Financial Aid on the rise at SMC

The worse the economy gets, the more dependent students become on financial aid, since without it, students face a closed door to opportunities of continuing with their educational goals at Santa Monica College. According to a Board of Trustees report, the Board “received a written report that the SMC Financial Aid Office has seen an explosion of federal aid applicants over the past five years. Driven by the nation’s economic downturn, the number of federal aid applicants has more than doubled.”

In the 2007-08 school year, the number of applicants for financial aid was 16,171, compared to the 2011-12 school year, where the number of applicants increased to 39,206. This increase in applicants is expected to keep rising as time progresses. But, is that really surprising, considering how many students’ financial situations are plagued by today’s economic woes?

“The trend is expected to continue in 2012-13 with SMC receiving federal aid applications for more than 38,000 students by the first day of the fall semester,” states the Board of Trustees report. “Financial Aid and Scholarships will provide more than $45 million in assistance this year.”

It is clear that this influx in financial aid applicants is in positive correlation with California’s economic slump, since a few California cities are going bankrupt, it’s no wonder students are burdened enough as well and require more financial assistance to stay afloat in this sea of financial uncertainty.

California has an unemployment rate of 10.6 percent, according to an official report by the State of California Employment Development Department. Let’s face it, a percentage of the unemployed are students who need financial aid in order to continue their education. With less jobs for students to take advantage of, less money is available to pay $46 a unit, plus the cost of expensive school books. This financial aid increase should have been anticipated because the state of the economy would require greater need of financial aid and assistance for students.

Without financial aid, a full time, residential student could end up paying  $552 a semester or more, not including the cost of textbooks and supplies. Also, for students that commute to school, there is the price of gas and the price of public transportation, unless students have their identification cards activated to use the Big Blue Bus for free. Another big factor is living expenses, such as rent and monthly bills that are financial hurdles. Needless to say, students have a lot they need to pay for, so their only option is financial aid.

As a student balancing work with education, financial aid comes as a huge relief, even if it’s only temporarily. Financial aid takes some the burden off of the unsatisfactory amounts of debt accumulated by paying for the needed units and textbooks.

If students didn’t have the option of financial aid, then their debt would keep rising and they would have to keep working overtime to pay for their school fees. With more work comes more stress, which results in lack of sleep and education taking a backseat. That is why financial aid is so important for students. It provides a temporary relief of not having to wonder how to pay for school and it gives reassurance that school can be paid for and education can be continued without too much of a financial burden.

Thankfully, SMC does not have four-year-college  tuition fees, but that does not change the fact that getting an education at SMC or another community college is no cheap. The costs still amount to more than we expect when it’s time to pay our fees, and we can’t do anything else but either pay it with our own money or with the financial aid received. Whether it’s $10,000 a year or $1,000 a year, someone has to pay for it and for many students, it is really hard when that someone is them.

The rise in the need for financial aid is understandable, but if the economy starts to turn towards a positive light, then students will be able to get jobs and pay for school themselves, instead of wondering if they can get financial aid or not.