ECISD urges students to fill out financial aid forms

With college costs in the tens of thousands, Ector County ISD officials and counselors are urging students to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid before the end of March.
The subject was discussed Thursday night on an ECISD Live broadcast over Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It was moderated by Superintendent Scott Muri.
Alicia Syverson, assistant superintendent for student and school support, said the average cost for public universities in Texas is $25,626 a year and $40,155 per year if you live out of state.
Odessa High School graduate Karime Gutierrez said a text from Moreno was a prime factor in getting her to college. She is majoring in human science at Texas Tech University and plans to go on for her master’s degree.
The 2017 graduate said the FAFSA application was a blessing.
Gutierrez said she was able to use her FAFSA funds to pay for tuition and books and anything left over could be used for books and food.
She also discovered when she attended Odessa College that she was eligible for aid under the Hazlewood Act. Its website said the Hazlewood Act is a Texas benefit that provides qualified veterans, spouses, and dependent children with an education benefit of up to 150 hours of tuition exemption, including most fee charges, at public higher education institutions in Texas. The site said it does not include living expenses, books, or supply fees.
Gutierrez said she also received a scholarship for her major in human sciences.
Eventually, Gutierrez said she hopes to have a private home day care center.
“The FAFSA really helped me,” she said. “I don’t know that I would have been able to pay for college. I’m really grateful that Ms. Moreno sent out that text.”
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be found on studentaid.gov. It is completely online and takes about an hour to fill out, Syverson said.
The application also is used to figure out whether a student is eligible for other scholarships.
There is also the Texas Application for Financial Aid. Syverson said this is equally as important. It is filled out on paper and you submit it to the college of your choice in Texas. If you are a non-citizen, she said, you need to fill out this application.
She noted that there is more information on your campus website and your school counselor can help with that.
In the 2021-22 school year, Syverson said it will become a graduation requirement for students to fill out the FAFSA , Texas Application for Financial Aid or fill out an opt out request.
Odessa High School counselor Angelica Moreno said citizens should complete the FAFSA application and non-citizens should fill out the Texas Application for Financial Aid.
Permian High School counselor Jennifer Perkins said filling out the FAFSA is a chance for students to see how much financial aid they could get.
Other loans, grants and work/study opportunities may also become available.
Moreno said getting federal financial aid is not automatic. It’s based on economic need as far as Pell grants go.
“Schools are going to look at whether you qualify for federal aid before they give out scholarships” whether it is athletic, merit or another type, Moreno said.
Perkins said the Texas Application for Financial Aid can help students qualify for state funding, institutional scholarships or work/study.
Moreno and Perkins said many students and families see cost as a barrier.
“We see it every day,” Perkins said. “Students will put up those barriers. Well, I’m not going to go to college. My parents make too much money. I’m not going to qualify for financial aid. But there are academic and merit scholarships.”
“… Whatever your status is there are so many opportunities for money. Statistics show $1-3 million goes unclaimed every year because students won’t fill out that application …,” Perkins added.
Muri agreed that there is “a lot of money left on the table that is not awarded simply because students don’t fill out the application.”
Every high school in ECISD has resources for financial aid.
Parent meetings also are held.
Perkins said with the economic downturn in this area, colleges and universities understand that parents may not be making the same amount they were in 2019. Financial aid offices have special circumstances forms that are available on those university websites, or you can contact her or Moreno to find out where they are.
Amy Anderson, district director of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), discussed the To and Through Success Center.
“… Once you graduate from high school, ECISD is still there to support you,” Anderson said.
She noted that this is a new effort this year.
“We want to take care of our community near and far because that’s what families do. In our Success Center, we offer tutorials” which Anderson said can be for current or former students.
Test preparation help is also offered.
To contact the To and Through Success Center, you can call the AVID department at 432-456-8549 or email Anderson at amy.anderson@ectorcountyisd.org.