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April 14, 2010 > Financial aid still available at community colleges

Financial aid still available at community colleges

Submitted By Bobby Pena

April is Financial Aid Awareness Month (FAAM) and the California Community Colleges and its affiliated statewide financial aid awareness campaign, "I Can Afford College," want to remind students that it's not too late to pursue the dream of a higher education. FAAM was created to educate high school students during this key time prior to graduation that financial aid is available year-round at each of the California Community Colleges' 112 campuses across the state.

New research shows many students don't believe they qualify for aid and therefore do not apply, leaving millions of dollars untapped. The Institute for College Access & Success recently published a study that found if all students who are eligible for a Pell Grant applied and received grants, up to $500 million more dollars would have flowed into California's economy during 2009-10. These grants, worth up to $5,350 each, can help students pay for community college costs including textbooks, supplies, housing, food, and transportation as well as fees. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Bill, recently signed into law by President Obama, will increase the Pell Grant award amount to a maximum of $5,975 by 2019.

The California Community Colleges are also encouraging students to maximize their financial aid possibilities by enrolling full-time. Data shows that students who enroll full-time have access to more financial aid and are more likely to complete their education. Additionally, a recent MPR Associates Inc. study found that students who receive Pell Grants were more likely to earn a degree or become transfer-ready than students who did not receive grants.

In a recent interview on National Public Radio, the California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said, "What we really would like to do is to see more of our students become full time because their likelihood of completing a degree and transferring is increased."

To promote the availability of financial aid at the California Community Colleges during FAAM, events will take place across the state, from financial aid workshops to community college fairs on high school and community college campuses. At these events, students can find out about the different types of financial aid available and receive one-on-one assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for federal, state and community college financial aid programs. To find the nearest financial aid event, students can visit icanaffordcollege.com/events and type in their zip code. Students who want to get started on their own can find the FAFSA by going to icanaffordcollege.com and clicking on "Apply Now".

The California Community Colleges financial aid programs currently serve nearly nine-hundred thousand students with aid totaling approximately $1.6 billion annually. Financial aid, such as fee waivers, grants, scholarships, work study programs and loans, are available year-round at community colleges to help students pay for books, supplies, fees and even living expenses.

Sponsored by the State of California, the "I Can Afford College" campaign informs current and prospective low-income students and their families that financial aid is available year-round to help cover fees, books, supplies and other education related costs at California's 112 community colleges. The heart of the campaign is the bilingual English and Spanish Web site, www.icanaffordcollege.com, which provides current and prospective students with financial aid information and directly connects them to a financial aid expert at the community college of their choice.

The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation composed of 72 districts and 112 colleges serving 2.9 million students per year. Community colleges provide two-year degrees, workforce training, basic skills education and prepare students for transfer to four-year institutions.

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