Financial Aid at Record Numbers
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 00:00
UKIAH – Mendocino College is disbursing more financial aid funds than ever. That’s good news for students and for the local economy.
“We are our own federal economic stimulus engine,” says Jacque Bradley, assistant dean of the College’s Financial Aid Office. “Mendocino College has pumped over $3 million into the local economy through checks disbursed to local college students this year.” Mendocino College will disburse another $1 million before the spring semester ends.
In addition, Mendocino College waived nearly $750,000 in enrollment fees for students, and students receive scholarships and work study money. This translates to more dollars students can spend locally.
“Our students are a viable part of this community,” says Mendocino College Superintendent/President Kathryn G. Lehner. “They are consumers who are shopping not only in Ukiah but also in the areas of our other campus centers in Willits and Lakeport.”
Despite reports of State and Federal budget problems, financial aid money – funding set aside specifically for students’ assistance – is still available, said Bradley. Financial aid is not limited to loans. A student successfully pursuing a degree, one who is finishing two-thirds of his/her coursework with a “C” or better grade point average, can receive up to $5,350 a year in grant aid that does not need to be repaid. That amount is expected to go up in the 2010-2011 school year.
However, an individual cannot qualify if he/she does not apply. “The number one reason students don’t get financial aid is because they don’t apply,” Bradley states. Mendocino College’s Financial Aid Office staff will assist individuals with the application process. Completion of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step in determining financial aid eligibility. The student has to follow through with additional steps.
After a student has submitted a FAFSA, the college he or she plans to attend will make requests for further information. The student has a one in three chance of being selected by the Department of Education for a process called “verification.” The college must then ask for tax documents and other verification materials. The process is not complete until the student has been awarded the aid.
Students may apply online at the FAFSA website, www.fafsa.ed.gov. Using this website assures a free application. There are other services that offer assistance in completing the form but charge more than $100 to do so.
The Department of Education has made changes to the online FAFSA application to ease completion of the form. Additionally, the Mendocino College financial aid staff offers free assistance with the process.
Bradley is proud of her staff’s abilities. “We are giving more students more federal dollars than ever and breaking disbursement records without any increase in staff.” In 2007, Mendocino College disbursed 859 Pell Grant awards for a total of $2.15 million. In 2008, the numbers grew to 1,023 awards totaling more than $2.7 million; and for the current school year, the office has disbursed 1,098 awards for nearly $3 million.
Most financial aid eligible students are able to get their fees waived, said Bradley. The number and amounts of fee waivers have also increased over the past three years. The number of waivers grew from about 2,500 in 2007 to 2,750 in 2008, and the College is on pace to exceed that number this year. It equates to more than $770,000 in fee waivers.
Fee waivers and financial aid funds are available to part-time and full-time students. Eligibility is determined by a federal needs analysis that starts with the completion of the FAFSA. The calculation of eligibility is based on a family’s previous year’s income and number in household. In situations in which a family incurs a dramatic change in income due to loss of a job, reduction in hours, or other hardship, the Financial Aid Office can help. These situations can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and may change the outcome of the eligibility determination, Bradley said. Students and their families are encouraged to notify the College’s Financial Aid Office when such changes occur.
Mendocino College’s Financial Aid Office is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 8 a.m.-noon Tuesday and Wednesday, and by appointment on Fridays. It is located in Room 1130, MacMillan Hall, on the main campus, 1000 Hensley Road, Ukiah. Additional information about financial aid is available on the Mendocino College website, www.mendocino.edu, or by calling 707-468-3110.
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