Month devoted to financial aid

Marshall Hampson

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In the midst of another fee increase to Sacramento State, the Financial Aid Office is full-force with Financial Aid Awareness Month.

Students continuously line up at the beginning of each semester to start getting information about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms, scholarships and student loans.

“Jan. 1 is when FAFSA is available for students and March 2 is pretty much the priority deadline,” said Thuy Nguyen, financial aid analyst. “So February is the perfect month to make sure (students) know what they need to do.”

This semester the financialaid staff is dealing with the new format of FAFSA – including “skip-logic” technology on the application form. Skip-logic is a new technology that provides students with necessary questions based on the previous question’s answer.

Financial Aid Awareness Month is also introducing four workshops for students who need help filling out the FAFSA.

“The best part of the FAFSA workshop is that it’s a one-on-one thing,” Nguyen said. “We allow students to come in and ask questions – as well as parents. Even though you or your parents haven’t filled out your taxes, you can still apply for FAFSA.”

With tax information and deadlines involved in the process, Financial Aid Director Craig Yamamoto said the process is not as intimidating as it seems.

“It looks very confusing. So when they come to the workshops and my staff can help them with the process,” Yamamoto said. “I think they can see it’s not as complicated as they think it is.”

In the case of junior Spanish major Nicole Dyer, being around the Financial Aid Office and applying for scholarships for the first time became a lot to take in.

“This year I actually have to pay fees and try to figure out the whole financial aid situation right now,” Dyer said. “I’m just trying to figure out what fees are due and when all my scholarship forms get through.”

Dyer made it through her sophomore year of college before she needed financial support and said without financial aid, her path for getting through college would drastically change.

“I would have to go slower through school and try to pay my way through,” Dyer said. “My parents are trying to help out. But in my family, we have three kids in college, so I have to pay some of my own fees.”

Unlike Dyer, Nguyen said a lot of students get overwhelmed the first weeks of school when tuition payments are close to due.

“The first week of school they come in because they need their money for tuition, to enroll and money for books,” Nguyen said. “These students mostly stress for the first couple of weeks and they acknowledge their free time is ending.”

The Financial Aid Office is sending out emails, handing out fliers and holding the workshops to reach the mass of students who are unaware of financial aid benefits. Nguyen said she has already seen a lot of improvement over last year due to the students who messed up the forms last year or who were too late filling them out.

“This year we got a volume of documents turned in correctly and a lot of FAFSAs filled out &- which is a huge success,” Nguyen said. “A lot of them come in and want to be more informed of what they can do on their end, so they can get their money in on time.”

Students are able to make phone calls to an financial aid analyst or stop in the office to get any questions answered regarding FAFSA, scholarships and loans.

Dyer said she thinks it is important to figure out a lot of information by doing the research before going meeting with an analyst.

“They are pretty helpful and willing to answer questions,” Dyer said. “I can go and get answers online or through their support staff.”

As the March 2 deadline for filling out the FAFSA gets closer, Yamamoto said any student who has financial difficulties should be a part of financial aid.

“Try to meet the deadlines and ask for help,” Yamamoto said. “Some of the students don’t go through the process because they think they make too much money. But the other thing to remember is that loans are a part of financial aid and some students will need loans as a part of their solution to handle their college expenses.”

Marshall Hampson can be reached at mhampson@statehornet.com