From South Puget Sound Community College Foundation scholarships, to the Washington College Grant, South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) offers numerous options to help pay for college, including special aid for students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For new and current college attendees, both SPSCC and the SPSCC Foundation offer resources for students to help finance tuition, educational materials and related college expenses. The college is also equipped with knowledgeable support staff who can remotely assist students in navigating available funding options.

Filling out either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) is an important first step in accessing federal or state college funding. Photo courtesy: SPSCC

If students hope to access federal or state funds when paying for college, an important first step is to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA collects information about a student’s family size, income and education level. Filling out a FAFSA can help decide a student’s eligibility for educational funds like the Pell Grant.

The WASFA, also known as the Washington Application for State Financial Aid, can be filled out if a student is unable to complete a FAFSA due to immigration status. Although students who fill out a WASFA will not qualify for federal funds, they will still be considered for state-sponsored funding, including the Washington College Grant.

Supported by the State of Washington, the Washington College Grant can help low- and middle-income students pay for college expenses. Beginning this fall, the Washington College Grant will fund all qualifying students throughout the school year.

“The Washington College Grant is now going to be considered an entitlement fund,” explains Amy Ybarra, director of financial aid at SPSCC. “It has been fully funded by the state. In the past, schools would get a certain amount of money and once they spend it, it’s done. So, if a student came in spring quarter, and they were eligible, but we didn’t have the money, they couldn’t receive funds. So now, if a student is eligible, it’s going to be funded, which is great.”

More Help Through the CARES Act

If students are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, they can access Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding through SPSCC. Of the $2.6 million in funding that SPSCC received from the CARES Act, almost $1.5 million will be used directly toward student emergency funding. The remaining funds will be directed towards the college’s own pandemic-related expenses, including fees associated with distance-learning technology.

Passed through Congress on March 27, the CARES Act provides funding to schools through which, students can receive support for expenses like tuition or fees. Students can also apply for funding related to unforeseen coronavirus-related expenses like food, housing, technology and transportation. Ybarra says the college still has funds available, nearly $1 million in fact, and the financial aid office is currently accepting financial requests from students for Summer and Fall Quarters.

The SPSCC financial aid office is equipped with knowledgeable support staff who can remotely assist students in navigating available funding options. Photo courtesy: SPSCC

“We’re asking that students either contact an SPSCC financial aid advisor or their Educational Planner,” says Ybarra. “After talking with them and figuring out what their needs are, we have them complete a short application. We’re reviewing those based on their need and what they’re asking for.”

Other Grants and Scholarships

The SPSCC Foundation also offers several college-wide scholarships and grants to help students achieve their academic and career goals. Student success grants provide emergency funding for students with a sudden or unforeseen financial need. This can include temporary tuition assistance, housing assistance or help with transportation.

In addition to grants, the SPSCC Foundation also awards over $500,000 in scholarships annually. By filling out one application, SPSCC students can qualify for numerous Foundation scholarships based on need, academic achievement and additional criteria set by the individual scholarship.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and as preparations for a new school year begin, there are an increasing number of options to help students pay for college at SPSCC. An important step to securing college funding, Ybarra encourages students to fill out a FAFSA or a WASFA and to contact the SPSCC Financial Aid office, where students can receive individualized help to navigate the available resources.

“I would encourage students, even if they’ve never filled out a FAFSA or a WASFA before, that they should definitely do it,” says Ybarra. “If you get in to us, we can then tell you what you’re eligible for.”

To learn more about the Washington College Grant and CARES Act funding, visit the South Puget Sound Community College website. To learn more about student success grants and Foundation scholarships, visit the South Puget Sound Community College Foundation website.

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