Today: Mar 03, 2024

Changes in financial aid benefit summer and graduate students

Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter-
The search for financial help isn’t always the easiest process said Southern student Cassandra Clavette. According to Gloria Lee, the interim director for the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, the office has a number of options for students to apply for grants and scholarships.
When it comes to looking up scholarships and applying for financial aid, Clavette said it can be “pretty confusing.”
“When I researched it, it took me a while to figure it out,” said Clavette. “It wasn’t straight forward.”
According to Lee, students can come into the Financial Aid office and meet with financial advisers whenever they want without having to make an appointment.
“They can actually use our computers to file their FAFSA,” said Lewis DeLuca, associate director for the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
Clavette said it’s not just the process that is frustrating; it’s the limitations.
Until the 2009-2010 award year, students didn’t have the option to apply for Federal Pell grants for summer sessions. Some students only had the option to use excess Stafford Loan funds to put toward their summer classes, according to Lee.
She said a lot of students use up their funds in the fall and spring semesters.

Now, undergraduates not only have that option but also have the opportunity to use additional Pell grant funds to cover some of their summer session expenses, if they are eligible.

According to the Financial Aid website, the requirements are: to be a matriculated undergraduate student, to be enrolled for at least six credits for the summer term, to complete the current and upcoming year’s FAFSA and the summer session financial aid application, to maintain satisfactory academic progress, to demonstrate academic year acceleration toward a degree and to be “Pell eligible” as determined by the federal processor.
What about the graduates? They have the option to apply for the Graduate Plus loans. Students who are undecided can use their excess Stafford funds.
Clavette said she is not taking summer courses because she doesn’t qualify for some of the “aids.”

“It should be more for everyone,” said Clavette. “Most were just asking you for your major.”

She said she doesn’t “actually know” about a lot of scholarships.
Lee said students should know how to research the information and Financial Aid has a website with links to lists of different scholarships, as well as a bulletin board outside the office.
She said the Financial Aid office encourages students to contact organizations, churches and local libraries to find out about scholarships.
DeLuca said a lot of scholarship donors contact the university and send them notifications.

“We’re here to assist in any way that we can,” said DeLuca.

Lee said the site Fastweb gives students the option to answer questions to determine their eligibility for scholarships and has a database that can provide personal recommendations for what to apply for.

“We want students to graduate sooner,” said Lee.

DeLuca said to pay attention to the Financial Aid website because the front page always has important dates and deadlines.

The priority deadline for the summer 2011 FAFSA is May 2. The priority deadline for the 2011-2012 aid year FAFSA is Mar. 4.

Lee said some students may be able to get funds after those dates, but it is recommended they fill applications out by the priority dates.

“The most important thing [students] have to understand is that funds are limited,” said Lee.
She said the Pell grant application for the summer session will be available in March and students have until May to submit it.

“It doesn’t cover everything,” said Lee, “but at least it covers something.”

She said students have to make sure they follow the deadline, file the FAFSA correctly and make sure all the signatures are there.

DeLuca said this year the Financial Aid office sent two e-mail notifications letting students know to file their FAFSA instead of just one.

Lee said they are trying to see if they could award students sooner. She said they are planning to do presentations at the dormitories and hoping to get labs to help students with FAFSA.

“The best thing to do is just ask questions,” said Lee. “Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

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