E.V. colleges see rising need for financial aid - East Valley Tribune: News

E.V. colleges see rising need for financial aid

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Posted: Monday, January 18, 2010 3:53 pm | Updated: 3:29 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The latest data available show that among the 50 states, Arizona has seen the third-largest increase of FAFSA applications, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Hamilton High School senior Rubi Martinez is getting an early taste of college.

Fortunately, she's got a scholarship to pay for it.

She's enrolled this spring in a nursing class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and she's also still taking classes at her Chandler high school.

Her plans for fall are a little less clear. She would like to study nursing, but she hasn't decided on a college, or how she'll pay for it.

"I think I'll have to get loans or grants or, hopefully, another scholarship," she said during a break Thursday at the school.

The latest data available show that among the 50 states, Arizona has seen the third-largest increase of FAFSA applications, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Among colleges where more than 10,000 FAFSA applications were submitted, Mesa Community College ranked 20th. Arizona's Grand Canyon University, a private Christian-based school located in the Valley, ranked fifth.

MCC has seen a 40 percent jump in the number of students filing FAFSA applications compared with the previous year. Chandler-Gilbert Community College has seen a 30 percent increase in FAFSA applications.

The form is used to determine a student's eligibility for government and government-guaranteed commercial loans and grants. Some private scholarship groups, as well as schools, also use the form to determine students' financial aid eligibility.

More than $100 billion in new aid is given out each year, according to the Federal Student Aid Web site.

During the 2008-09 school year, about $5 million in financial aid was awarded to students at CGCC, spokeswoman Trish Niemann said. This school year, $7 million has already been handed out, with students still applying for aid for the spring semester, which begins this week.

"This number has gone up for two reasons: The government has increased borrowing capacity, and our student enrollment has increased," Niemann said.

The school has seen a 13 percent increase so far this spring semester compared with last spring.

Karla Gonzalez, scholarship coordinator at MCC, said that in the fall, about 86 percent of MCC's nearly 26,000 students received some form of financial aid. While she didn't have the exact numbers, she estimates that number is close to double the previous year's.

"The need is higher for students than it has been," Gonzalez said. "I think it's all a domino effect (from the economy)."

The school has seen about a 9 percent increase in enrollment from last year, some of it from older students taking classes to start a new career or improve their skills.

Numbers for ASU were not available at press time.

Saleh Gani, a first-semester biochemistry student at ASU, said he was able to cover his tuition through financial aid he received after filling out his FAFSA. He completed the form after graduating from Tempe's Corona del Sol High School last spring.

Without the federal financial aid, he said, "I'd probably have to take less hours and work. I wouldn't be able to finish as fast, and I hope to go to medical school."

Financial aid has allowed MCC freshman Leslie Lopez, 18, to start toward her goal of becoming a nurse. After graduating from Westwood High School last spring, she completed her FAFSA application and received a Pell Grant to pay for her first year of college.

"I'd probably have to do payments" without it, she said. Plus, she works 30 hours a week as a certified nursing assistant.

"I did it myself," she said of the FAFSA. "I was a little worried if I did everything right."

But now that she's done it once, she's ready for the next time.

Students wanting help with the FAFSA form can get it from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 31 during the national College Goal Sunday. More than 30 sites around Arizona will host the event, where students can work one-on-one with school counselors and financial aid advisors to fill out the form.

Last year, 295 students attended the event at MCC, said spokeswoman Delynn Bodine. The college will hold it again this year.

For more information, go to collegegoalsunday.com.

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