This past weekend we were all treated, and I use that word in the broadest possible sense, to losing an hour of sleep, thanks to the spring forward aspect of daylight savings. All of which is to say that spring is 100% officially here. It also means summer, time of shorts, sandals, and sunstroke, is right around the corner. Typically this is when students lurch out of classrooms (or in this case from behind computer screens) and hop, skip, & jump their way to freedom and fun.
Or, if they want to get ahead as a student, they enroll in some summer courses. These courses won’t take up all your time, but will allow you to get a metaphorical hop, skip, & jump ahead of your peers in learning and skills. The question, as ever, becomes about how you pay for these courses. In order to find out, I turned to Chinh Pham, Coastline’s Director of Financial Aid and a whiz at this sort of thing.
“A lot of times,” Chinh says. “In our office we get students who just don’t think they qualify.” The result: they don’t apply to FAFSA, aka Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the most important step you can take when preparing to apply for summer courses and wondering if you can afford it.
“They think ‘oh my parents make too much money,’ or ‘my parents’ income plus my income means I shouldn’t even bother applying,’” continues Chinh. It doesn’t help that the FAFSA application is over 100 questions long, leading to a classic case of form malaise. I’d be willing to bet that this malaise becomes twice as deadly as we near the hotter months. If you want to take summer courses take the extra step of filling out your FAFSA, even if you’d rather sit back with a cold one.
Chinh’s advice was to just fill out the FAFSA anyway, even if you think you don’t qualify. “People are always surprised that they qualify, even for just a little aid,” he says. In an email, Chinh added: "if students haven’t completed the FAFSA, then they must complete one on or before June 30, 2021," to be eligible for summer courses at Coastline specifically. This brings up another question, about alternatives to FAFSA.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that is quite as comprehensive as the FAFSA; it really is the most important place to look for financial aid. However, there are other options.
However, Chinh mentioned the California Dream Act, which is specifically designed for undocumented students who wouldn’t qualify for federal aid. There is also the California College Promise Grant, which waives your enrollment fees ($46/unit). Chinh recommends you fill out the FAFSA first, but if you prefer not to (or are unable to), there is a way to apply only to the California College Promise Grant.
Furthermore, there is the AB19 Bill, otherwise known as the California College Promise (but not the same promise as the first California College promise—it’s all very confusing, which may be partially why more people don’t apply). You can apply to this Promise through your specific California community college, and check eligibility requirements specifically at Coastline HERE.
Chinh brought up that there are various scholarships around the country as well, which I’ve touched on in the past too. But, he also mentioned that many of these require FAFSA enrollment, which brings me right back (full circle) to Chinh’s first point: “Students should fill out the FAFSA or California Dreamer Act if they can,” because so much potential aid rolls out from those two programs. If you’re interested in enrolling in any of these programs check out Coastline’s Net Price Calculator Tool, which can help determine how much it will cost to attend Coastline every semester. (It’s like magic, I mean math.)
Summer is typically when students cut back and cut loose. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s also a great opportunity to take courses that challenge you, grow your resume and abilities, and give you a chance learn more. Hirers are always looking for students or recent students that took the initiative, graduated early, or finished a certificate in record time. Taking summer courses gives you a chance to showcase all that (and still have time on your hands for a job, fun, or both).
Of course, if you can’t afford your education none of that means a thing. That’s why financial aid is especially critical. Filling out the FAFSA, while annoying at first, will set you up for your summer courses and for the semesters to follow. When planning to take summer classes, fill out your FAFSA as soon as you can, that way you don’t wait for the summertime malaise to set in.