Financial aid needs flexibility

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Cartoon by Michelle Phillips

Cartoon by Michelle Phillips

While the government steps in to provide financial support for some students, others are left in the dust. Disabled students often choke on the dust.

Financial aid is there to assist ambitious students who need support so they can accomplish their educational goals. Students in Southwestern College’s Disability Support Services also deserve support. Esther Sakhi of SWC’s DSS said the federal Financial Aid Program should do more to help DSS students.

“I was also a DSS student and I know the struggle,” she said. “DSS students deserve more help. If there were something to help out more I would be all for it.”

Many DSS students are prevented from striving for their goals due to government financial aid regulations. A disability is beyond the control of the student and no student intends to do poorly, yet many DSS students are penalized for taking too many classes.

Financial aid does not have programs specifically for DSS certified students. DSS students who qualify for financial aid will only receive it if they complete 12 units each semester in a passing grade of A, B or C. Managing 12 units per semester is not feasible for some students.

Financial aid programs are funded by the federal government and the state of California. Students are required to follow their regulations and the college cannot make allowances like EOPS is able to.

Government financial aid programs need the flexibility to implement services for students who are DSS certified. EOPS regulations require students to enroll in at least six units, compared to 12 for state or federal financial aid.

DSS at Southwestern College provides counseling, test proctoring and personal development classes to students with disabilities to help them achieve academic success. These services are helpful, but not always helpful enough to students with financial needs.

SWC’s EOPS provides students with book services, emergency loans and career assistance. EOPS accepts students with a DSS certificate enrolled in a minimum of six units rather than the usual 12. When students have more time to focus on fewer classes, they are more likely to have higher grades and pass rates. EOPS allows them extra time.

Disabled students deserve to be treated with respect. There needs to be a way for a student in DSS to receive more support, even if it requires changing federal regulations. EOPS can be flexible, so can financial aid rules.

Financial aid exists, in its own words, to “assist students who might otherwise be unable to continue their education due to financial hardship and by working together.” Unfortunately for disabled students, the words ring hollow.

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