Financial aid can be the key that unlocks the door to college for people of modest means by helping them afford a higher education, said Harold Case, dean of Financial Support Services.
It gives students across the nation the opportunity to better their lives.
Case said he wants people of all ages to be able to further their education, no matter their economic background.
The main goal, other than to help break down financial barriers for students, is to help them be informed enough to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA.
Filing a FAFSA allows staff members in his office to assess what benefits a student might be eligible for.
Federal financial aid is allocated on a first-come first-served basis, so students need to apply as soon as possible, Case said.
After Jan. 1, students can begin applying for the fall 2014 semester, Case said. Once you file for a school year, you do not need to file a second time, but you may need to submit additional data, Case said.
“Once enrollment for summer is open, Financial Aid begins reviewing eligibility for enrolled students based on the current year FAFSA if it’s on file,” Case said. The staff also starts reveiwing FAFSA applications for fall as soon as the system allows, usually late March or early April.
Case said 52 percent of OCCC students receive some form of federal aid to attend college. Some 6,025 students qualified for Pell Grants. These grants don’t have to be repaid, and mainly are targeted at students with the lowest incomes, Case said. OCCC awarded a total of $17,508,324 in Pell Grants in fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30.
The largest federal aid program is student loans, which have to be repaid by the borrowers after they leave college, whether they graduate or not.
The total amount of financial aid and scholarships distributed to students over the past year was $47,051,609, Case said. Federal funds covered $32,563,796 of that while $14,487,813 was distributed from state, college, or private funding.
The main form of communication with OCCC students is through mass emails from the financial aid office, he said. A lot of information is sent to students through campus email with links or updates about the financial aid process.
Case said this is an important reason why students should check their college email regularly.
Federal aid is designed to cover various kinds of costs and expenses to attend college.
“You have the direct costs,” Case said. “These include tuition, fees, books, and supplies.”
Also since OCCC is a commuter campus there are incidental costs as well, such as gasoline, which can get expensive. Lacking funds for gas can even restrict students from coming to class, Case said.
Another tool the Financial Aid Office uses to make it easier for students to access information is continually upgrading and updating their webpage.
“We suggest a lot of different links students can go to in case they are not clear on the financial aid process,” Case said.
You can get more information on OCCC’s financial aid at occc.edu/financialaid.
To for FAFSA, visit fafsa.gov.
For more information, call Case at 405-682-7525.