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Financial aid, scholarships are there for the taking

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Students filling out the application online

Students can learn more online, or get help in person.

There are plenty of options to help students pay for their college tuition.

"There are people out there who are begging to give students money for college," said Jeff Guenther, student peer advisor and engineering student. "It’s amazing how much money is not used. There is an astronomical amount of money that people want to give to you for school."

A wide variety of financial aid is available. Students are often eligible for Work Study and Perkins Loans. There are also various grants available such as the Oregon Opportunity Grants, if a high enough need level is determined. However, students must re-apply for financial aid every year. Soon after Jan. 1, is the best time to apply for the upcoming school year.

For the first time ever, part-time community college students are eligible for the Oregon Opportunity Grant. Last fall, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed the $77.8 million Oregon Opportunity Grant, the largest need-based financial aid package in Oregon history. The money goes to qualified full-time students during the current biennium and, beginning this year, eligible part-time (taking a minimum of six credits) students will qualify for these funds as well.

Full-time and part-time students who plan to be enrolled at PCC for fall term 2006 should visit the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website located at: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/, complete the aid form and submit it to the Central Processing Center (U.S. Department of Education) as directed online. PCC will notify students via a letter whether or not they have received an Oregon Opportunity Grant.

"The FAFSA form is a pretty straight forward process," Guenther said. "It wants to know lots of financial information, but after you fill it out once it’s really easy for subsequent years because you basically go update the previous year’s form online."

PCC is committed to ensuring that students explore every kind of funding option available to help them get through college. The FAFSA form can change a student’s life, even going through the process can open up other doors of financial help. One student who took advantage of federal financial aid was Lisa Hummel, a gerontology program student.

She attended the college’s annual Financial Aid Day last January and discovered a scholarship workshop that helped her find money for college. Now, like Guenther, she’s trying to get other students to realize that opportunities abound.

"Just the other day I found a student filling out a loan application," said Hummel, a single parent, who volunteers her time as a cooking instructor for disabled seniors. "I asked them if they knew that they could probably qualify for a scholarship or federal financial aid. They had no idea. I just cringed when I heard that. I feel that everybody needs to try."

To Guenther, it should be one of the first steps for a student, no matter what their background. Even if they don’t qualify for financial aid, the PCC Foundation hands out more than 200 scholarships every year to deserving students. For more information, visit the foundation web page.

"What is interesting to me is that the first time I was in school my parents paid for it and I didn’t think about financial aid," he said. "I suppose I probably qualified for an amount. Seeing other people going to school that were getting aid, or scholarships, prompted me to look for scholarships when I came back to college after a long lay off. I wouldn’t be here now without the scholarships I got."

For more information, visit the PCC financial aid website.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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