College Advice From a Financial Aid Veteran ::

This article was written for our sponsor, MyFutureNC.

Over 80% of students receive some form of financial aid, but the amount of money students need to borrow is steadily increasing. For those worried about paying for their education, financial aid offices can be a direct line to available resources.

Tiffany Youngblood is currently the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Fayetteville Technical Community College and has accumulated 18 years in the world of financial aid. In her role, she helps students find financial aid, build financial literacy, and learn about helpful resources.

The first place to start? FAFSA.

“Filling out the FAFSA application is the first step to a free or affordable education, and the percentage of students actually completing their FAFSA application is lower than it should be. Students don’t always realize that completing the FAFSA application can direct them to other resources — and for our school, completing the FAFSA application is a criteria when applying for scholarships,” said Youngblood. “Some students might think their parents are making too much money, but we need them to fill in this information because they don’t know what institutional funding they might be eligible for.”

Youngblood also recommends that students speak directly with the school they intend to attend to learn about additional financial resources. For example, Fayetteville Tech offers a tuition-free program called Trojan Jump Start that will pay for four transferable college credits.

There are also specific resources for single student groups.

“NC Reach is a state-funded scholarship for students who were in homestay. For a lot of students, once they get out of that foster care program, they try to figure out what they need to do. When they come to school, they may think the only thing I need to do is apply for my FASFA application, but NC Reach can give them additional funding,” Youngblood said. “For our adult learners, we have something called the Finish Line grant, which is a one-time emergency grant of up to a thousand dollars. If these students have completed at least 50% of their degree program with a GPA of 2.0 or higher, they can apply for this funding.

“Always check with the school of your choice how much it will cost to go to school and don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t afford to go to school,” he said. she concluded. “There are many resources available and funding is available. Even for students with not-so-good GPAs, we can work on making that happen and finding a path that’s right for you.

For high school students looking to save money, dual credit courses at community colleges can help support core courses at a fraction of the cost other colleges might charge.

In fact, while Youngblood works in college, she often begins to bond with students as they graduate from high school. Its goal is to visit all secondary schools in Cumberland County before the end of May. By establishing a relationship early, Youngblood and his team are in a better position to provide financial advice to students.

“I always encourage students not to go into heavy debt unless they have to. When I talk to our young students, we put their student loans on their account, but it’s an offer. How much does it cost us to come to school here? How much do your books cost and what else do you need? “said Youngblood. “Go talk to your parents and find out if it’s necessary for you to get those student loans, because it’s a debt you have to pay off and you don’t want it to bother you in the long run. Let’s start by completing your FAFSA application, and we’ll find resources for you. »

Youngblood challenged all of the financial aid administrators on its team to take this kind of approach to all of their interactions with students – ask the right questions, listen to their concerns, and give them advice on how best to to proceed.

While her office stays busy, knowing that she can be a lifesaver to students keeps her motivated and, therefore, keeps her team motivated.

“I have to commend my counselors for taking the time to listen to the stories the students are living. If it’s a student who constantly changes programs and their grades fluctuate, that’s where we’re going to have a lifeline. We’ll connect students with a guidance counselor and ask them key questions: What are your short-term goals? What are your long term plans? Do you want to go to a four year establishment or do you stop here at two years? “said Youngblood. “We want to have these conversations and as financial aid administrators we know we need to stay on our financial lane, but we have resources to talk to other people who can help. We have success coaches. We have our pedagogical advisors with whom we can partner. We want to see students come to school and change the trajectory of their lives.

This article was written for our sponsor, MyFutureNC.