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Cash for College:

Cash for College, a program created by various colleges and universities to help students with the financial aid application process, held a series of workshops on February 9, including several that took place at Santa Monica High School.

With funding from California Student Aid Commission (CSAC), the College Access Foundation, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and other institutions, Cash for College seeks to help low- and middle-income students find the financial aid programs most suitable to their needs.

The workshops at Samohi were led by Sherita Carr, a financial aid advisor from Santa Monica College.

“I know [filling out forms is] a little scary,” Carr told a group of students in regard to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), a form that must be filled out by all students applying for financial aid. Carr was on hand to help students answer the form’s questions, which mostly pertained to family income.

Students were also asked to fill out an evaluation form from Cash for College, which, along with submission of the FAFSA and Cal Grant forms by the March 2 deadline, would enter them in a lottery for a $1,000 scholarship provided by the College Access Foundation of California.

Carr outlined the various forms of financial aid. A Gift Aid is a grant or scholarship that does not have to be paid back. A Work-Study aid is a grant where money is earned by a college student via an on-campus job. A loan is a sum of money that must be paid back, in most cases, six months after graduation from college.

Carr also explained to students the sources of financial aid. In addition to Federal (Pell) grants, there is state funding (the Cal Grant), scholarship programs, and private agencies that fund education.

For low- and middle-income students, the Cal Grant program is a significant option. A Cal Grant awards up to $9,700 per student per year and does not have to be paid back.

Carr told the Mirror that SMC has organized Cash for College workshops at Samohi for the last two years. She called it “a dream door” to entering college, because the funding aids students in entering two-year colleges like SMC, from which they can transfer to four-year schools. “Samohi is the ‘theater school’ for Santa Monica College because a lot of the students from here go on to SMC.”

One such student is Blanca Morales, who is participating in Cash for College’s “Ambassadors” program. Ambassadors encourage high school seniors to access financial aid, in return for an additional $3,500 scholarship to support their education.

Morales, along with political and business leaders, appeared at a Cash for College press conference held on February 8, where she stated: “Attending a Cash for College workshop was a life-changing experience. I never imagined there was anything like the Cal Grant available to help me pay for school, and with this financial aid, I’m on my way to earning a college diploma.”

Cash for College will be holding another workshop on the Santa Monica College campus on February 23 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information on the workshop or to speak with Sherita Carr, call 310.434.4193. For information about Cash for College, go to csac.ca.gov.

Approximately 370,000 California high school seniors are expected to graduate in 2008.

By 2025, only 32 percent of the state’s working-age adults will have a college degree. However, economic projections indicate that 41 percent of jobs will require a degree.

Californians age 25-35 have lower levels of college attainment than the U.S. national average and lower levels than countries with comparable economies. California’s most educated sector of the population, age 45-64, is approaching retirement.

64 percent of Californians say a person must have a college education to succeed in today’s workplace. However, 56 percent of Californians believe getting a college education is more difficult than it was 10 years ago.

Facts courtesy of California Student Aid Commission

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