Many high school students think they don’t they qualify for financial aid because their family income is too high.
But many students can qualify for a Middle-Class Scholarship which gives financial assistance to undergraduate students with a maximum family income of $150,000. The scholarship can only be used at California State University or University of California campuses and is only for California students.
“Every year many middle-class families are discouraged to apply for federal aid because they believe they will not receive any,” said Central Valley Cal-SOAP Middle Class Scholarship Coordinator Monique Mejia.
In the past that mindset was true but not anymore with the new scholarship, Mejia said.
In order to qualify, students are required to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act — an application for undocumented students. Students will have the opportunity to receive the scholarship if they fill out one of the two applications, Mejia said.
“Before this scholarship came out there was really nothing that catered to the middle class,” Mejia said. “If you were a low-income family you got helped a lot.”
Mejia said the scholarship amount varies depending on how many people apply and qualify for.
The scholarship was first available for the 2014-15 school year. It was anticipated that 150,000 students would apply in California but only half did because many were unaware or discouraged, Mejia said.
Mejia said her department has worked with high schools in Hanford and College of the Sequoias during a Cash For College workshop which helps students fill out a FAFSA application.
COS Financial Aid Outreach Specialist Amy Pimentel said her team participated in a financial aid workshop for Hanford High last week.
“We did a parent presentation first in English and Spanish,” Pimentel said. “We just explain the process to them — tell them the requirements.”
Pimentel said students need their parents’ tax information and a Federal Student Aid ID in order to fill out an application. The FSA ID gains access to the application and serves as a legal signature.
Students need to submit their FAFSA application by March 2.
FAFSA is also used to apply for financial aid from the federal government such as federal Pell Grants and financial aid from colleges.
Hanford High Career Center Technician Cindi Homburg said she videotaped the financial aid presentation and uploaded it to the career center’s website for parents and students to use.
Homburg said the presentation goes over the whole process of applying for financial aid and explains the differences between grants and scholarships.
Homburg said seniors in economic and government classes have been scheduled to show up as a group to go over the FAFSA application. She said she is having mini-workshops leading to March 2 for students and parents to go over the process.
Homburg said many students do not feel they qualify and end up not filling an application out.
“Still apply for FAFSA no matter what,” Homburg said. “There are specific scholarships for students not receiving any financial aid.”