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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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that they are no longer eligible for financial aid, and the money that has afforded them higher education is being withdrawn.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 In other cases, they have withdrawn from a class, and thus, failed to complete the minimum number of credits per term.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 . . . read more

While financial aid, scholarships, and student loans are the most common ways to finance higher education, new savings-matching programs are helping more students attend community college. Imagine each dollar you save matched by a free dollar that you can use towards your college tuition!  
 
Savings matching programs help low and middle-income students pay for college by matching the money that participants put in a college savings account. For example, the state of Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development runs a savings matching program called New Visions, New Ventures, which will match $2 for every $1 that eligible low-income participants deposit in a savings account. The program will provide up to $4,000 in matching dollars to participants. Participants must use the money to pay tuition, buy a first house, or start a business.
 
How Savers Can Benefit Even More through Philanthropy Websites
 
Recently, savings matching programs have begun partnering with philanthropic websites to increase the savings power of their participants even further. One such pioneering website is SaveTogether.com. At SaveTogether, individual donors can read the stories of low and middle-income individuals who are participating in savings matching programs and working towards savings goals that involve post-secondary education.
 
Individual donors choose individual savers to “match,” and donations made by individuals through SaveTogether are tax deductible.
 
How the Program Works
 
By working with a variety of programs that sponsor savings-matching efforts for community college tuition, SaveTogether furthers the power of these programs.   
 
Profiles on SaveTogether Allow Donors to Choose
 
Potential donors can browse profiles of . . . read more

As workers face a bleak economy with high rates of layoffs and low rates of new employment, President Obama has initiated new plans to help workers become more educated to compete in the job market. 
 
In fact, in Obama’s recent 2009-2010 budget proposal, he clearly made college education a focal point for the improvement and success of the United States. Titling this budget proposal “A New Era of Responsibility,” Obama is seeking to provide students with additional financial aid support through both student loan programs and Pell Grant programs. With this approach, current and future college students may be able to save money while preparing for their futures.
 
An Increase in Aid
 
Through the proposal, President Obama asserts that the path to an enhanced economy and society is achieved through education.  As the document states, college should be more properly funded and supported to, “Make sure that we have a highly-educated workforce and that the opportunity to go to college is not determined by how much money you have.” 
 
To allow all individuals, regardless of income, to gain access to higher education opportunities, Obama’s proposal to increase student loan and Pell Grant financial aid support should stimulate an almost immediate benefit.  Essentially, the 2009-2010 budget proposal allows for an increase in the maximum Pell Grant amount for each student.  Currently, the Pell Grant maximum was capped at $4,731 per person; Obama has proposed to raise this maximum to $5,350 per person.   
 
In addition to boosting the provisions for Pell Grants, Obama . . . read more

During times of political change, economic uncertainty, and fluctuating levels of job security, students of all ages are facing an array of personal and academic pressures. Many community college students and applicants are trying to cope with the mounting educational costs paired with added stresses of job loss, reduced wages, or soaring costs of living. 
  
As many college applicants are struggling to find ways to pay for higher education expenses during economic tumultuousness, community college leaders across the country are seeking out new forms of financial aid to provide students with a greater scaffold of fiscal support.    
 
Recent Financial Aid Reforms
 
In just the past several years, enormous changes have been made to the federal financial aid program, as struggling college students expressed with rising voices the difficulty of paying for the costs of college with limited access to money or means. 
 
According to Art Hauptman from the Progressive Policy Institute, there was an initial jump-start to increasing federal student aid funding in 2005, when former President Bush renewed the “Higher Education Act.” With this act, the President proposed an increase to the Pell grant of $500 over the course of five subsequent years. As Pell grants were initially created to raise educational aspirations of socially and economically struggling Americans, many believe that the Pell grant increase would stimulate a boost in college accessibility and enrollment. Despite this positive reform, however, Hauptman asserts that additional revisions must be put into action. As Hauptman further asserts, political and school leaders should usher in . . . read more

Stafford loans are made under two federal programs: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Whereas the FFEL Program has been more widely used by community colleges in the past, students and colleges are becoming more aware of the Direct Loan Program as another option. This article explains the Direct Loan Program, shows how Direct Loans compare to other Stafford loans, and discusses how the Direct Loan program may become the dominant, if not exclusive, college lending program.
 
Note: For an overall view of college assistance, see Community College Loans and Affording Community College.

What Students Should Know About Direct Loans
 
The Direct Loan Program was created in 1993 to offer both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. Under the Direct Loan Program, students borrow directly from the Department of Education rather than from private lenders. On a subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school. The interest on an unsubsidized loan is accumulated until the student begins repaying the loan. The Direct Loan Program also offers PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) loans.
 
To apply for a Direct Loan, a student must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available online or at student financial aid offices. A student must also sign a promissory note, the Direct Loan Electronic Master Promissory Note, which sets forth the terms and conditions of the loan.
 
Prior to June 30, 2006, the interest rate varied, but . . . read more
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Financing

FINANCIAL AID