ECC seeks to clear confusion about financial aid
BY EMILY McFARLAN firstname.lastname@example.org February 21, 2012 6:44PM
Updated: March 23, 2012 8:09AM
ELGIN — There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, that most college students and their parents fill out each year.
There’s the misconception that if you fill out FAFSA incorrectly once, that’s it — you’re done, you can’t apply for aid again, according to Kim Wagner, managing director of student financial services at Elgin Community College.
“No, come back. We’ll help you,” Wagner said.
Or the misconception that applications must be submitted by a specific date, like filing taxes, she said.
Actually, in Illinois, the director said, “You can file any time.”
That’s why Elgin Community College’s Financial Aid and Scholarships Office is offering free help with FAFSA during open houses from February through June. The first open house will be 10 a.m. to noon next Monday in the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, located inside the Student Resource Center at the college, 1700 Spartan Drive.
Financial aid professionals will be available during those hours to answer questions about eligibility for federal aid and help fill out applications, according to the community college. Appointments also are available.
Applicants should bring a copy of their 2011 taxes if they are applying for aid for the 2012-13 school year, which includes summer 2012, according to the college.
“We’ve always had FAFSA workshops,” Wagner said.
That has included help at “college nights” hosted by feeder high schools in Elgin Community College District 509.
But, added Assistant Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships Mary Crowe, this is the first year the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office has had five computers to use for those workshops. Before they moved into their new space in the Student Resource Center, financial aid professionals had hosted workshops in one of the campus computer labs.
This also is the first time the office has been able to offer that assistance in Spanish, Crowe said.
And staffers are seeing more and more students coming in, looking for help with financial aid, she said.
The office saw 23,000 walk-ins in 2011, Wagner said. That’s up from 15,000 the year before, she added.
It also answered 20,000 phone calls last year, Crowe added.
And 54 percent of Elgin Community College students receive financial aid, Wagner said. That’s a little over 6,000 students, she said, which shows students have a lot of questions about aid.
“We really advocate for them to (fill out FAFSA), even if they don’t think they’ll qualify or get money,” Crowe said.
Students are considered “dependent” on their parents, with few exceptions, until they turn 24 years old, Crowe said. But even if their parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, students still need to fill out FAFSA if they plan to apply for loans, work/study programs or scholarships, she said.
And she encourages all students in District 509 to list Elgin Community College as a possibility on those applications because, Crowe said, plans and circumstances always can change.
More information about financial aid is available from Elgin Community College’s Financial Aid and Scholarships Office at 847-214-7360 or email@example.com.