Financial Aid

Our articles will provide you with the tools and resources needed to make sure you are qualifying for all the financial aid available, as well as maintaining your aid throughout your college career. Get the latest news on student loan interest rates, learn what to do when your financial aid is late, and explore all of your financial aid options.
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Community colleges are known for their low-cost education options that help students with limited funds get the training they need to find good jobs after graduation. However, many hopeful students are realizing that even community college can become an "impossible dream," once they discover federal loans are not available for many of these institutions.
 
A recent study from the Institute for College Access and Success found that more than one million students across 31 states do not have access to the federal loans they need to make a college education a reality. We will explore the reasons behind this reality, and how it impacts the ability of adults to get the education and training they need today.
 
What Federal Loans can Do
 
The Institute for College Access and Success conducted this study through their initiative, Project on Student Debt, which is committed to helping make college more available and affordable to students of all backgrounds. The study states that community colleges serve a variety of purposes, from awarding associate degrees and certificates to providing workforce training and lifelong learning opportunities for students of all ages. These schools are designed to serve students of all backgrounds and income levels, ensuring everyone in this country has access to necessary training to land good jobs after graduation. Community colleges are currently educating 40 percent of all the undergraduate students across the country.
 
The low tuition and fee rates have historically made these institutions more affordable than other schools...
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Increasing amounts of financial aid have made the community college track more affordable today. However, students who have been awarded financial aid are quickly finding that getting approved for financial aid and actually getting a check to pay for mounting expenses are not necessarily one and the same.

The Backlog
 
Community college financial aid offices are getting inundated with financial aid applications this year, as more students are finding reasons to head to these two-year institutions to prepare them for the workforce. At the same time, budget cuts are reducing the number of staff available to process this expansive number of applications. The result at many community colleges is a backlog of requests that will take many weeks to process. 
 
This is not good news for thousands of community college students who rely on those financial aid checks to pay for basic necessities like food and rent, as well as the cost of tuition and books. If the checks don't arrive timely, some students are faced with the realization that they may not be able to live up to their lease obligations, purchase the textbooks they need or put food on the table. If financial aid doesn't come soon, some may be forced to abandon their education.
 
Offering Assistance
 
In some cases, the colleges are doing what they can to help cash-strapped students eke by until the aid check arrives. Some colleges are waiving fees for late tuition payments and others are offering interest free loans for...
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Community college students are much more likely to qualify for financial aid than students attending four-year universities. However, students attending two-year institutions are unlikely to apply for the aid, according to a recently released report by College Board. The discrepancy has inspired many higher educators to "put on their thinking caps" and come up with a solution to make community college more affordable to those who can least afford it.
 
According to the College Board Study, only 58% of community college students who are eligible for Pell grants applied for financial aid, compared with 77% of Pell-eligible students at four-year institutions. The College Board report states, "Although community college students are more likely to be eligible for need-based federal aid, they are less likely than their peers at other types of institutions to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)."
 
Community colleges have traditionally appealed to low-income students because of their lower tuition rates and close relationships with the local community. Adults also utilized the educational services at community colleges to further their careers or switch industries relatively quickly.
 
Community colleges provide a valuable service to their communities, but those services are grossly underutilized if the people who need them most cannot get the assistance necessary to use them.
 
Why Students Don't Apply for Aid
 
A report on Education-Portal.com outlines some of the challenges facing low-income students and the community colleges that could provide them with affordable education:

  • Students may lack basic understanding about the financial planning necessary...
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The tide has turned in federal financial aid – and students will be the benefactors. The newly minted U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program will now administer federal financial aid, cutting out the middlemen banks that once profited on doling out these funds to students. 

Amidst all of the changes, “student loans are in transition, and those who use them need to pay particular attention right now as the U.S. Department of Education's Direct Loan Program takes responsibility for lending,” The Daily Press sagely advises. 
 
Make sure that you are taking the right steps to apply for and manage your community college financial aid, using this article as your guide. 
 
Financial Aid & the Federal Government: Overview of New Legislation
 
According to the New York Times, President Obama recently passed legislation that allows the Department of Education to directly provide students with financial aid loans. This new law eliminates any fees paid to private banks, as banks will no longer serve as intermediary parties between students and their access to college loans. Without banks acting as middlemen, an estimated $6 to $7 billion dollars of federal money will be saved annually, benefiting the government, taxpayers, and students, according to the Congressional Budget Office.   
 
As outlined by the legislation, as of July 2014, students set to borrow money for college will be permitted to, “cap repayments at 10 percent of income above a basic living allowance, instead of 15 percent.” 
 
Adding to this advantage, students who maintain responsible repayment histories will have their college...
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Many students at community colleges would not be able to pursue their educational and vocational goals were it not for the help they receive through financial aid programs.

Unfortunately, every year, some students experience the heartbreak of learning that they are no longer eligible for financial aid, and the money that has afforded them higher education is being withdrawn. Usually these students become ineligible for financial aid because their grade point averages have fallen below the minimum requirement. In other cases, they have withdrawn from a class, and thus, failed to complete the minimum number of credits per term.

Usually, students do not immediately lose their financial aid, but are instead sent a warning letter and put on probation for a school term. In a Hartford Courant article, a representative of one Connecticut community college estimates that about 20 percent of students receiving financial aid are on probation at any given time.

The warning letter and probation can serve as a harsh reality check for students who believed that financial aid would be consistent.  Margaret Wolf, director of financial aid at Connecticut's Capital Community College, tells the Hartford Courant that after students initially qualify for financial aid, they may mistakenly think that they no longer have to worry about their grades and eligibility. Students need to remember, Wolf says, that "the government is looking at you as a financial investment."

The federal government provides a number of grants and loans to students who wish to pursue higher education, but...
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Financing

FINANCIAL AID