Requests for financial aid at Everett Community College have nearly doubled in the past four years, with 12,000 requests made so far this school year.
That number could reach 14,000 by June, the end of the academic year, college officials say. Just four years ago, there were 6,300 requests for financial aid.
It’s no mystery why there’s been such a steady increase.
“So I would say, of course it’s the economy,” said Christine Kerlin, enrollment management coordinator for EvCC.
The growth reported at the local community college is part of a national trend. About 9 million such requests were made in the three-month period starting in June of last year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Layoffs and business closures lead people to return to school to refurbish or enhance their skills, said Andrea Wilson, EvCC’s director of financial aid and scholarships.
In one five-week period starting Jan. 1, there were 3,000 requests for financial aid for the new school year starting in July, she said.
The state’s 34 technical and community colleges now have a common deadline of March 15 for such requests.
The increase in financial aid applications led the college to add four full-time and three part-time employees “to make sure we get caught up and keep up with the increasing applications,” Wilson said.
Last summer, some students complained of long waits for results on their financial aid applications.
As the number of requests for financial help has increased, the amounts of one of the most common types of student aid, called Pell grants, has grown.
EvCC gave out $4.3 million in the federal grants in the 2008-09 school year, Wilson said. So far this academic year, $8.5 million in grants have been approved “and we’re only two-thirds done with the year,” she said.
With so many people applying for financial aid, those who seek it need to plan ahead.
“The point that needs to be made … is that you should always have applied for financial aid yesterday,” Kerlin said. Getting the aid requests processed “does not happen overnight.”
Not all the financial aid applications made through the college are from students who will end up at EvCC.
Students can list several schools they’re interested in attending. For example, a student may apply to a four-year school and then apply to a community college as a backup, Wilson said.
Students also quickly figure out which college programs have the quickest response to financial aid requests, she said. “They’re shopping around,” she said.
The college’s staff is available to help students with walk-in, phone and email requests. “They’re definitely looking for that customer service piece, too,” Wilson said.
Typically, financial assistance is approved to about 30 percent of those who apply, Wilson said. Nevertheless, students shouldn’t be discouraged.
“We’re public servants,” Wilson said. “Even if you’re not going to EvCC, come see us.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By the numbers
Increase in financial aid applications at Everett Community College
2011-12: 12,000 (partial school year)
Number of students enrolled in for-credit classes:
Fall 2008: 6,895
Fall 2009: 7,027
Fall 2010: 7,108
Fall 2011: 7,154
For more information on financial aid, check the college’s website at www.everettcc.edu/fa