Apr 232009
Authors: Erin Smith

Employees in the CSU financial service office said they have received about 2,900 more applications for financial aid from January to present than they received last year during the same time period.

Similarly, financial aid offices at several Northern Colorado universities are seeing more Free Application for Federal Student Aid submissions come in this year. They attributed the increase to changing financial situations and increased enrollment.

“We got two hundred in since last night,” said Christie Leighton, associate director for Student Financial Services, on Tuesday afternoon.

Aid is still available, though, financial service employees said, and the best thing for students in need to do is visit their offices.

“The important thing for students to know is that there is still financial aid left and that if anyone is in need of money to help pay for college they should fill out a FAFSA,” Leighton said, emphasizing that students in need should seek help from SFS to assess their situations and decide what to do from that point forward. FAFSA is a form that undergraduate and graduate students can file to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid including: Pell grants, work-study programs and Stafford and Parent PLUS loans.

Donnie Clark, the director of the Financial Aid office at the University of Northern Colorado, said the school’s numbers had also increased; about 1,200 more students are seeking aid through her office thus far.

She said that while enrollment was up at UNC, she suspected that the increase in FAFSA applications was due to economic strain.

“I think more people are enrolling because of the economy, but applications for aid are also up because financial situations have changed,” Clark said.

Clark also encouraged students to visit her office if their situations have changed.

In the Office of Financial Aid at CU-Boulder, associate director Ofelia Morales said their office had seen an 11 percent increase in financial aid applications over last year at the same time, adding that the information comes with a caveat.

“It could mean more people are applying earlier,” she said, adding that it’s hard to tell the true scope of need until the fall semester begins.

Leighton said her office has been talking to more students whose parents had lost jobs or have watched their college savings depreciate in value.

By talking to CSU’s SFS about financial needs, students and SFS can work together to find a solution that works for them, Leighton said. Sometimes CSU’s payment plan can be adjusted to make payments more achievable and work options are considered, but it ultimately depends on someone’s situation, she said.

Leighton said the Student Support Grant, an emergency fund for students previously reported on in the Collegian, was still in the process of fund raising, so a student’s best option at this time is to visit the SFS office.

All students qualify for some type of aid, whether it’s a Pell grant, student loan or the Colorado Opportunity Fund stipend, she said, adding that other types of loans are available if additional aid is necessary in the form of parent loans or alternative loans through banks.

The government does not allow CSU’s SFS to recommend one bank over another for alternative loans, but they do provide students with a list of the eight banks most used by CSU students and offer suggestions about what to ask banks about their loan procedures in order to find the best lender, Leighton said.

Madlyn D’Andrea, assistant director for the Center for Advising and Student Achievement, said that CASA encourages students to take responsibility in pursuing alternatives to financial aid, such as seeking out scholarships on their own.

Leighton said a list of scholarships that apply to students locally and nationally is available at SFS’s Web site, http://sfs.colostate.edu, by choosing ‘Types of Aid’ and then ‘Scholarships.’

The deadline for the CSU Scholarship Application through SFS was March 1, but Leighton said that students should still apply for financial aid if they are in need.

FAFSA is still available online at http://fafsa.ed.gov.

Staff writer Erin Smith can be reached at news@collegian.

Types of Financial Aid

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): A form that undergraduate and graduate students file annually to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid.

Pell Grants: Provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain graduate students to promote access to post-secondary education at 5,400 participating institutions.

Stafford Loans: Are the most commonly used fixed-rate federal loans for undergraduate and graduate students attending college at least halftime.

Parent PLUS Loans: Helps parents and guardians with good credit borrow up to the cost of education for undergraduate children.

College Opportunity Fund: Provides a stipend to eligible undergraduate students. The stipend pays a portion of your total in-state tuition when you attend a Colorado public institution or a participating private institution.

Information courtesy of http://www.fafsa.gov, http://www.ed.gov,http://www.staffordloan.com, http://parentplusloan.com, http://cof.college-assist.org

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