Federal Aid needs to be saved to avoid loans

asaenz

By Angie Saenz
Pulse Staff Reporter

Each year thousands of college students struggle with the financial obligations of obtaining an education. For many, the costs quickly become an obstacle to their success.

The federal aid a student receives is fixed, regardless of the institution, which means students should save as much as possible from what remains after paying for tuition and books. Amanda Morales, PAC adviser, shared that the big misconception is that the award amount increases when a student transfers to a four-year institution. For this reason, it is important that students save what they can to avoid taking out student loans.

Many students attending community colleges do not apply for financial aid although they are most likely eligible for federal aid. It is important for every student to apply every year for federal aid.

A comparison of two local institutions reflects the disparity in tuition rates for students.  As an example, the cost for 20 semester credit hours from Palo Alto College is $3,780 for an in-district student.   Texas A & M University-San Antonio students pay $4,597 for 20 semester credit hours, 21.6 percent more than students attending PAC.

Many organizations work to alleviate the financial costs of higher education. The Office of Federal Student Aid offers more than $150 billion each year to millions of students to decrease the financial burden and make the dream of obtaining a college degree a reality.  The types of assistance include grants, loans or work-study funds.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Aid (FASFA) application is a vital step in determining financial assistance eligibility. FAFSA processes over 22 million submissions each year. This year the application opened on Oct. 1, 2016. The deadline to submit your FASFA application is March 15, 2017.

Students also need to apply for as many scholarship opportunities as possible. It is recommended that students do research. Students are often surprised to discover many opportunities for assistance.

Did you know that the Alamo Colleges Foundation provides an online scholarship application that automatically submits students’ information for more than 30 scholarships?  For example, PAC’s Texas-STEM and Allied Health Challenge Scholarship assists students with up to $2,500 per year.

It’s difficult to imagine, but some students do not have money to buy a drink or snack during their six-hour day on campus. The cost of books, supplies and funds for gas to get to school all contribute to the financial stressors. For PAC students, the Student Life Center is equipped to provide what seems like simple items: pencils, bottled water or a snack to help ensure students have the supplies and fuel to succeed. The campus will open a food pantry and clothing closet this fall. The center currently has seven full-time employees and four work-study employees.

Student Life employee Judith Menchaca said, “The Student Center is for the students of Palo Alto.”

For more information, contact Palo Alto College’s Financial Aid Office at (210) 212-5266. They are located in the Palomino Center, Room 102.

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