Students experience financial woes

Contributing: Michaia Hernandez

Twice as many Pierce College students are applying for financial aid this year compared to 2010 due to the current economic crisis.

During the academic school year of 2010-2011, the school’s Financial Aid, Scholarships and Veterans Office received 21,900 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applications and sent out 8,200 award packages.

As of mid-March this year, 12,000 applications were sent in. According to Financial Aid Director Anafe Robinson, this amount represents a 50 percent increase from the same time last year.

“We’re seeing students start sending in their applications earlier and earlier,” she said.

It is possible for students to receive $5,500 annually at most from the Federal Pell Grant Program, a $2,000 worth of financial aid from Cal grants, and a combined total of $9,000 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

According to Robinson, there is no set formula for deciding how much financial aid a student will receive; however, if a student has special circumstances including financial hardship, job loss or other drastic circumstances their case can be reviewed by a  financial aid counselor.

“Just because you’re on unemployment doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for financial aid,” said Robinson.

In order for students to receive their financial aid disbursement, all documentation must match up with the information provided in their application.

Robinson said that the Financial Aid, Scholarships and Veterans Office will not give out awards unless it is proven that the student is experiencing financial need.

When students sign the FAFSA application they are confirming that they are spending the money on educational expenses.

There have been several complaints from the public regarding students misusing the money that they receive as financial aid by spending the money on nonesential items. 

Numerous polls conducted by the Roundup have not yielded any evidence to support his, however.

 

Sarah Azar

Nursing major Sarah Azar gets $2,700 worth of financial aid, but she says that it isn’t enough.

The 28-year-old mother-of-one is a full-time student this semester, so she doesn’t have time to work.

“I’m taking difficult classes this semester so I spend all my evenings studying,” she said. “I don’t have time to work at night.”

Aside from using it to finance her education, Azar spent the money she received on her rent.

“I used it up very quickly,” she said. “The money definitely helped, but I think that, as a mother, I should have gotten more.”

Azar, who is currently in her second year of college, said that this summer intercession’s class cuts might force her to wait another year to apply for the nursing program.

“They only accept applications every other semester,” she said.

 

Kassi Carrillo

Forced to drop two classes this semester, 18-year-old freshman Carrillo is at a standstill.

Due to her parents financial status, she was denied financial aid, despite the fact that her parents do not support her educational funds.

This has resulted in her not having enough money to pay for classes and books.

 

Veronica Lopez

Financial aid used to serve as an extra cushion for school spending for Lopez.

After being unemployed for two years, that money Lopez received has become her primary source of income.

Having to pay for all school supplies, books and tuition with the financial aid money, Lopez has taken out a bank loan in order to stay financially afloat.

 

Ivan Contreras

A 21-year-old Pierce College who also takes classes at Los Angeles Valley College. He hopes to transfer to San Francisco State University, but he must first pass a calculus course.

Because he was unable to get the class at Pierce, he is now counting on being able to take it as UCLA through an educational extension program.

 

Jackie Garay

A single mom trying to better her life through education uses the Pierce College’s Child Development Center as a baby-sitting service while she attends her classes.

Garay is a full-time student, and she wishes to transfer to UCLA in the near future.

Her parents help out as much as possible with taking care of her son, 3-year-old Nathan Garay, but she is still forced to pull at least one all-nighter a week in order to care for her child and complete her studies.

She worries about the day when Nathan has to start going to school. “When he starts, then I have to pay attention to his education as well as mine,” said Garay.

 

 

Maria Cachay discusses her student life as a single mother at the Child Services Center at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calf. on Tuesday March 29, 2011. She bas been leaving her child in the care of the day care center at Pierce College to help her get through her studies. (Devon Trammell 2011)