Labryinth of opportunities: Seeking financial help for education

Financial opportunities are out there for post-high-school students

BY MIKE DE FELICE

Special to Kitsap Daily News

PORT ORCHARD — Kitsap County families missed out on getting their share of more than $1.5 million in financial aid for their graduating high school students because they simply failed to apply for the funds.

A South Kitsap high-school career counselor and a state senator offered several reasons why the financial aid was left untouched in 2017. Their reasons, outlined in the Nov. 29 Port Orchard Independent article, “More than half of SK’s seniors overlook post-grad financial aid,” range from being unaware of the financial opportunity to a mistaken belief they would not qualify for assistance.

For those who do not want to miss out on the chance to obtain scholarships or financial help with their post-high-school education, now is a good time to look into applying, according to school officials.

Submission for state and federal financial aid opened Oct. 1. Deadlines for aid applications vary depending on the school a student wants to attend. Scholarship sources include organizations such as Rotary and public or private colleges.

“The best chance to get a scholarship is to seek one from a local organization,” Dave Reichel, a career counselor at South Kitsap High School, said. Reichel helps seniors determine what to do after high school and assists them in seeking help to cover education costs.

“Kiwanis, Port Orchard Yacht Club and Rotary are examples of groups that annually offer scholarships,” he said. Typically, local awards range from between $500 to $2,000, the counselor added.

“National companies like Coca-Cola offer substantial scholarships, but students seeking that aid compete with others from across the country,” Reichel said.

When a family is interested in seeking a scholarship at a particular school, it is important to find out that institution’s application requirements, he said.

“Requirements can be very different,” Reichel noted.

For example, the University of Washington has no scholarship application, he said. Instead, once a person is accepted they are automatically considered for assistance. A student seeking to go to Washington State University on scholarship, however, must submit a scholarship application.

A crucial step to take when looking for scholarships, Reichel explained, is for the student to open an account at TheWashBoard.org. The website connects students with an array of Washington scholarship providers, he added.

Seeking financial assistance can be intimidating to some. Here are some additional sources to turn to when seeking aid. The 2019 Workforce Education Investment Act created the Washington College Grant, which allows more families to become eligible for aid to pay for post-high-school education and training, according to information provided by state Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton. Randall chairs the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.

The Washington College Grant enables income-eligible students to attend public and some private colleges, universities and career training schools in the state. Grants vary according to income and the size of a family. For more information visit: https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/college/washington-college-grant.

Other need-based scholarships and grants include the Opportunity Grant and the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.

The Opportunity Grant helps low-income adults at community colleges or technical schools earn up to 45 credits, receive a credential and earn practical job skills. For more information, visit the appropriate community college or technical school to be attended.

The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship helps low- and middle-income students in Washington earn a bachelor’s degree or certificate. Applicants need to seek a bachelor’s in health care or STEM (which is science, technology, engineering or math subjects). Students can seek a certificate in a high-demand trade, STEM or health care field. Funds can be used to cover tuition and fees, or other costs like transportation, housing and food.

For more information visit: https://www.waopportunityscholarship.org/students/applicants/.

“The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship is a great one,” SKHS counselor Reichel said. “One year we had 16 students earn them. Each was provided [$22,500] over [five] years.”

Low-income families can get an early start obtaining college assistance by having their middle-school students enroll in the College Bound Scholarship Program.

The program enables eligible seventh- and eighth-grade students from low-income households or in foster care to earn a two- or four-year scholarship. A student must enroll by the end of their eighth-grade year, commit to graduate from high school with a 2.0, or better, GPA and have no felony convictions.

This scholarship covers tuition and public college rates, book and certain fees at more than 60 eligible institutions in Washington state. For more information, visit https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/college/college-bound-scholarship-program.

Another way to reduce college costs is for high school students to take college-level courses while in high school.

Dual-credit opportunities are offered by South Kitsap School District, Bremerton School District and Peninsula School District.

Programs include advancement placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), College in the High School, Tech Prep/Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Running Start. For more information, visit https://www.k12.wa.us/student-success/support-programs/dual-credit-programs.

Other opportunities

Special programs for students in foster care have additional options. For additional information, visit https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/college/passport-foster-youth-promise-program.

Undocumented, noncitizen residents who cannot apply for federal student aid (FAFSA) due to immigration issues can apply for state financial aid through the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA).

The Ready, Set, Grad website helps families locate state, federal and private revenue sources to fund education. Check out the “Financial Aid 101” page at https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/#college/financial-aid-101.

Students and families wishing additional information about scholarships or financial aid are advised to seek out school counselors for assistance.

“The Career Center at South Kitsap High is there to help any student, no matter their career path,” Reichel said.

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