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    Jennifer Smith aiding students with Financial Aid Haylie Ellison / The Mainstream

Overcoming financial aid barriers

in Campus Life by

Other options still available

Danielle Risley, 19, had vividly seen the type of person she wanted to be after finishing a UCC degree. It had been her passion since a young age to become a psychologist or missionary and travel the world while helping those in need. This term would’ve furthered her education toward those goals; however, with little money and no financial aid, she was forced to drop out of school.

“My parents can’t help me . .we are barely living paycheck to paycheck,” Risley said.

Like many students, Risley was forced to use her parents’ tax information on the FAFSA. Since they barely make over the minimum financial requirement, Risely receives no aid despite the financial hardships of living in a house of six.

“We have too much debt where we are living and we are barely making it.”

Risley’s story isn’t uncommon. Another UCC student who shares similar issues is Jessica Ruehlen, 22, who lives independently with her boyfriend and works a minimum wage job. Yet, her parents’ tax information is still required on the FAFSA, which makes her ineligible for aid.

“My parents don’t claim me on their taxes; I am a full independent, and that’s whats frustrating for me. I am an independent on my taxes and have been for three years now,” Ruehlen said. “There are all of these families just like me who have middle-class parents that can afford to live, but that doesn’t mean they can afford to send their kids to community college, much less a university.”

Ruehlen said extra class fees for supplies and materials can be costly as well, especially when an extra few dollars could mean a month’s worth of food for someone with a low income stream.

The government doesn’t consider someone completely independent for financial aid unless they meet one of thirteen qualifications including: being 24 years of age, being married, having been emancipated or having had children. These stipulations force many students to use their parents’ income on the FAFSA, which could result in lack of aid eligibility if the parents make over the minimum requirement.

finacial aid graph
Provided by UCC Institutional Research Department

According to a report conducted by UCC’s Institutional Research Department, total financial aid funds have declined in the past few years from $15,247,513 in 2013 to $12,474,028 in 2014 to $10,867,069 in 2015. Total financial aid to students (from all sources) decreased by $1,606.96 or -12.88 percent from 2014 to 2015. Additionally, the number of applicants decreased by 424 or -7.54 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Michelle Bergmann, UCC financial aid director had personally been affected by issues concerning lack of financial aid.

“It doesn’t always work out fair; I have a son who is currently in college right now and is not eligible for financial aid, so I also feel the pain,” Bergmann said, while adding, “Anyone who wants to try and make a change can reach out to their local congressman to make college education more affordable.”

Despite these issues, students who lack financial aid still have many options to help with monetary need.

Honey McNamara, scholarship and donor relations coordinator, said over 100 different foundation scholarships are provided for students to choose from. The application process opens Feb. 1 and ends March 15. The maximum award mount is $4,000. OSAC scholarships are also available starting Nov. 1.

“We have some students who get two or three OSAC scholarships and two or three Foundation scholarships, which is more than enough to pay for their schooling,” McNamara said.

Job options are also available for people who lack the financial support to pay for books and supplies.

“If the student doesn’t have a job, I would recommend coming in and seeing Ben in our Job Placement office. He has Douglas County employers contacting him about openings,” Bergmann said.

She also recommends students apply for on-campus work study. It’s minimum wage and students can work in between classes. Often if a student is eligible for financial aid, but doesn’t qualify for grants, they can do work study.

Starting next year, Bergmann plans to open a work study job fair where all supervisors who have job opportunities on campus can come together in one place and sign students up on the spot. Currently, students have to be awarded work study which can take some time. Bergmann hopes the job fair will provide a quicker alternative and encourage more people to apply for work study.

For more information, contact the Financial Aid office at 541-440  -4602 and Honey McNamara from the Scholarship Office at 541-440 -7674.