Community colleges to raise requirements for financial aid

ALLISON SNELL, Channels Staff

City College students could be at risk of losing financial aid next semester if they do not meet new academics requirements to qualify for both the Pell Grant and the Board of Governors Fee Waiver.

Beginning fall 2016, the changes will require that students maintain a 2.0 grade point average and complete at least half of attempted coursework.

Biology major David Panbehchi currently receives the waivers fee and agrees with the changes.

“I think grades should be a 3.0. The point of school is to gain knowledge,” said Panbechi. “Why should that be free if you are getting a 2.0 and only trying 50 percent of the time?”

The grade point average conditions were first introduced in the Student Success Act of 2012, aimed to help more students reach their academic goals.

Prior to these new requirements, there was no minimum grade point average required to be rewarded with the fee waiver.

According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Student Success Act into law in 2012.

This will affect students who hope to receive the Pell Grant, which awards money to eligible undergraduate students attending college part-time, who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree.

This will also impact those that apply for the waivers fee, which eliminates enrollment fees for California community college students for up to six years.

To qualify for the waiver, students must be a California resident and meet specific income requirements.

Students who do not meet these requirements two semesters prior to registration will lose their waiver for the following term.

Since grades are not finalized and students are enrolling for the fall 2016 semester, the changes will not affect them until spring 2017.

Barbara Bermudes, interim financial aid director, thinks the new requirements will push students to success.

“It is a great way for students to keep on track in regards to academics,” said Bermudes.

According to Student Program Advisor Mary Saragosa, the plan City College already has in place covers the waivers fee, so students shouldn’t be affected much.

City College students receiving aid who are struggling academically can follow an individualized plan created by academic counselors to make sure they are succeeding.

The act also incorporates student success into the Pell Grant, which is given to students with high financial need.

The Pell Grant gives students up to 5,840 dollars towards tuition, fees and living expenses that they don’t need to repay. If students withdraw from a class or do not pass, they will not receive the grant.

“What is going to happen if I need to drop a class? I shouldn’t have to worry about if I’m going to lose my funding,” said Karrina Thomas, a third year student.

All California community college students receiving the fee waiver or Pell grant will be affected by the changes, which go into effect fall 2016.

“Staying updated on all these changes that could affect whether or not I can afford to go to school here is super stressful,” said Thomas.