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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Changes in financial aid made available

Tuesday, February 26, 2008  
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By Emmalee Mattern

The requirements to receive federal grants for financial assistance to apply toward college tuition have been slightly altered, allowing eligible students the chance to receive grants and scholarships totaling over half of a student's total tuition.

The program, known simply as the Low Income Tuition Assistance Program, provides six different plans for financial assistance based on a number of specific factors. The nationwide change was implemented in the fall of 2007 and has taken effect in state colleges as well as private universities such as Oklahoma Christian University.

The program is meant to provide support to students who come from families receiving $30,000 or less annual adjusted gross income. The students must also have ACT scores of 22 or higher.

What makes this different from the old form of the program is the increase in annual income received. Previously the AGI required to become eligible was $20,000 or less. This increase will allow more students the chance to receive thousands of dollars from federal and state grants.

"The way things are stacked up, [the students] are pretty close to full tuition," Director for Financial Services Clint LaRue said. "Although this information has been around for a while, we really wanted to communicate this change to students, as we thought it could be enlightening for some who obviously didn't know how a grant could combine with scholarships to help."

According to the article from myOC, grants are preferred over loans by many lower income families who feel "a particularly heavy strain" by the nationally rising college tuition costs.

That burden is only made heavier when the loans they might qualify for frequently incur large debts that create further financial strain on the family.

"If I had the financial help that I needed, I could continue my schooling here, but because of high tuition, I'll be choosing to transfer to UCO next semester," freshman Ava Heard said.

Heard is a recipient of several grants and plans on taking them to UCO next semester where tuition is slightly less, thus enabling her to pay a smaller balance. The law pertaining to state financial aid and passed by Oklahoma legislation allows her, and other transferring students, the opportunity to take their grants wherever schooling leads, with exception to the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant. This is an exclusive grant offered to private school attendees and offers $2,000 per year, per student.

Once a student fills out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) report, the financial services at Oklahoma Christian, who in turn also view the reports, "know almost instantaneously what a student can qualify for," LaRue said.

This information is crucial to many students, considering tuition is going to be $14,690 next semester, a $670 (or 4.8 percent) increase from this year's tuition costs, excluding fees and room and board, which would bring the total cost up to approximately $22,000 - $23,000.

"They, the students who are already here, could look at what OC had already given them and then add the state and federal grants on top of that," LaRue said.

Between at least one guaranteed academic scholarship and a possibility of 6 different grants, it could be possible for a student to knock $18,556 off his or her tuition fees, bringing the total bill to around $4,000 or less.

LaRue emphasized that a current student, like freshman Abigail White, could take any grants she may receive and add them to her pre-existing scholarships.

For White, whose grants and scholarships constitute nearly half of her entire tuition fees, just knowing she has the financial help she needs, really does help.

"It's a real relief to just take things day by day scholastically," White said.

It is the goal of the OC board and administration to make the higher education OC offers affordable, but for students like freshman Alyssa Raley, who independently pays for her own education, payment is still difficult.

Raley will be transferring to UCO next semester because of lower tuition costs.

"It wasn't my plan to come to OC to begin with; it was God's. If it is God's plan, he will provide the money for me to continue here," Raley said. "I would leave OC, even if my entire tuition was paid for, based on God's plan for me."

Raley cannot claim the benefits of the grants because she is considered a dependent, because she isn't yet 22 years old.

According to federal law, unless a student is a member of the military, married or is supporting a child, that person is still considered a student until he or she turns 22.

The only time financial assistance alters is from year to year when the students update their FAFSA report. If deemed appropriate by the government financial aid agencies, then students either continue receiving grants or not, based on need.

Ninety-six percent of students at Oklahoma Christian receive either scholarships from the school, outside scholarships and/or grants.

For financial aid or assistance, see the counselors at the financial services office.

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