FAFSA questions answered

SC4 holds financial aid night

Angie Stoecklin
Copy Editor

An audience made up mostly of parents of high school students slowly flooded SC4’s Fine Arts Theatre Jan. 7 for information regarding financial aid.
The informal presentation by Josephine Cassar, Director of Financial Assistance and Services at SC4, went through the basics of filling out the FAFSA, while allowing parents to ask questions throughout the presentation.
Cassar explained the way the FAFSA works; it collects the demographic and financial information about the student and that student’s family to determine the student’s financial need.
“The higher the cost of attendance, the more financial need the student is going to demonstrate,” said Cassar.
Financial need is the amount of money a student is eligible to receive after filling out the FAFSA form. Financial need is determined by subtracting the expected family contribution (the amount of money a family can reasonably pay for their student to go to college) from the cost of attendance, which includes tuition and books.
Because of the expected family contribution figure, some students may not be eligible for financial aid. If the family contribution is higher than the cost of attendance, that student will not be eligible for financial aid.
However, according to Cassar there are a few other options that students should take advantage of in order to pay for college. Those options fall under two specific categories:

Gift aid
• Scholarships – Awards that are usually based on the basis of merit, skill, or a unique characteristic. Filling out the FAFSA form is usually not enough if a student needs financial help with college. Students should apply for as many scholarships as possible, since it is free money that doesn’t have to be paid back.
• Grants – Like a scholarship, grants do not have to be paid back. Unlike scholarships however, they usually come with more specific requirements than scholarships. If those requirements are not met, the grant will turn into a loan, and that money will then have to be paid back.

Self-help aid
• Loans – Unlike money options that fall into the category of gift aid, loans must be paid back to the loan provider. A major downside of loans is that if not paid back on time, it could result in some pretty substantial debt. A simple way to avoid debt if one chooses to go the loan route is not to take the entire amount that one is eligible for. Only accept the amount of money that is absolutely needed for college.
• Employment – It may seem like a no brainer, but there are employment opportunities even for those students who just can’t seem to find a job in the community. Most colleges offer employment programs where a student can work at the college to earn money that they can put towards their tuition costs.

According to Cassar, if a student is in need for financial help to attend college, applying for more than one option, including the FAFSA, is never a bad idea.
“When a student applies for FAFSA, their application automatically applies them for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and the Michigan Tuition Grant. Those two programs are the only one’s that the Michigan State Office of Scholarships and Grants uses,” said Cassar.
The FAFSA must be filled out no earlier than Jan. 1 prior to the academic year, but can be filed at any time throughout that year.
Although a few parents stayed after the presentation to ask specific questions, most of them left, having the main general questions answered.
“The presentation was very informative and helpful for both students who have already graduated, and those who are in college right now” said SC4 student Karley Kirkendall.
For more information about financial aid, call SC4’s Financial Aid Office at (810) 989-5530. Or visit the office located on SC4’s campus in room 123 of the Acheson Technology Center.

Contact Angie at angelastoecklin0814@gmail.com

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