Silver Chips Online

Blair Counseling Department hosts Financial Aid Information Meeting

Parents learn about financial aid types and the process of applying for aid

By Abir Muhuri, Online Entertainment Editor
December 14, 2014
On Dec. 4, Blair's Counseling Department hosted the Financial Aid Information Meeting in the Student Activity Center for parents of Blair seniors, who plan to attend college. Speaker Sherri Thompson, Campus Director of Financial Aid at Montgomery College, discussed navigation of the federal financial aid process and types of aid programs available for college-bound students.
Sherri Thompson answered audience questions throughout the meeting. Donald De Alwis
Sherri Thompson answered audience questions throughout the meeting.

Thompson opened the meeting with an introduction on how to calculate financial need. "Financial aid is your cost of attendance minus your expected family contribution," she said. Expected financial contributions can vary, and as such, the need for aid will change based on what families can offer. She followed with a layout of the four main types of aid. "They are grant aid, scholarship aid, employment and loans," she said.

Thompson introduced key points to remember about types of aid for popular college destinations. For Montgomery College-goers, grants and scholarships are the most popular. "At Montgomery College," she pointed out, "we award based on merit and other factors."

Parents contemplating the University of Maryland, College Park must remember the conditions for aid maintenance and the commonplace of loans. "Most parents, even if you go to the University of Maryland, have to take out loans. Your payment usually begins after you've graduated. As long as you maintain your six credit hours, you're good to go," she explained. As such, University of Maryland students must take six credit hours per semester in order to be eligible for aid.

After detailing the specifics of types of aid for local schools, Thompson ran parents through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To begin, Thompson described the pre-application steps in preparation for the application. These include gathering tax information and confirming eligibility requirements. "You may use your previous year's tax returns. You have to comply with the selective service program for males," she said. However, selective service only applies to male Blair seniors who have reached their eighteenth birthdays. In addition, Thompson warned of eligibility requirements that students must maintain. "In order to receive your financial you must have a high school diploma. Your child has to maintain satisfactory academic progress," she said.

After laying out the steps for FAFSA, Thompson went through the types of FAFSA grants, namely the Pell Grant and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. "The Pell Grant takes into consideration your income and household income," she said. The TEACH grant only applies to Blair seniors who plan to become teachers and sign an agreement to teach full-time in a high-need field after completing college.

For families that need to take out loans, Thompson introduced the Federal Direct PLUS Loan. This loan allows for a large borrowing sum for college costs. "Depending on what your major is in college, you ca borrow up to 150% of that program's credit hours," she said. "The current interest rate is 7. 21%."

Finally, Thompson spoke about state-level grants and scholarships. The Maryland Higher Education Commission is one provider of these, offering merit-based aid, need-based financial aid and grants. Parents can directly apply for these through their FAFSA. Thompson distinguished between the three types of provided aid. "The Education Assistance grant is $1,000, the Guaranteed Access Grant is $16,500 and the Part-Time grant is $2,000," she said. Also, parents must apply with a deadline and with sufficient preparation work completed. "You need to file your income tax returns," Thompson advised. "Their deadline is Mar. 1."

Apart from the commission aid, parents may also inquire about state-legislative scholarships too, which include the Senatorial Scholarship and Delegate Scholarship. To do so, Thompson simply advised to call your local district representative and establish a relationship. "You need to know your senator from your districted," she said. "They are generous and want your support."

Blair Counseling provided supplementary flyers with summaries of Thompson's presentation and additional information. Parents who need more help with the FAFSA process or other parts of the financial aid process can attend the College Goal Maryland event at Montgomery College's Germantown Campus on Feb.26, 2015 from 4pm to 6 pm.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12765