Unlocking the Door to College Financial Aid
For many students, one of the biggest obstacles to attending college boils down to paperwork. The process of applying for college financial aid can be so daunting that some students never even get started. That’s why the Ventura County P-20 Council coordinates workshops to help guide them through financial aid maze.
P-20 Council Project Coordinator and former Oxnard School District Superintendent Richard Duarte leads the effort. He says research shows students who apply for aid have a much greater chance of academic success. “Once the student has either received a grant or is eligible for a loan, they are much more likely to complete their goal, whether it be community college, a career licensing program or transferring to a university,” he says.
The starting point for most federal financial aid is an online form known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Duarte recently worked with the Fillmore Unified School District on an outreach project to help more seniors complete their FAFSA applications. The district hosted workshops for students and parents that featured representatives from the California Student Aid Commission and Ventura College. The hope is to replicate the program at other districts throughout Ventura County. The P-20 Council has also sponsored a series of “Train the Trainer” workshops to familiarize school staff members with the FAFSA process.
Duarte says the financial aid rules change every year. For example, one recent change requires students to complete their college education in six years, which can be a challenge for students who need to take remedial courses or who are working while they attend college.
The good news is that most students of all income levels are eligible for some sort of grants, loans or other assistance. The P-20 Council is working hard to make sure more students take advantage of those opportunities and don’t leave any college funds on the table.