June 16, 2012


TC3 deciphering financial aid changes

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The staff who figure out financial aid for Tompkins Cortland Community College will be facing some challenges this coming academic year, as they handle about $30 million in federal and state funds.
That means some ups and downs for students, as the staff calculate who is eligible for what, said Sharon Karwowski, director of financial aid, in a report Thursday to the TC3 trustees.
The federal government has issued new definitions and guidelines, called “program integrity,” filling 755 pages — with 1,400 pages of explanations.
Karwowski said one new twist is that the college is asked to calculate what students make in jobs during and after college, in order to gauge their ability to pay back loans. She said students are reluctant to provide that information.
TC3 handled $11.1 million in federal Pell Grants the academic year just ended, along with $3.7 million in state Tuition Assistance Program aid, $6.5 million in subsidized scholarships, $6.3 million in unsubsidized scholarships, $12.8 million from private lenders and $2.3 million in loans taken out by students’ parents, which might be used to pay living expenses for parents struggling financially due to unemployment or other issues.
Other kinds of financial aid include federal Equal Opportunity Program grants, aid for part-time study, veteran’s benefits, off-campus students working for nonprofits, and TC3 Foundation scholarships.
Karwowski said that after July 1, students who do not have a high school diploma or general education diploma will not be able to receive aid. They will not be able to enroll in degree programs, and will have to pay for whatever courses they take.
That affects about 50 students out of the college’s approximately 4,000, she said.
Pell Grants will be limited to 12 semesters, where previously the federal grants covered 18 semesters. That means TC3 will have students who do not qualify for the federal grants, when they left for the summer thinking they did.
The college also will have to report the estimated number of students who default on loans. She said that is 30 percent for many community colleges, although she expects TC3 to be lower than that when the three-year default rates for State University of New York colleges are announced in the fall. SUNY has set up a task force to work with colleges on the default rate.
TC3 staff show students how much their debt is, with some discovering they have too much unless they find other funding sources. A few students are turned down for aid because they have $100,000 in debt and have not earned any degrees.
The college has a three-year agreement with the USA Funds for services in default management, at no cost, Karwowski said. The Indianapolis-based nonprofit guides students and parents through the financial aid and college selection processes.
The USA Funds help will supplement a financial literacy class the college already offers for students, on how to manage their money.
Trustees Vice Chair Ray Schlather asked what kind of debt TC3 students typically have when they leave the college. Karwowski said $16,000 to $20,000 but possibly lower.


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