Financial aid filing window opens earlier

By Jessica Suico, Advocate Staff

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Financial aid is a cause of confusion for many students at Contra Costa College.

Financial Aid Assistant Patricia Herrera said her team is working to ensure that all students are well informed about changes to grants, scholarships and loans so they can achieve their goals.

Herrera said the 2017-18 application window for financial aid, scholarships and grants is opening on Saturday. She said this is earlier than last the window opened last year.

She said about 80 percent of students at CCC are on some form of financial aid.

Students who meet certain academic or income based criteria have access to various federal and state financial aid, she said.

Business management major Lydia Johnson said, “I don’t think I would have made it in school without financial aid. I feel everyone needs it because it helps where other funds don’t help or are not there.”

Some options are the California Community College Chancellor’s Office Board of Governors Fee Waiver which covers $46 unit cost for a state resident, or the Cal Grant — both are state funded grants.

Herrera said financial aid is money that does not have to be paid back unless a student falls under academic probation or progress probation.

“We also offer loans and scholarships,” she said. “But just know all loans have to be paid back, it is not free money. Loans are not automatically provided in most financial aid packages.”

Herrera said she wants to provide students with as much information about financial resources available on campus as possible.

“I encourage everyone to sign up for financial aid, the BOG waiver any type of state or federal grant to help you with school,” Herrera said.

“Say you are on financial aid and you win a scholarship, then your financial aid could potentially be reduced depending on how much the scholarship award is (worth).”

She said most student do not think they qualify for financial aid, but they most likely meet the requirement.

“Just apply and see if you qualify,” she said. Students can apply online at www.fafsa.gov.

She said if students are confused about the application process or have questions they should visit the website or go to the counter at the Financial Aid Office in the Student Services Center.

Herrera said the Financial Aid Office also has workshops on campus like FAFSA night, or students can get help during online labs.

CCC Financial Aid Supervisor Monica Rodriguez said students should apply as soon as possible, and not be scared to ask for help.

Financial aid applications have to be renewed every academic year, and the money is dispersed during each semester.

Students could receive a total of four disbursements throughout the year she said.

Two in the fall, and two in the spring total about 25 percent of their annual award amount, however, the amount can also vary depending on the student’s course load.

Students can still receive financial aid grants if they are not full-time students based on their income, but the amount may be less if their income is high, she said.

Rodriguez said like most government funded programs processing applications takes time.

“That is the most difficult part for students,” Rodriguez said. “From application to disbursement the total processing time can average from two to 10 weeks.”

She said applying early makes the financial aid process more efficient.

“Check on your file status regularly using InSite Portal, or visit the office for one on one assistance if you are confused,” she said.

Undocumented nonresident students must fill out the California DREAM Act application online at www.caldreamact.org.

She said depending on income, household size, and other factors the state will determine what types of aid an undocumented student could receive.

Rodriguez said if you need to submit additional documents, you will be notified via your school email on InSite Portal.

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