It’s free money- don’t miss out

Students can no longer afford to offer the excuse that they do not qualify for any form of financial aid.

College is expensive. Students everywhere dread the thought that once they graduate from a four-year institution, they may drown in the depth of their student loans.

Nationwide in 2013, seven in 10 seniors graduated from a public institution with student loan debt averaging $28,400 per borrower according to The Project on Student Debt. In California, the average college graduate is estimated to incur $20,340 of debt and this average will account for 55 percent of new graduates.

Most students pursue higher education to land a well-paying job, one that would be impossible without a college degree, and that will lead to a satisfying career. However, college graduates’ main concern is landing a job so they can begin paying down their debt.

Financial aid is available on both the federal and state level. So why do so many students fail to complete the application process, which begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA?

Many students seem to believe they do not qualify for government financial aid because their family’s income is too high. They think they will only be offered a loan to pay for their schooling.

These students may be misinformed. Consider the facts.

Approximately two-thirds of full-time undergraduate students receive some type of financial aid, with nearly 38 percent receiving some form of federal loans, grants, scholarships, federal work-study and tax credits or deductions, according to the College Board.

The largest federal grant program available to undergraduate students is the Pell Grant program, for which a student must exhibit financial need to qualify. Approximately 41 percent of undergraduates received Pell Grants, according to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.

However, with the recent addition to FAFSA of the Middle Class Scholarship, there are more opportunities for financial aid than ever before.

Students who may not have been eligible previously for some form of aid because of their parents’ income may now qualify for the MCS.

The MCS is specifically designed for students whose families earn from up to $150,000 annually. Students in this income bracket may receive up to 40 percent of their tuition in financial aid.

Yes, the process of filling out FAFSA is tedious, it is both necessary and worth the effort. Most students cannot afford to pay for their education out of their own pockets.

While 73,000 MCS awards were given out for the fall 2014 semester, this number fell short of the expected number of applicants by half. An estimated 11,000 more awards are expected to be distributed to applicants for winter 2014 and spring 2015.

Rather than fall into the category of the 42 percent of undergraduates who only receive student loans, it is now possible to apply for and receive free money.

Take the time to fill out FAFSA before the June 30, 2015 deadline at and visit Citrus’ Financial Aid Office located on the first floor of Student Services. Do it for your education and wallet’s sake.