‘Got College?’ guides county high school students through financial aid
By Tiffanie Reynolds
Even if working two full time jobs caused Carid Torres to drop out of a semester at Valencia, she’s confident that Got College? will help her continue her criminology degree this fall.
County Commissioner John Quiñones, above left, gave presentations on financial aid opportunities and the benefits of college, with representatives from Valencia College and Florida Department of Education available to answer more detailed questions throughout the evening.
Torres, an Osceola High School graduate, was one of a few dozen parents and
students that attended the Got College? financial aid seminar at Robert Guevara Community Center on April 17. The last of a series of four seminars on college financial aid, grants and scholarships, students as young as high school sophomores, along with their parents or guardians, are walked through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process and given resources on college grants and scholarships. District 2 School Board Member Kelvin Soto and County Commissioner John Quiñones gave presentations on financial aid opportunities and the benefits of college, with representatives from Valencia College and Florida Department of Education available to answer more detailed questions throughout the evening.
For Torres, it was juggling full time work and college classes in her second semester that star
ted to overwhelm her. Because of the demand, she dropped out for a semester to keep up with work.
“I would get out late, and then have to submit homework, most of the time, at night. I just didn’t have time for it. I would get out exhausted,” said Torres.
Now, Torres said she has a better handle on time management. Along with helping her get back on track with her FAFSA application, she also came to the seminar for more information on scholarships and grants for which she might be qualified to apply.
Currently, only 41 percent of Osceola County high school graduates enroll in a state or private college, according to the Florida Department of Education. The state average of college enrollment is
The Got College? program, a collaborative project started in 2013 by Education Foundation Osceola, Valencia College and the Osceola County School District, is identifying factors that contribute to the county’s low rate of enrollment.
Soto said that one factor the group has identified is the process of applying for college and college financial aid. For some county high school upperclassmen, the process for both is so intimidating and complicated that they opt out of applying completely.
“Everyone is concerned about the cost of university. And we want to have these sessions to explain to parents and students that college can be affordable and that it’s not difficult. We have FAFSA and the college application is something that any student can do and accomplish and should,” said Soto.
Along with working with Got College?, Soto has extended college application help with an independent program that launched at Gateway High School this year. Focusing on high school seniors that q
ualify for private or state colleges but haven’t yet applied, guidance counselors will walk these students through the process for the entire year, including the application for enrollment and financial aid. For those students that do complete the application, they will be given a medal to wear during high school graduation along with their names highlighted in
Like most college students today, Quiñones had to work during his time in Valencia and the University of Central Florida to help pay for his college education. He was able to receive a Pell Grant, which paid for most of his expenses during his two years at Valencia. But, he’s also aware of the extra economic challenges that both parents and students face when it comes to paying for college.
He joined the seminar in Buenaventura Lakes to encourage parents about the opportunities out there.
“We have hard working parents that sometimes have to work two, three jobs. And, so hopefully this will be an opportunity for them to get educated and then have an opportunity to get their kids to move forward to the next level. I know that’s what the parents want, and sometimes it’s challenging with the financial situation. So, here we are giving them an opportunity to learn how to accomplish that,”
In addition to these general application and financial aid seminars, Got College? also is offering a one-on-one session Thursday to individually walk parents and students through the FAFSA process. It’s at the
Technical Education Center Osceola from 5 to 8 p.m.
For more information on the Got College? program, visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/gotcollegeosceola.