The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

El Camino’s financial aid falls flat

Editor’s Note: Out of concern that stock images were used the illustration accompanying the editorial was removed Nov. 13, at 2:14 p.m.

The El Camino College Financial Aid Office on campus needs improvements with the onboarding process.

 The office appears understaffed, employees are overwhelmed and not up to speed on student-specific needs. These factors make it hard to provide students with the right help or information to move forward which can negatively affect their education.

According to The Institute for College Access & Success, “Only one-third of [California Community College] students apply for federal financial aid, compared to nearly half of community college students in other states.”

Based on the statistics above El Camino should be encouraged to make the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process as simple as possible so as not to actively discourage students from leaving money on the table. 

Anecdotally, many students who express difficulties with the process have experienced dismissive staff members and long wait times. This can result in late payments or no payments at all because students can’t finish the process. 

Knowledgeable staff members tend to be overburdened and are usually working nonstop to help as many students as they can, never seemingly able to catch up.

While the job can be difficult, helping with the process and listening to students is the center’s purpose.

According to the college’s Academic Progress Policy, “The U.S. Department of Education requires El Camino to establish and apply reasonable standards of satisfactory academic progress for eligible students to receive financial assistance under the programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act.” 

This means El Camino needs to make sure students are aligned with all federal and school standards for maintaining good academic standing to remain eligible for financial aid.

Of course, it’s not all on the school and staff, students have to do their part too. 

However, student confusion is a part of the process and center Financial Aid Center employees should be better equipped to enlighten students instead of making them feel like they are bothering workers by asking for help.

A Financial Aid Office not doing their job can result in students receiving late refunds, loss of funds, students being discouraged from applying for financial aid and even possible dropouts. 

With retention rates a major concern at El Camino, the college should prevent students from being financially penalized and falling down the wrong path, for the benefit of both the college and students.

El Camino classes per unit cost $46, totaling $2,900 if students were to take 60 units, including the tuition and fees for a semester. 

Students who cannot or fail to access financial aid are at risk of high debt, which is a horrible way to experience community college, especially since the community option is usually made by people to save money.

 Some possible solutions would be to hire more dedicated staff. If that is not possible El Camino can look into training student workers who can help in the process. Investment in simplified online directions or videos to help with the famously difficult FAFSA form is another possibility.

An improved process can save students from financial distress, potential dropouts and poorer academic performance. If more students can fully benefit from their financial aid, more students will attend El Camino.

For the benefit of individual students and the college population as a whole, El Camino should improve the on-campus Financial Aid Office. 

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