Dallas, TX –
Financial assistance may still be available this fall for cash-strapped college students. In today's Monday segment on the economy, KERA's Shelley Kofler visits the financial aid office at the University of Texas at Arlington. She found encouraging news for families hit hard by the economy.
Twenty-year old Nila Miller of Dallas has been earning about a $1,000 a month as a Dallas police cadet, in a training program for future officers. She was counting on the money to help pay for college this fall. But Nila now expects to lose her job as the city cuts thousands of positions.
Miller: My job is about to get riffed. I was notified about a month ago so that in September that I probably won't have a job with the city.
Nila has already qualified for a grant and low-interest loan to cover tuition and fees at the University of Texas at Arlington. At the student financial aid office she tries to make sure the money will be in her bank account before her first school payment is due.
Miller: I just wanted to know if you can give me the status on my financial aid.
Nila will still need money for books, housing, food and transportation. Though classes begin in less than two weeks she's hoping for additional financial aid, at least $2,000 more for the fall semester.
Miller: I was able to pay my way through school but now I need more income for myself.
Nila is among many Texas students whose pipeline for college funding has vaporized as the recession claims family jobs and dreams. Their academic lifeline is financial aid.
UT Arlington says it's average students spends about $20, 600 to cover all costs for a year of school. While that's a lot of money, financial aid officers are able to find scholarships and loans for some 65-percent of UTA students.
Most financial aid for this school year is based on income reported on 2008 tax returns, but the university's financial aid director, Karen Krause, says her staff will consider additional aid for students who can show a recent drop in income.
Krause: We actually have a document called a consideration of change of circumstances and in it you actually will include information based on projected information for 2009 which may be a more accurate reflection of what's going on in your family.
Krause says the first step for students seeking financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid Form. Most need-based scholarships and loans as well as work-study opportunities are based on FAFSA information.
Krause: I would encourage students, even if they don't know if this will work out for sure, to at least fill out the document and ask the questions.
Navigate the recession with KERA! Get tips on avoiding foreclosure, access job resources and more at kera.org/economy.
Krause says governments and universities have already awarded most of the grant dollars for this year, but some Pell Grant money and low-interest loans are still available.
Krause: While no one likes to borrow money the student loans are very advantageous in that the need based student loans do not accrue interest while the student is in school and the repayment doesn't begin until after the student graduates or drops below half-time status.
Taylor Williams of Arlington is receiving a loan and a grant. Her mother Jennifer began applying for aid months ago so Taylor would receive the maximum help.
Jennifer Williams: We financially couldn't pay out of pocket. She'll get to be the first in both our families to get a college education because of financial aid.
Taylor is also doing her part by holding down a full-time job and cutting other costs.
Taylor Williams: Not eating out, packing your own lunches, roommates, car pooling.
With some penny pinching and the constant pursuit of financial aid students like Taylor Williams and Nila Miller have found that even this economy can't cheat them out of their dreams for a college education.
Financial aid officials encourage students to fill out the online FAFSA form. They say students should start early in 2010 for aid next year. We're posting more information for how to cut college costs at our special website, kera.org/economy.
Textbooks are another huge expense for college students. Tomorrow KERA looks at ways to save money on books.