a high school diploma, GED/high school proficiency certificate or completed home school,” according to the fact sheet. Previously, students could pass the Ability-To-Benefit test or complete at least six college level units to receive federal aid.

The Pell Grant, which gives students money to pay for school expenses while working towards their first undergraduate degree, has also been re-evaluated. Previously, students could receive up to 18 semesters of Pell Grant funding.

However, starting in fall 2012, the cap will be lowered to students only receiving 12 full-time semesters of funding, regardless of where they first received it, according to the fact sheet.

The California Dream Act of 2011 is going into effect, which will give aid to immigrants who meet certain requirements.

“As of January 2013, AB 540 students will be eligible to apply for Cal Grant and the BOG Fee Waiver Programs provided by Bill AB 131 – CA Dream Act,” Kwong said in her email.

In the 2010-2011 school year, CRC received 19,460 applications from students filling out the FAFSA, Kwong said via email. The email said that 4,808 students were awarded the Pell Grant, 1,652 took out student loans, 858 were awarded Cal Grants and 115 students were on federal work study programs.

While it is still an ongoing process, more students have applied for aid in the 2011-2012 school year, which goes through the summer. To date, 21,316 students have applied for financial aid this school year; 4,500 students have received the Pell Grant, 1,590 have taken out student loans, 848 students were awarded the Cal Grant and 116 students are in work study programs.

This equates to a 9.54 percent increase in the amount of students applying for aid and a 5.22 percent decrease in the number of students receiving some sort of aid.

Students are seeing the impact of more applications for financial aid.

Chad Saelee, a 20-year-old nursing major, has been on financial aid since 2009, both at CRC and California State University, Sacramento.

“When I was at Sac State, it was easier,” Saelee said. “When you mess up here, you have to wait in long lines. The lines there [at Sac State] are shorter and apparently they lose forms here.”

CRC financial aid officer Janet Alvarado can’t say for sure why fewer students received financial aid this year, despite the higher number of applications.

“It may be due to less course offerings, so less students followed through,” Alvarado said in a telephone interview.

Currently, financial aid spending is not required to be tracked by the financial aid office, Alvarado said.

“Financial aid is only supposed to be used for college expenses,” Alvarado said.

She clarified college expenses as “books, supplies, living expenses and transportation.”

Alvarado further clarified living expenses as food, clothing, rent and more.

Saelee said he uses his financial aid “mostly on books, food, transportation and school accessories.”

Jasmine Hill, a 29-year-old business major, is a student who does not agree with the financial aid changes.

Hill said that she has friends who did not graduate high school and that she couldn’t see them being able to go back to school under the new requirements for federal aid.

“That’s not fair,” Hill said. “There are some people who couldn’t get high school diplomas then.”

Hill said that the larger financial need requirement for the BOG Fee Waiver is, “a big change,” and that the tuition will add to the monetary burden students will have to face.

“It’s getting to the point where people won’t be able to go to school,” Hill said. She continued to say that if less students qualify for the BOG Fee Waiver under the new guidelines, that students will be short on money and they wouldn’t have “enough for books [and] transportation.”