More students applying for financial aid

March 8, 2010 2:55:47 PM PST
The number of Illinois students filing financial aid forms has jumped more than 20 percent in the first two months of this year compared to last year.

The burden of affording college is rising as economic hardship impacts some families. Some students at University of Illinois Chicago say without financial aid they would not be in school.

"The economy right now is so bad. My parents are struggling to pay for the house and everything. So I don't want to ask for money. So I'm just doing this on my own," said Megan Brown, UIC student.

"The last couple two years have been less help from family, a little bit more from the government," said Jonathan Arana, UIC student.

The number of UIC students applying for financial aid has gone up 130 percent in the last three years.

Tim Opgenorth, the director of the Office of Financial Aid at UIC, says complicating matters as a state school is that it's unclear how much state aid the school will be able to offer until the state's budget is resolved.

"The largest state grant, the MAP grant, that's based upon the number of applications and the funding available. Last year they cut off that program around May 15. The number is up once again by almost 20 percent from the last year so that cutoff may not be far off from early April, mid-April," said Opgenorth.

The application for financial aid in Illinois begins with applying for the free application for federal student aid or FAFSA for short. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission reports statewide 23 percent more students applying for financial aid this year. Those who qualify for financial aid is up 34 percent this year.

"There's more students that need aid and are eligible for aid and the state has less money to pay. So that creates an enormous gap and it creates a challenge," said Andrew Davis , Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Udeshi Patel has a work-study assignment at the financial aid office at UIC. She and her family are counting her getting help to get her degree in biology.

"They have their own worry and I don't want to make them more worried by asking them for money. So it's kind of nice to have the work-study so I can get my own expenses out of it," said Patel.

Students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible if they haven't already.

The state's grants are given as long as the money is available. At this point, schools are in limbo waiting to see how much they can offer students.