www.montereycountyweekly.com February 22-28, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 11 It’s a stressful time for Jordana Henry’s seniors at Rancho San Juan High School in Salinas, due to a delay in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program. Normally students apply in October and by March they know how much they will receive. That amount often determines which college they will commit to. This year a three-month delay in the release of the FAFSA application could alter students’ plans—so much so it might even derail the most vulnerable students from attending college in the fall. “I’m worried it will impact our first generation community from taking that step and going to a four-year college,” Henry says. “It doesn’t affect kids from more affluent communities, but for our most vulnerable communities [the FAFSA delay] will have a huge impact on access.” Henry co-leads the Puente Project at RSJHS, which works to improve college acceptance rates of underrepresented and first-generation college-track students. Of the first 30 “Puentistas” who graduated last year, 97 percent were attending a four-year college. Normally, the FAFSA application is opened online on Oct. 1. But this year the U.S. Department of Education redesigned the form and didn’t make it available until a soft launch on Dec. 30. Millions of students across the country quickly applied—over 3.1 million by Jan. 30, according to the department. However, that meant students wouldn’t be hearing how much aid they’re receiving until after universities start accepting students and expecting commitments for the fall. The result is that families will be under pressure to make quick decisions with significant financial implications. “It puts them and their families in a bind,” Henry says. “Everything starts happening rapidly because you have to start paying for things right after you make a decision.” For parents who have never been to college, “sending their child to college is like sending them to the moon,” she adds. In response to the FAFSA delay, the California State University and University of California extended the deadline for students to commit from May 1 to May 15. Henry says that while it helps, it condenses the amount of time families have to make decisions. Puente Project educators are encouraging students to research universities’ fees now, instead of waiting for FAFSA. The FAFSA delay puts CSU campuses in a bind, as well. Enrollment is a nagging concern for the CSU system, which collectively lost 27,000 students from 2020-2022, and was projected to lose more. Campuses with more than 10 percent decreases could see budget cuts next year under a plan announced by CSU officials last year. CSUMB saw a 5-percent decline, but increased from 6,373 students in fall 2022 to 6,742 in 2023. The campus draws heavily from first generation students: 48 percent of students are first generation. Fifty percent of students are from an underrepresented group and 29 percent are low income. CSUMB officials declined to answer questions about possible impacts to enrollment due to the FAFSA delay. Dreams Delayed A hold up in federal financial aid leaves both students and universities in precarious positions. By Pam Marino A three-month delay in the federal college aid process known as FAFSA prompted California’s public universities, including CSUMB, to extend the deadline to commit for fall. NEWS “The delay will have a huge impact on access.” DANIEL DREIFUSS 9 MONTH CERTIFICATE 5.29%APY 22 MONTH CERTIFICATE 4.50%APY SPECIAL LIMITED Time CERTIFICATes APY = annual percentage yield. Minimum opening deposit $10,000. Maximum opening deposit $999,999.99 Funds to open this certificate must be new to Monterey CU. New to Monterey CU means the funds must not have been on deposit with Monterey CU in the last six months. Limit one promotional share certificate per member. This offer is available for a limited time starting January 1, 2024, and subject to change or cancellation without notice. Early withdrawal penalties apply. Visit us at www.montereycu.com or call us at 831.647.1000 Is it time for a Room Refresh? Your home is your sanctuary and should support personal growth. Visit our website to schedule a complimentary call to discuss rejuvenating your space. VENTANADESIGN.CO A Monterey Bay Interior Design Firm