Students struggle with lack of summer financial aid

Ceylin Arias/Staff Writer

Nicki Minaj did a tuition giveaway for fans who showed her verified straight A’s and is planning on creating a charity to help students with their loans and tuition, according to her social media accounts.

“Show me straight A’s that I can verify w/ur school and I’ll pay it. Who wants to join THAT  contest?!?! Dead serious. Shld I set it up?,” Nicki Minaj tweeted on Sunday, May 7.

At the time of this article’s publication, the tweet received a total of 53,743 likes and 27,472 retweets with thousands of fans replying with screenshots that proved their “A” GPA, but Melissa Gonzalez, a sophomore majoring in psychology, thinks that while it’s a generous act, Minaj’s standards are too high.

“She says you have to have straight A’s in order for her to lend you a hand but sometimes it’s hard to get straight A’s,” Gonzalez said.“It’s even more so when you’re trying to juggle every other responsibility you have in your life. Requiring A’s and B’s instead wouldn’t hurt.”

The contest ended with a total of 30 fans receiving free tuition money but Minaj promised later on Instagram that she would do another giveaway in a few months.

This makes me so happy,” Minaj wrote on Instagram. “[A few from the other day] I’ll do another impromptu payment spree in a month or 2 but pls know that I’m launching my official charity for Student Loans/Tuition Payments VERY SOON! You’ll be able to officially sign up! I’ll keep you posted!”

 

While finding alternate ways to pay for school, such as Minaj’s tuition giveaways, sounds like a good idea, Gonzalez thinks it’s more important to solve issues almost every student faces, such as the lack of summer financial aid availability.

“During the summer, students aren’t offered a financial aid grant, instead, they are told to use the money left over from the financial aid given to them during [the] fall or spring semester,” Gonzalez said. “That sounds good and all but there’s a problem. Many students aren’t given enough financial aid money in the first place to have some left over.”

According to Francisco Valines, the director of financial aid, this is because while a student’s loan eligibility can be renewed every two semesters through a program called “Borrower” or Based Academic Year for Loans, pell grants cannot be renewed.

“Once you’ve used it up [Pell Grants] that’s it, there’s no more,” said Valines.

The summer term, according to Valines, is also not part of the normal fall or spring school year for federal aid, so students will usually use up most of their institutional grants by the end of the spring term.

But, the Financial Aid Office is aware of this problem, he said, so they try to save some of these grants for the summer to help students who are close to graduation.

“We try to save for six credits at state-rate which is approximately $1,600 for tuition and fees,” Valines said.

The office awards seniors with the most-need first and then work their way down until they run out of money, according to Valines.

There is more flexibility with scholarship recipients, Valines said, but eligible students need to have a minimum of 30 credits per academic year and a 3.0 GPA.

“Since an academic year also includes summer we have more flexibility with that group of students [scholarship recipients] because they can use their money for the summer term to get ahead in their classes to graduate in a little over four years or less and maintain their eligibility,” said Valines.

According to Valines, if Governor Rick Scott signs the bill allowing summer funding for Bright Futures, eligible students will be able to use the awarded amount for summer classes.

But until then, students like Gonzalez are struggling to make ends meet.

“I personally did not have financial aid money left over from this year so I had to take out a summer loan offered to me by financial aid,” Gonzalez said. “I’m struggling to go to school and work at the same time all to pay for that summer loan.”

But, according to Valines, students who attend full-time during this upcoming fall and spring semester and are Pell Grant recipients for both semesters will be able to receive Pell Grants for summer 2018.

“The federal government, with their latest budget, passed to go back to the summer Pell [Grant]. The last time this happened was in 2012 and it was literally $10 million so it’s a big deal. This will certainly be a nice change for us,” said Valines.

 

Image retrieved from Flickr.

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