Even though it's been a month since the March 2 priority deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, there are still many ways for students to find money for college.
The FAFSA, a government form that inquires about a student’s financial situation and educational goals, is a preliminary step that can fill a sizable chunk of a student’s need in the form of grants, loans and other sources.
Unfortunately for late FAFSA applicants attending four-year institutions, missing that March 2 deadline cuts them off from one source of otherwise guaranteed aid for the year: the state’s Cal Grant. For the 2011-2012 school year, Cal Grants can total up to $11,124 at University of California schools and $4,884 at California State University schools, according to the Cal Grant website.
The good news is that there is still a wide variety of aid available at public universities. Students can still submit the FAFSA and be eligible for federal aid, such as the Pell Grant, work study and various loans, and for institutional aid, such as scholarships from each university.
Some universities, such as UC San Diego, tie some of their institutional aid to the March 2 deadline, said Ann Klein, director of the UC San Diego Financial Aid Office.
“Students who meet the March 2 deadline and meet all of our other requirements for eligibility would be offered the best possible package that would include UCSD grant money, campus-based loans, and possibly work study,” Klein said.
Others, including San Diego State University, only tie the Cal Grant application to this deadline, said Chris Collins, associate director in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at SDSU.
University officials still advise students to apply earlier rather than later because though they remain eligible for aid, the funds from some sources might be distributed to earlier applicants.
“You don’t want to delay too far into the year because other sources of funds may be spent,” Collins said. “We never know from one year to the next when we are going to exhaust our state university funds.”
Like in four-year institutions, community colleges require the FAFSA to distribute federal and state aid, but to receive the Cal Grants, students have a Sep. 2 deadline in addition to March 2. The maximum amount of aid given for a Cal Grant at the community college level is $1,551.
But the Sep. 2 deadline is no free pass for everyone. While qualified incoming high school students still remain eligible for a guaranteed Cal Grant up to the Sep. 2 deadline, enrolled community college students have to duke it out after March 2 over a limited number of Cal Grants, called Competitive Cal Grants, said Gilda Mondonado, financial aid director of San Diego Mesa College.
Community college students also face the same race for federal aid that requires the FAFSA, and community college financial aid officials also say to apply as soon as possible, even after missing the March 2 deadline.
“If (students) wait too long, they are not going to get federal work study or the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant because that is a limited pot of money that we give to the most eligible students, but unfortunately it can be a first-come-first-serve,” said Mary San Agustin, director of Financial Aid, Veterans & Scholarship Services at Palomar College.
Funding possibilities that do not require completing a FAFSA are also available, including various community and private scholarships, student loans.
Cost of Attendance for San Diego schools (student living at home)*
Tuition / fees Other expenses Total Cost of Attendance UC San Diego
$11,330 $10,579 $21,909 SDSU $5,376 $9,664 $15,040 Palomar College $772 $10,252 $11,024
* Source: UC San Diego; SDSU; Palomar.