College for the masses

College education seems essential in today’s high-tech world; but that education doesn’t come cheap, creating a financial hurdle that can be an intimidating and deterring factor. The finances, the forms, the red tape—it can all get a little overwhelming to would-be students from poor families.

In response, Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, and Manny Hernandez, a trustee with the Sacramento Unified School District, will be hosting the Cal Grant “Fill Out the Application” workshop this Saturday, Feb. 10.

The event will lend a hand to students and families in filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) for the 2001-2002 academic year. Joining Ortiz and Hernandez will be the California Student Aid Commission and EdFund, two organizations which share a similar mission to let a college education be financially accessible to all students.

Volunteers, who underwent a four-hour training program for the workshop, will be available throughout the day to sit down and walk families through the FASFA form, which is a rather long and inquisitive process.

According to Ortiz, the FASFA is “the entryway to all student loans, grants, and scholarships. … There is no fine print, there are no hidden payments, this is free money. It’s your parents’ tax dollars that pay for this program and it’s part of the promise that California has made for you if you did a good job and you’ve worked hard and you want to go to college.”

Ortiz assisted in the radical change of the Cal Grant Program, under Senate Bill 1644, which now permits more California residents to embark on an undergraduate education, with looser regulations. Financially disadvantaged high-school students with a 2.0 GPA or higher will be guaranteed financial assistance for fees, books and subsistence at two- and four-year colleges and universities.

“We know that there are hundreds of thousands of students out there who have done all the right things. They have overcome financial obstacles. They have overcome poor schools. They have overcome single parent households. And they have overcome learning a second language. They reach this point where they want to go to college, but they just don’t have the tools on how to go to college, and this [the FASFA] is one of those tools,” Ortiz said.

The workshop will run 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be held at the Boys and Girls Club, 1117 G Street, Sacramento.

“Don’t let the lack of dollars and financial systems in your family stand in the way of you going to college,” Ortiz said. “If you have overcome everything, and you are afraid that you don’t have the money, then show up that day. We’ll help you find the money.”