Why money shouldn’t stop you from going to college
Finances play a huge deciding factor in not only where students go to college, but if they go at all. There’s tuition and books, loans and interest, and of course, the living expenses to consider. While the thought of mounting debt may be overwhelming, students and their families should know how much financial support exists for those serious about pursuing their higher education. In fact, many students finish with little to no debt at all, especially when they seek the right help.
“We really want to help you. We really do. If you’re a serious student, you’ll be able to get financial aid,” said Roseann Amato, Director of Student Financial Resources at Seminole State College. Amato has worked in the industry for over 30 years.
Seminole State College prides itself on securing the most financial support for as many students as possible every year. Through a combination of programs including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Florida Student Assistance Grants, state, charity, employer, recruitment, and Foundation scholarships, federal work study, and loans, Seminole State helps tens of thousands of students achieve associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and ultimately make a better life for themselves, despite their initial circumstances.
“This semester, I plan on making honor roll even with two jobs and a very busy schedule,” said Charnese, a full-time Seminole State student and scholarship recipient who works as a dishwasher on the weekends and a high school tutor on the weekdays. In addition to both of her jobs, she manages the cooking, cleaning and yard work for her mother, who works 13 hours a day as an elementary school custodian.
Seminole State College awarded nearly $73M in financial aid last year.
“My maturity comes from being raised in a single parent home. My mother works hard supporting our family, but it’s difficult since she only has her GED. She works long hours at jobs that mostly pay minimum wage,” said Charnese.
“I wish I could take away my mother’s stress and tiredness. I know can’t, but doing well in school lets her know that her hard work is not unappreciated,” said Charnese, who plans to finish her associate’s degree at Seminole State before transferring to Florida State University to earn her bachelor’s degree.
Students like Charnese, as well as others with difficult circumstances, have generous financial aid opportunities available to them. To take advantage of this support, students should start by researching schools that offer affordable tuition, installment plans, simple and easy ways to pay for college and search engines for scholarships. Students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which is available on Oct. 1, as soon as possible.
Initially, the FAFSA process may seem daunting, but there’s an IRS data retrieval tool that automatically populates the hardest part of the application. (The rest involves answering basic questions about things like demographics.) Once a student completes the FAFSA, the government determines the student’s Estimated Family Contribution (which can be zero), and then allots each qualifying student a Pell Grant. A full-time student can receive almost $6,000 a year, while part-time students can qualify for a prorated equivalent. Students can also turn to a second federal grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the award amount of which is based on the level of funding that the college receives.
Next, students have state-sponsored opportunities like the Florida Student Assistance Grant, which is also need-based. There are also scholarships like Bright Futures, based on high school academic performance; others focused on subsidizing vocational pursuits; and still others that cater to specific minority groups, children of deceased and disabled veterans, and many more special circumstances. For details, students can go to the state website to research their scholarship eligibility, talk to their Success Specialist and/or high school guidance counselor and make sure to attend their high school college nights.
In addition to Federal and State funding, Seminole State College offers its own funding to qualifying students. This includes recruitment scholarships for strong high school students with a good GPA and solid test scores. The funding can be used in conjunction with other aid, for example, a Bright Futures Scholarship. Moreover, Seminole State provides scholarships to help students with the transition into college and its own Foundation-backed scholarships that go to students with good academic standing and/or those pursuing degrees in specific fields like software engineering.
In addition to federal, state, and college grants and scholarships, students may qualify for federal work study. At $8.45 an hour, students work in a variety of on-campus roles in schedules tailored around their classes, midterms, and finals.
“Work study is a really great thing. There’s a much higher retention rate among students who participate in work study. They’re more engaged with the school, and they understand where and how to get help when they need it,” said Amato.
Lastly, students can apply for loans. There are two types of direct loans: a subsidized loan, in which the government pays the interest while the student attends school and for a six-month grace period after leaving school, and a non-subsidized loan in which the government doesn’t cover the interest. Qualifying for a subsidized loan depends on student need. Students who aren’t eligible for government-backed loans or maintain poor academic standing (lower than a 2.0 GPA or having completed less than 67 percent of hours attempted) can apply for private loans. However, they’ll need to have good financial credit.
In addition to financial aid and scholarships, Seminole State also provides easy ways to pay including installment plans to spread the cost of tuition over several months and ease cash flow, mobile apps to track financial aid status and payment due dates, and free skill sessions so students can learn to manage their finances and budget more effectively.
If students decide not to attend Seminole State, don’t receive the financial aid they expected, or don’t get into their first program choice, they should still be wary of turning to a for-profit school. About a third of for-profit college graduates who attend career training programs earn less than the federal minimum wage, according to new federal data. “Graduates of career training programs at public institutions generally fare better than those of comparable programs at for-profit institutions” according to the report. In addition, the Department of Education is starting to deny student aid funds to some for-profits, like Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, and is even shutting some down, like ITT Tech which closed its doors nation-wide in September 2016 leaving many students with an uncertain educational future. Furthermore, many of the for-profit schools aren’t regionally accredited, which means most of their course credits won’t transfer if a student tries to return to a public college or university.
To maximize educational and career opportunities and financial support and learn more about Seminole State College, visit the school website, meet with a Success Specialist at its Office of Student Affairs or talk to a high school guidance counselor.