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Saturday, Jan. 13, 2007, The Ventura County Star
Colleges offering to help students with tuition costs
By Jake Finch
Buying textbooks each semester at Moorpark College is the quick route to a headache for Hila Solomon.
The freshman, beginning her second semester with 21 units at the community college, said the cost of the books is sometimes equal to the $20 a unit she pays for tuition, about $400 a semester.
Under a new program, Solomon could qualify for a tuition assistance scholarship to offset some of the costs of her education, at about $250 a semester.
"It could help me a lot," the Agoura Hills resident said. "It adds up a lot. You add up all the costs and it gets to be a lot more than you think.''
The program, headed by the Moorpark College Foundation, is funded by private donors who give money to pay for units at the college.
The money is then passed on to students, who are selected through an application process that looks at the students' (not the parents') expenses, grades and lifestyle — whether the student is working and commuting from a distance.
A full-time student takes at least 12 to 15 units a semester. The $250 scholarship would cover most or all of that tuition cost.
Margaret Ramos, the college's scholarship technician, said there is a growing need for help for these students, who may not qualify for other types of financial aid but who still struggle with the recurring expenses of community, college — gas, tuition, food and textbooks.
"I just spoke to a student this morning who got her books for the semester and it was $478," Ramos said. "It all adds up. We're also getting students where the price of gas is costing a lot."
The foundation has approved the program. Spokeswoman Jeanne Brown said the only thing left to decide is how much money is available to fund it. Because the foundation has been able to take care of many of its. other needs, there should some money to start the program, she said.
Officials would like to have a couple of thousand dollars each semester to give.
"We've got ample funds where we can start spending money on student needs,"Brown said.
This is not the first time Moorpark College has offered help to students directly. Last year, a book voucher program was started, funded by community donations.
Brown said Moorpark College has received more than $5,000 in donations over the past two years from Cars for Causes in Ventura, which funds the book vouchers.
"That's a very popular scholarship on campus," she said.
Other community colleges are offering in-house financial aid programs.
At Ventura College, about 80 students this year had their first year's tuition paid by Ventura College Foundation. Next year, the program is expected to reach 250 students.
Called Ventura Promise, the program was expanded to allow more students to qualify for the money — about 1,200 students this year.
At Oxnard College, Public Relations Officer Cathy Garnica said a similar assistance program is being developed for its' students. The program should start in the summer or next fall, she said.
The program will be called the OC Guarantee and will pay tuition and associated fees for students.
—Jake Finch's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.