With increasing fees and the diminishing economy, more students receive economic help

Approximately 62 to 65 percent of the CSUN student population are only able attend the university through various forms of financial aid.

Currently, close to 23,000 students have been awarded with financial aid this semester, said Lili Vidal, director of the financial aid and scholarship department at CSUN.

“As the fees get higher and the economy gets worse, more students who were barely able to make it on what they could do at their jobs, they are slipping over the edge and they can’t do it anymore,” Vidal said. “They need to have some source of funding to help them.”

She said that with increasing student fees and the diminishing economy, “more students have had to turn to financial aid to help them. But, that’s what it’s there for.”

Financial aid is a resource available to students through federal, state and institutional aid. Aid can also take the form of private scholarships, work study and loans, Vidal said.

She said many CSUN students are able to attain fiscal aid because there is a high need for it.

Joyce Pezqueda, 18, is a full time freshman who receives about $3,000 in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Cal-Grant per semester.

She said one of the reasons she opted to attend CSUN was because money was tight in her household.

Pezqueda, undecided, said she had plans to attend a UC school.

“I sort of regret not going to a UC,” Pezqueda said.  “But, I was surprised. FAFSA was such a big help. I didn’t think it would pay for all of it.”

Vidal said most money comes from the federal government through the Pell Grant and federal direct loans.

She added the most significant aid is the Pell Grant, which rewards a student up to $5,550 for the 2010-2011 school year.

“Students who are really feeling the pinch and need some help should be applying for financial aid,” Vidal said.

Freshman Toma Shlakanov, 18, said he receives approximately $700 from both FAFSA and Cal-grant.

He said he got scared when his FAFSA payment was held back because he was unable to make his deadline to pay CSUN.

Shlakanov said he had undergone a random FAFSA check, which he believes is done to ensure that those who apply for aid are not trying to take advantage of the system.

“In the end, the government helped me out and that’s not a bad thing,” Shlakanov said. “The school should extend the deadline for financial aid, that would help.”

Vidal said students who are struggling financially, working too many hours, or are preoccupied with their situation will see the quality of their academic work deteriorate.

“We need students concentrating on their academics, that’s what they’re here for,” Vidal said. “That’s why financially, we’re trying to help them.”

Sophomore Chris Coria, 20, said he received about $6,000 in FAFSA aid this year.

Coria, a full-time mechanical engineering major, said the aid helps him pay for tuition.

“I will have to pay for it later,” Coria said. “But, I don’t have to worry about it now.”

Coria, who commutes from Palmdale, added fiscal aid gives him the freedom not to have a job at this time.

He said his major is very time-consuming and he needs all the time he can get.

Vidal said that even with the budget woes, students should remain hopeful about receiving fiscal aid.

She said she expects the federal government to increase the amount of aid they give students in the foreseeable future.

“We really encourage students who need the help to ask for it,” Vidal said. “Go ahead and apply for financial aid because that’s what the aid is there for, to help students so that they can concentrate on their academics.”