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June 1, 2010 > You can afford college!

You can afford college!

Submitted By Sheri Madsen

For months, current and potential community college students in California have been hearing that the deadline to apply for financial aid was March 2. But did this apply to everybody, and was that the only chance to get financial aid and make the dream of a higher education a reality? What about the state budget? With all the cuts is there still financial aid available for community college?

Here's the truth and what everybody should know about the availability of financial aid at the California Community Colleges: yes, the state has made cuts to higher education. This means that community colleges have had to cut back on some course offerings, but we stay committed to protecting core programs, transfer opportunities to four-year universities, and preserving as many classes in the areas of career technical education and basic skills development.

These cutbacks do mean that students need to plan ahead and be aggressive about enrolling early to get the classes they need. However, financial aid is still available to help pay for community college. There are both state and federal grants available, as well as fee waivers for community colleges and other forms of financial aid. In fact, a recent study from the Institute of College Access & Success showed that there were millions of dollars in financial aid that were going unused at California's community colleges.

March 2nd is the deadline for graduating high school seniors or recent graduates to apply for the Cal Grant, which is based on need and eligibility. The good news for everybody else is that financial aid is available year-round at all of the 112 community colleges across California. At each college, there are a number of financial aid options including fee waivers, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and loans and most of them are available year-round. Here's a little about these types of financial aid.

Board of Governors Fee Waivers - Based on financial need, the fees for attending a community college can be waived for a student if they qualify. These funds do not have to be paid back.

Grants - A grant is a type of financial aid that does not have to be repaid. There are both state and federal grants. All grants will have eligibility requirements, which may vary by grant. The requirements to receive a grant may include things such as financial need and minimum grade point average. To continue to receive a grant, there may be additional course completion standards that show a progression toward a degree or certificate.

Scholarships - This type of financial aid also does not have to be repaid. These are most often based upon specific qualifications, talents or merit set up by the school or organization granting the scholarship.

Work Study Programs - These programs allow a student to earn money while attending college through part-time work on or off-campus.

Loans - Based on various criteria, this form a financial aid does need to be repaid, however, you do not begin paying on these loans until completion of your education and they are typically offered at very good interest rates when compared to other types of loans.

The good news is there is still room available at California community colleges and financial aid is available for students who qualify.

So where do current and potential students get started? To learn more about the different types of financial aid available year-round at the California Community Colleges and get one-on-one assistance filling out the forms, visit www.icanaffordcollege.com.

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