GGC students now up for federal financial aid

LAWRENCEVILLE - Students at Georgia Gwinnett College, the state's newest four-year institution of higher learning, can now qualify to receive federal financial aid, including the Pell grant and Stafford loan, officials announced Thursday.

Shortly after the college was granted candidacy status toward accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Georgia Gwinnett submitted to the U.S. Department of Education its application for federal financial aid, which normally takes about 90 days for approval.

Now that the college is eligible for financial aid, students will have to update their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and the money will be available within a few weeks, according to a news release.

"This is going to make a huge difference to many students and their families," GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman said. "Many of our students are struggling financially - working, going to school and caring for families - and these grants and loans will enable them to concentrate on the tasks at hand, their studies and their grades, so that they can graduate and continue to be the productive citizens they are today.

"Cost should never be a factor when it comes to getting an education," Kaufman continued. "Money should never keep a student from getting that degree."

Georgia Gwinnett students will continue to be eligible to receive the HOPE scholarship to assist them in paying for college tuition and fees, but these additional grants and loans also will aid them in paying for living expenses in addition to tuition.

The U.S. Department of Education's federal student aid programs are the largest source of student aid in the United States. The programs provide more than $80 billion to students each year in grants, loans and work-study assistance.

Grants and loans for which GGC students will be eligible include:

n Pell grants, a need-based grant that provides $890 to $4,731 per year.

n Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), available to first- and second-year Pell grant recipients who meet certain criteria. Eligible first-year students receive $750 per academic year, while eligible second-year students receive $1,300.

n Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART), available to third- and fourth-year Pell Grant recipients who meet certain criteria and are majoring in an eligible program. SMART grant students receive $4,000 per academic year.

n Stafford loans, which are guaranteed by the U.S. government. Payments are deferred until the student is no longer attending college or is going to school less than half-time. The subsidized Stafford loans are need-based, and the government pays the interest while the student is enrolled in college. The unsubsidized loans are not need-based and the interest accrues while the student is enrolled in college.

n Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS), which allow parents to borrow on behalf of their dependent children.

"These grants and loans represent millions of dollars in educational opportunities for the students attending GGC," Dr. Stanley Preczewski, vice president for academic and student affairs, said. "This makes college affordable for those who thought they never could go to school and earn a degree. We want our students to worry about their grades - not how they're going to pay for their education."

Students can begin filling out their financial aid forms on Tuesday. Students can fill out the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. GGC's FAFSA code is 041429.