Trade around 20 minutes of time for $4,000 to $10,000.
It’s too good a prospect to be true for most people, let alone a student trying to find a way to pay for their education.
But it’s a bargain that Bakersfield College, Cal State Bakersfield and state financial aid officials want students to take advantage of before the March 2 deadline to file a free application for federal student aid.
At a time when students’ median education debt — a figure that includes costs associated with attending school, such as a credit card used to help pay for food or campus fees, as well as fees tuition – is about $20,000 to $25,000 per person, or a total of about $1.58 trillion nationwide, according to Federal Reserve data, FAFSA money can help a student graduate and owe a fraction of it, as grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid.
Despite the fact that there is so much money available, the number of applications is down about 16% statewide from the same time last year.
In Kern County, the decline is just around that state average, with about 24,359 filled as of Feb. 15 of this year, compared to about 29,169 filled at the same time last year, a drop of 16.5%. In 2020, this figure was 29,203.
“You know what I say to students all the time is, ‘Give me 19 minutes of your life at the start (of the application process), before March 2, and you can get thousands of dollars,’ said Jennifer Achan, Director of Financial Aid for Bakersfield College, then added rhetorically with a laugh, “How long is it going to take you – to earn thousands of dollars in 19 minutes?”
How it works
The first step in the process for students to get the money is to complete the FAFSA form, which is available at studentaid.gov.
The 19-minute figure quoted by Achan is actually a national average of the time it takes students to complete the FAFSA form, as there are more than a few questions asked to determine a student’s eligibility for rewards, which is based on the needs of the student. .
The forms can be daunting, but whether a student is looking for a place at a local college or at a university across the country, there are a number of resources available in BC and Cal State Bakersfield to help students understand what they need and to do it. through the forms.
“Financial aid counselors are there to help (students) and I always make sure to let them know that they will need to bring their federal tax information,” said Ximena De La Paz, a student at the financial aid office of Cal State Bakersfield. However, she added that there is also an IRS data retrieval tool that allows students to automatically transfer their relevant tax information, making the whole process much easier.
In addition to a number of online events that hundreds of students have already attended, BC also has a virtual lobby, where students with questions can contact someone to guide them through along the process. Likewise, CSUB has a number of resources, including student staff such as De La Paz, who can guide students and, if necessary, help them understand how to resolve issues where they might not have the information available.
Get the price
About 85% of CSUB students complete a FAFSA for financial aid, which helps them get a share of the $118 million the school distributes, according to Chad Morris, the university’s director of financial aid.
Like all universities, CSUB officials have determined a “cost of attendance,” which determines what students will have to pay to attend and takes into account more than tuition, Morris said.
For CSUB, that figure is around $10,235 – a significant amount compared to the base tuition listed online of just over $5,700 for 6.1 units or more – which is by design , he added.
“This includes books, living arrangements, transportation and personal (expenses) and therefore all of these are considered study costs,” he said. “And then basically, just based on their FAFSA data, we try and, as much as we can, get different aid resources to cover that cost of attending…and so that it can be done with grants, scholarships, loans, federal work studies,” he said, listing some of the options.
Bakersfield College also offers financial aid to just over 68% of its students, which includes approximately $1.2 million awarded to scholarship students, money that students are eligible for if they complete their FAFSA by the deadline. priority of March 2, according to Achan. Since the college distributed about $75 million last year among 19,822 students who applied using the FAFSA, the average award was about $3,800.
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, there are a number of reasons why application numbers may be down, including declining enrollment numbers, which are down about 5% nationally. Enrollment at California community colleges statewide is down just over 11%, and at CSUB, the number of students applying is currently down about 8% for the year. next year, although there is still time for both numbers to increase.
However, even if a student is not attending one of these colleges, both campuses have resources to assist the FAFSA, which also gives an idea of how much aid they are eligible for relative to the expected cost of attendance. .
Achan and his colleagues shared that this peace of mind is one of the many reasons why the percentage of students who complete a FAFSA should be 100%, even if they think they don’t need one. or that they don’t believe they will. receive financial assistance.
“I think it’s such a myth: people think, ‘Because I have both working parents, I don’t qualify for funding,'” Achan said, “and that’s not is simply no longer the case”.
In fact, as enrollment may be down slightly for next fall, that means more opportunities for those seeking help.
While aid is determined on the basis of need, students should apply to ensure that most of the $6 billion available in college aid is distributed as much as possible, said Gina Browne, dean of educational services and support for California Community Colleges.
“The biggest piece of advice I have is that students should never say no to themselves…by not completing the application,” she said. “Let someone else tell you no. Prepare to get it all, and that’s to apply, even if you don’t think you qualify. So many students get discouraged because their friend or maybe their older brother did not receive financial assistance, for a number of reasons. But everyone’s situation is different. So don’t say no to yourself.