The deadline for students to turn in FAFSA applications to be considered for scholarships and Cal Grant financial aid is March 2.

The deadline is important for undocumented DACA students, AB540 students, and students who may rely on any of the various forms of financial aid that help with expenses.

To update students on financial aid deadlines, student enrollment, and the economic impact community colleges have on California, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the California community colleges chancellor had a virtual media teleconference Feb. 22.

“We continue our efforts to try and improve financial aid. Particularly, Cal Grant support for our students. As well, as on federal level, we continue to push for increases to Pell,” Oakley said.

Cal Grant financial aid systems recently made changes that allow more community college students the opportunity to receive additional financial aid.

Scholarships also require students to complete the FAFSA or California Dream Act application which must be submitted to be considered before scholarships are awarded.

California community colleges offer online resources dedicated to helping students find more information about financial aid and the important time frames in completing financial aid applications.

Financial assistance is available for any student interested in transferring out of community colleges.

The decline in enrollment throughout the California community colleges systems was discussed by Oakley as well. He asserted the pandemic and related economic fall-out were some of the reasons why students were not returning to school.

Oakley added that his team has been working tirelessly in encouraging prospective, current, and even former students to take advantage of opportunities and lesser-known programs that will be made available in upcoming semesters.

One example is the Credit for Prior Learning program where military service and training, apprenticeships, internships, place of employment work experience, state or federal government training, volunteer work such as the Peace Corp., and much more could count as credit towards a student’s degree.

To receive credit students will need to take a test called a Prior Learning Assessment. These are free of charge and will be used to evaluate the student’s knowledge gained from qualified prior experience to determine the credit that can be provided.

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Another topic Oakley talked about was the economic impact that community colleges have on the state of California.

The Economic Value of the California Community College System was released in January. It used a range of data from the 2018-2019 academic and financial reports from California colleges as well as data from employment industries like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.

“We found that for every dollar invested in the California Community College system. Students gain five dollars in future earnings,” Oakley said.

Chancellor Oakley called that a huge win for taxpayers, who financially support public education.

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