The ins and outs of student financial aid

Alexia Harris

It’s April and the semester is almost over.

Many students have already begun to apply for scholarships and other sources of financial aid for the next academic year, but there are some students who have not.

“In a perfect world, in January, a student would want to fill out the FAFSA,” said Mark Evans, director of student financial aid. “If they have done that and it’s April, the student should have received his award letter for next year.”

Evans said students who have not filled out the FAFSA, need to complete the form as soon as possible.

“Regardless of what time it is, students need to be looking for scholarships,” he said.

Criteria for receiving aid

Students do not have to possess a 4.0 GPA and be involved in nine extracurricular activities to receive aid.

“It varies, but major factors include financial need, merit, a combination of need and merit, special talents, major, geographical location,” Evans said. “The campus a student attends can also be a deciding factor,”

Students need to be pursuing an eligible degree program and have an educational goal in mind, added Sylvia Bustard, associate director of student financial aid.

However, there are also some students who will not be awarded aid.

“If a student didn’t register with the selective service, they won’t be awarded aid,” Evans said.

If a student is in another school’s database and they owe on a loan, they won’t be awarded either, he said.

Institutionally, Kent State looks at each student individually.

Other than the reasons listed preventing a student from receiving aid, if a student does not meet the criteria, other things can be done to help that student.

“If a student had aid, then lost it, it’s something totally different than not getting that source of aid initially,” Evans said. “We encourage students to sit down with a financial aid representative to find out their options.”

Connie Dubick, associate director of student financial aid said students can also get answers through phone and e-mail conversations.

Students must know that they are not out of luck if they have a low GPA, but situations are reviewed on a case by case basis, Evans said.

“We check the requirements at the end of each year, and if a student is not meeting the requirements, the student has options depending on how far they deviate from the requirement,” Bustard said.

Warnings and probation are the usual steps taken to help students get back on track, but if a student is denied aid based on academic performance, they are given the chance to appeal within two weeks of letter receipt.

“Progress is really important,” Dubick added. “Students must know they have to be accountable.”

Funding for the 2007-08 academic year has already been awarded, so if a student has yet to fill out the financial aid form, limited funding programs have been exhausted.

“There are some programs when there is not a limited amount of funding, so if students are eligible, then they get the money retroactively,” Evans said. “Other programs do have limited funding, and those who apply early get first dibs.”

When the amount awarded is not enough

Junior communications major Gerald Mickie was awarded a “full ride” scholarship from his high school, but not all students get enough aid to cover their educational expenses.

“My scholarship pays for tuition, room and board, so I never have to worry about not having enough money,” Mickie said. “But there were times when I had to sit with a financial aid representative to think of other options because Kent State did not get the check before payment was due.”

Evans said the SFA Office created a brochure to help students decide what to do if they get their award letter and the amount awarded is not enough to cover expenses.

Among these options are payment plans and private loans.

“We help with the Placement Advising and Scheduling System program (PASS) to work with incoming freshman families to generate ideas as incoming students so they will know what to do in their future years,” Dubick said.

Students must be responsible, she added.

“The deregister process cancels classes for nonpayment,” Evans said. “However, the Bursar’s Office has staff to prevent this from happening so that student can remain in school.”

It is important that a student not ignore financial troubles, and respond as soon as they get that first letter, Dubick said.

Evans said the office staff recognizes that situations, like unexpected car maintenance, happen that may cause a student to need more money than what was initially awarded.

“When we determine how much a student is eligible for, we include a budget for transportation,” he said. “But, if this happens, students can fill out a special circumstances application.”

Evans said it is possible the student’s FAFSA information and expected family contribution (EFC) will be changed and the student will be awarded more aid if the cost of attendance is increased.

“Students need to know that filling out this form does not guarantee them more aid and the change may not even make a difference in their financial aid award,” he said.

The office can not support a student’s entire lifestyle, Dubick added.

“We try to recognize problems students may run into,” she said. “But we can’t always solve the problem.”

Good news: Financial aid is on the rise

Seventy-five to 80 percent of Kent State enrollment, including regional campuses is awarded some type of aid.

Pell grants are increasing by $260, the first increase in aid in five years.

“More money is available in financial aid then there has ever been,” Evans said. “$250 million in financial aid was processed last year.”

In July, the amount of money a student is able to borrow will also increase, he said.

Currently, the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) is in the process of replacing the Ohio Instructional Grant (OIG) and the students who receive it (only applies to students who started summer 2006 or later), will be awarded $600 more than those who are awarded the OIG.

“In this case, this year’s freshmen were just lucky,” Evans said. “This year was the year for aid with the three new grant programs being implemented.”

Words of advice

According to the Scholarship Search Qualifier found at, there are over 400 scholarships available to incoming freshmen. The scholarships listed include aid for all eight campuses, various majors, talents and departments and lists some external scholarships not awarded by Kent State.

“Even though a student has to be an incoming freshman to receive those identified as incoming freshmen scholarships, there are numerous programs available to continuing students,” Bustard said.

Students can check the Student Financial Aid Web site for the most current information on scholarships.

“Students can’t just rely on Kent State,” Dubick added. “They must use external scholarship sources also, as well as checking in their communities.”

Evans said he advises students to take a full academic load.

“It takes the same amount of money to take 12 credit hours that it does to take 18 hours,” he said. “Take advantage of this and graduate in four years instead of five.”

Dubick said the role of being a college student and financing an education is important.

“The money is there, but it takes seriousness and personal effort,” she said.

Contact student affairs reporter Alexia Harris at [email protected].