Financial Aid: Free Student Cash is Available
By Dianne Anderson
Megabucks are rolling down to start off the new academic year for students at colleges and universities, but the elders know better and are sounding the alarm to not spend it all in one place, or the wrong place.
Anthony Roberson said that some students may be struggling with all the choices, like paying their tuition, buying books, paying for housing, food, and transportation, or fashion forward head to toe.
He wants to make sure students stay focused on their new money stream.
“This is not just a free check to do what you want. You have to be responsible as well. We make sure that we educate our Black students as soon as they get the financial aid on how to be a steward and be successful,” said Roberson, president of the Black Faculty, Staff and Student Association at Cal State University San Bernardino.
The money must stretch a long way, especially in this economy as Black students usually face harder economic times than other groups. Students need all the help they can get just to meet basic needs.
Roberson said that universities and colleges shut down during the pandemic, which included housing and dorms that Black students relied on because their families were already dealing with tight living spaces. It puts a lot of stress on students.
“When you’re hungry, you can’t study on an empty stomach or you’re couch surfing. We have resources at our basic needs center, that’s an excellent resource for our Black students on campus,” said Roberson, also Associate Director of Operations, Santos Manuel Student Union.
At CSUSB, he said Black Faculty and Staff have a close-knit network, guiding students to navigate the college experience.
“If they’re not succeeding, we’re not succeeding,” he said. “We almost have like the underground railroad, we have people in certain departments that can identify that you go see this person in financial aid, or that person and they can take care of you.”
Lack of knowledge of available resources is one obstacle, but he said pride is the other because Black students are not comfortable with asking for help.
Whatever the need, the Pan African Student Center offers numerous services, including financial literacy and help managing financial aid packages.
“We want to make sure they have enough income to survive the semesters, and also be a steward of their funds,” he said.
Funding is available for most students in the Inland Empire. Eligibility for Cal Grants A, B and C are based on the student’s FAFSA or California Dream Act Application responses, which pull down grants every year. Within the Cal State University system, eligible students receive $5,742. At the University of California system, students can access $12,570, according to the California Student Aid Commission.
Alex Ruiz, Interim Director of Undergraduate Admissions at UCR, said their campus Fall enrollment target increased by over 600 students from last year, both first-year and transfers combined.
While UCR saw fewer applications from Black students, both first-year and transfer, the number admitted is similar to last year. In collaboration with African Student Programs and local Community Based Organizations, Ruiz said Black/African American recruitment unit has been instrumental in helping support incoming Black students in deciding to select UCR.
“We are trending to be on target for first-years, but given the decline in CCC [community college] enrollment (which translated to fewer CCC applicants), we are struggling a bit with our transfer numbers. We are one of three UC campuses that is open for the winter 2023 term and have decided to extend the application deadline to August 31,” he said.
Jose Aguilar said the campus is gearing up for the Fall quarter and all the financial aid awards for students coming down the pike.
Aguilar, director of financial aid at UCR, urges students to apply for FAFSA or the California Dream application for undocumented students. Once they apply, they will know if they qualify for Calgrant, federal, state, or institutional aid.
But most students don’t realize that they qualify for funding. At UCR, about 90% of undergraduate students now receive financial aid. Even if students don’t think they qualify, he said they should fill out the application anyway.
He said that a middle-class scholarship will also be available for students with family incomes that are middle class, defined as family income and assets up to $201,000.
“Let the school and the process tell you what you qualify for versus making an assumption on your own that I don’t qualify,” he said. “I would encourage students to apply, grants and scholarships are available.”
To learn more about all grants and funding awards, see https://www.csac.ca.gov/
For the Pan African Center, see