CSUF Relief Office Helps Families Find Appropriate Funding – Orange County Register
One of the more daunting aspects of going to college can be finding financial aid. But the Cal State Fullerton Department of Finance, led by Principal Jessica Barco and her team, is committed to guiding students through this process, turning a complex path into a simple one.
“My aspiration is to try to make financial aid simpler and easier to understand so that students and families are encouraged to access it,” Barco said. “I want people to understand that this applies to anyone and everyone, even people who think they won’t qualify.”
The most important step in beginning the financial aid process is for students to complete the Free Student Aid Application, better known as the FAFSA. Both U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens are eligible to apply for more than $150 billion in annual federal assistance each year, available in the form of grants, loans, and work-study funds.
The free application opens every October 1st, with the priority deadline of March 2nd for support for the 2023-2024 academic year.
For the students completing the FAFSA this year, the form will generate what is known as the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. This indicates how much the family is expected to contribute towards the cost of attending college. It is the difference between the EFC number and the cost of attending an institution or an unmet need that is being attempted to be filled through grants, grants or loans.
It is not uncommon for misunderstandings and confusion to arise during this process. Middle-class or dual-income families often feel ineligible for financial assistance. But for families with students attending schools within the CSU system, including the CSUF, Barco assures that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
At the state level, there is support specifically for these students through the California Middle Class Scholarship. The program was recently revamped, and Barco said her office at CSUF went from awarding about $3 million per semester to 3,000 Titan students last academic year to more than $20 million for spring 2023 than 17,000 students.
And those numbers are expected to increase. Barco estimates that by the fall of 2023, there will be $25 million per semester available to CSUF students from middle-class families.
“For that reason, there’s a lot of hope for middle-class families,” Barco said. “It’s an exponential win for middle-class families.”
Through CSUF’s Office of Financial Aid, Barco and her team offer a range of resources to educate students about their options, including webinars, information campaigns, videos and workshops, not only on navigating FAFSA, but on other opportunities like that California Dream Act.
For the 2020-2021 academic year, CSUF awarded approximately $305 million in aid, of which more than $228 million was in grants only. In 2021-2022, that number grew to nearly $310 million in grants, of which $230 million was in grants.
“We will be your advocate between all these federal agencies on your behalf,” Barco said. “If we maximize dollars and reduce credit, I see how that affects people financially over the long run. I feel great when I see these numbers.”
For Barco, working in this area of financial aid is a passion and their own lived experiences make them uniquely qualified to serve students at a Spanish language institution like CSUF. As the Latina child of a single mother who was the first in her family to both graduate high school and attend college, she knows firsthand the difficulties of navigating this process and can relate to many in the Titan community.
“I take it a step further because of my own personal challenges and struggles that I’ve had with financial help,” Barco said. “I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help our students.”
With support from CSUF President Fram Virjee, Vice President Student Affairs Tonantzin Oseguera, and Associate Vice President Elizabeth Zavala-Acevez, the Office of Financial Aid has been creative and determined to meet the financial needs of Titan students.
But it all starts with students completing the FAFSA by March 2nd. As the nation saw a decline in FAFSA participation in recent years, the CSUF saw a 16% increase in the 2020-2021 academic year and then another 4.28% in 2021-2022. Barco hopes that number will continue to rise.
“This requires a collective effort from a university that cares,” Barco said. “We want to educate our students and do everything we can to strengthen them and enable them to be mobile for the future.”
For more information about the FAFSA and CSUF Office of Financial Aid, visit www.fullerton.edu/financialaid/.
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/16/csufs-aid-office-helps-families-find-financing-that-fits/ CSUF Relief Office Helps Families Find Appropriate Funding – Orange County Register