Central Arizona College taming the financial aid beast
COOLIDGE, Ariz. – Completing financial aid and student loan forms can be an obstacle wider than any cavern found in the southwestern United States. But at Central Arizona College, the gaping chasm is being filled in by a financial aid office dedicated to guiding students through an often frustrating procedure.
Even though the spring semester starts on January 16, the misconception that it is too late to apply for financial aid is being transformed by the staff at Central.
“Federal aid funds are still available for the spring and summer semesters,” Elisa Juarez, the director of financial aid for the Pinal County Community College District, explained. “It can be a tedious process, but once the data is received, the outcome is usually positive. We are here to help the students with that process.”
Students are encouraged to contact Central by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (520-494-5425/5429) for help in completing the forms. “We provide a lot of online counseling through e-mail,” Juarez said.
Financial aid and student loan options are federally assisted programs in the forms of the Federal Pell Grant program, the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, Federal Workstudy, the Federal Stafford Loan and the Federal Plus Loan for parents. Assistance is based upon financial need with all of the forms and guidelines available online (www.studentaid.ed.gov.) or in paper form at any of the Central campuses and centers.
Students wanting to attend Central this spring but who have not filled out any type of financial aid form should not be intimated by the nearing start of the semester, according to Juarez.
“We encourage students to sign up now for the spring semester and enroll in our interest-free monthly payment plan until their financial aid comes through,” she said. The $30 enrollment fee allows for gradual payment of tuition and books, as well as room and board, over the course of the semester.
“The payment plan was a tremendous hit in the fall semester,” Juarez said. “The cashiers office and financial aid officers encouraged the use of the payment plan.” The results were a more than 50 percent increase in enrollment compared to the spring of 2006.
If the financial aid forms are filled out correctly, funds are generally available within six weeks for an online submission and 8-10 weeks for forms submitted by mail. The funds are then dispersed directly into a student’s billing account to cover fees. If the financial aid allocation exceeds the cost due to the institution, then the student will receive the extra money to use for other educational expenses.
To avoid the common frustrations experienced when completing financial aid forms, make sure the following is available before getting started: Any income information, federal tax returns, W-2 forms, and Social Security card. It is also important to know Central’s Title IV School Code (007283).
Students applying for financial aid for the spring and summer 2007 semesters must use their 2005 income and tax information.
Students looking to apply for financial aid next fall can receive help from a national initiative called College Goal Sunday which will take place on Sunday, February 11, from 2-4 p.m. at Central’s Casa Grande Skills Center at 1015 East Florence Boulevard in downtown Casa Grande.
The event is part of a national workshop designed to help students complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is serving as a spokesperson for the program.
Computers and financial aid professionals will be available to help students and their parents actually complete an online application that day. Help with mail-in forms also will be available.
“Online is what we strongly encourage,” Juarez explained. “In 2006-07, 94 percent of Federal Student Aid forms nationwide were completed online. This is a terrific program to help students and parents navigate the system.”