The second annual Financial Aid Awareness Week starts today, aiming to make financial information more accessible to students.
Workshops during the week are focused on helping students understand how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), how to search and apply for scholarships and jobs and how to make studying abroad affordable.
“The more [students] know about how to find the help that’s available, the better they’ll be,” said Katy Maloney, director of financial aid at UC Davis. “We hear all over the news these days that the economy is bad and tuition fees are rising; so all of [the workshops] are ways to help alleviate that. Once you have all the information, you can figure out where you want to go from there.” The main focus of the week will be educating and assisting students through the process of filling out FAFSA, said Joel Juarez, a senior psychology and Chicana/o studies double major, who helped put together this year’s Financial Aid Awareness Week. There will be two FAFSA workshops – Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in 26 Wellman and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Tercero lounge. “[FAFSA] is the starting point,” Maloney said. “Nothing can happen without it. It’s what determines eligibility and it’s required for [the Financial Aid Office] to pay out any type of aid.” Students who are not familiar or maybe just need assistance with FAFSA will be able to ask questions directly to financial aid analysts during the workshops. Some of the questions on the FAFSA that seem so simple can be some of the most confusing, Juarez said. For example, the FAFSA asks for the number of people in your household, but some people don’t have the traditional household. The financial aid office knows how to help answer these types of questions. In addition to the two FAFSA workshops, students can learn more about finding jobs with work study during the Scholarships and Student Employment 101 workshop and learn how to plan and afford studying abroad during the Destination: Affordable workshop. They will take place Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. and Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m., respectively, in the Garrison room in the Memorial Union. Financial Aid Awareness Week is a collaborative effort by ASUCD, the Financial Aid Office, Student Affairs, the Student Recruitment and Retention Center, the Education Abroad Center and Melissa Muganzo, student assistant to the chancellor. The combined effort just shows you the importance of financial aid programs on campus, said Sergio Blanco, a senior political science and Spanish double major who also helped with the planning of Financial Aid Awareness Week. “In one way or another, everyone has to pay fees,” Juarez said. “One of the things I realized, just by being a financial aid student, was the fact that not a whole lot of students know about many of the resources that come out of the Financial Aid Office.” The dropout rate for the first three years is 22 percent, and money is by far one of the biggest contributing factors, Blanco said. The transition between the first and second year can be the most difficult, so students need to know where to get money and how to budget it. The Financial Aid Office encourages all students to attend the workshops to learn more information about how to finance college. “Once you know how to work financial aid and how to get the money, it makes life a lot easier,” Blanco said.MICHELLE MURPHY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.