The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Financial advisor warns about FAFSA’s changes

By Erick Traska/reporter

Financial aid for the 2012-13 academic year becomes available in January, and the sooner students act on it, the better, a speaker said at the Financial Aid for College Success seminar Nov. 10 on South Campus.

“The early bird gets the worm,” said JoLynn Sprole, South director of student financial aid services.

Financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and the money available evaporates quickly leaving only loans for the late applicants, Sprole said.

“The earlier you do it, the more likely you are to be eligible for all types of financial aid that is available,” she said.

Sprole recommended filing one’s tax returns electronically as it can greatly ease the process of applying for financial aid.

“When you do an e-file with your tax return, you can pull that tax information automatically into your Free Application for Federal Student Aid form,” she said.

She covered the basics of applying for financial aid and the changes that are coming up like attendance and eligibility.

“There are going to be a lot of shocked financial aid students this Christmas,” she said.

Changes in financial aid include assessing a student’s academic progress. It will begin with the first day of enrollment, and it will require that the student has completed 67 percent of the credit hours attempted, Sprole said.

This means students must have at least a D in 67 percent of the classes they have enrolled in during their entire academic career. If students do not meet these requirements, they must fund their education themselves until they meet the requirements, Sprole said.

Students who may have been eligible previously for financial aid may have their eligibility revoked. The Fresh Start Program, a program in Texas where one’s GPA is wiped clean and the student is given a chance to start over, will not be affected by this new rule.

“I learned a lot of information about the changes of financial aid. I didn’t realize all the changes that the government is going to be making to the process,” South student Nikki Nicholson said.

Also, the 60 percent rule requires students be in regular attendance. If students drop before 60 percent of the class is completed, and that class is paid for by grants, they will owe this money back.

If students complete up to or beyond this point and then choose to drop, they do not owe any repayment.

“Always talk to your financial aid office before you drop your classes,” Sprole said.

TCC is considering switching to mandatory attendance next year, which will affect one’s student loans, eligibility and dropping policies, Sprole said.

The starting point for financial aid is the FAFSA, and Sprole said students should always use the government website and not any other commercial website.

“You should never have to pay to fill out your FAFSA,” she said.

And there are two major types of student loans: direct subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans. A subsidized loan does not accrue interest while the student is enrolled in at least six hours. An unsubsidized loan works like a credit card, and as soon as one cashes the check, the interest will start building.

“A subsidized loan is the best loan because the interest is deferred,” she said.

Sprole warned of the dangers of student loans as well. She said they seem attractive at first, but they need to be taken seriously.

“Be very careful because student loans are one of the easiest things in the world that you can get,” she said.

Student loans are not the only thing not to be taken lightly, Sprole said.

“You’ve got to take college seriously, or they’re going to take your money away,” she said.

There is hope, Sprole said, for those who are not legal residents of the U.S. as they are eligible for funding from the state unlike the federal government.

“We can help students with Texas money. If you or someone you know is not a citizen, please send them to our office, and we should be able to help them,” she said.

Sprole outlined many options for financial aid including scholarships, grants, loans and work-study programs.

Work-study income does not count toward the income that a student must report on a tax return and, therefore, does not affect one’s Expected Family Contribution on the FAFSA. The lower a student’s EFC, the more eligible for the maximum amount of funds they will be, Sprole said.

Sprole said work-study programs give students a job reference and work experience. They also provide something to put on their résumé while completing school. She said many work-study jobs are available at almost every institution to fit all kinds of individual preferences and abilities.

“I can get you an interview. I cannot land you the job,” Sprole said of the work-study program at TCC.

A large majority of students who go through work-study end up working for that institution, Sprole said.

“Who better to hire? Someone they already know,” she said.


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