Some students desperate for more financial aid

Four FAMU students with financial aid problems. Photo by Ariyon Dailey

There’s no question that Florida A&M students still need the same amount of funds that would’ve been granted pre-coronavirus.

Now, the Office of Financial Aid is allowing students to apply for additional assistance funding.

With travel and access to the physical campus limited due to COVID-19, students are taking classes all across the country. Some are learning from their homes in Tallahassee or their hometowns.

Even with location changes, tuition prices remain the same.

The additional financial assistance will be awarded to students based upon the university’s objectives regarding recruitment, retention, diversity, service and an applicant’s unmet financial need, according to the electronic application.

Many students shared that the award could help them in multiple areas, if they’re lucky.

Morgan Walton is a sophomore, public relations  major who is having trouble finding scholarships to assist in her school fees.

FAMU student Morgan Walton. Photo courtesy Walton

“It’s expensive to go to college and COVID is taking a lot of hits to finances, and I’m not on scholarship. I was advised to apply for it [additional financial assistance],” Walton said.

Walton is an in-state student paying out of pocket and is forced to take out loans.

Damir Hartfield, a sophomore psychology major and Marching 100 member who resides in FAMU Towers. He is saddled with a meal plan, in-state tuition and band fees.

FAMU student Damir Hartfield. Photo courtesy Hartfield

“Everything up here is expensive. I have a small little job but I don’t get much tips and I don’t get any support financially from my family,” Hartfield said.

Hartfield wants to receive any money that can help and would like to purchase items for his dorm like pots, a microwave and books for his classes.

To put things into perspective, Hartfield says his total fees this semester are about $7,300 and he’s only received about $3,000 in federal grants.

Hartfield’s situation is similar to most students with federal aid that only covers a percent of what they owe.

According to Nerd Wallet Data Analyst Elizabeth Renter, student loans now make up a larger portion of how lower-income students pay for college over federal grants.

In the study, Renter explained how side jobs for students just don’t cut it anymore with the tuition prices of today.

On the other hand, transfer sophomore economics major Takayla Perry is an out-of-state student and says she thinks tuition prices should be lowered, due to the pandemic crisis.

FAMU student Takayla Perry. Photo courtesy Perry

“That causes a lot of unnecessary stress, still having to pay the full amount. Most of our classes are fully virtual, ” Perry said.

Perry is active in the Transfer Student Association and many of them, especially those from out of state, feel the same.

The tuition rate for out-of-state students living off campus is $33,996, according to FAMU’s Office of Financial Aid.

“The money would most definitely go toward them access codes. I still have to pay for it because my financial aid was delayed,” Perry said.

Perry explained how she lost money after having to stay in her hometown of Milwaukee, after being told students cannot return after spring break in March. She was forced to still pay her rent and fees in Tallahassee, even though she would be stuck in Milwaukee for four months.

Many students would like the additional funding to go toward their rent, class resources and tuition, but there are also expenses outside of the college realm.

Ashley Laurent, a senior music industry major, owes two medical bills that she is saving to pay.

FAMU student Ashley Laurent. Photo courtesy Laurent

“I have like medical bills to pay for because this summer I went to the emergency room and I also fractured my foot. My medical bills are literally ruining my credit. Like, I almost died in 2017 and I’m still paying on that bill,”  she said.

Residing in Tallahassee — despite the virtual atmosphere — is survival for some. Laurent can’t return home because her job requires a quiet environment and she no longer has a bedroom in her original home.

“Man I’m lucky I’m on EBT because without this funding … I probably would have to wing it with everything. Some students just have too much on their plate,” she said.

If awarded, Laurent said she would like to put the money toward her medical bills, keep saving to pay rent and joked about buying a wig.

“I am gonna get my lace wig — don’t get me wrong, I am gonna get my wig,” Laurent said.

The Office of Financial Aid did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

As of now, there isn’t a specific amount being awarded. Perry hopes that the award would be something similar to the CARES Act that was awarded in May.

“I was hoping we can get around $800, like what we got in the CARES Act. Even if it’s $200. Anything that can go towards those access codes and books that a lot of people still need to purchase,” Perry said.

The additional financial assistance application can be found here. There is no deadline to apply found on the application, but students who have been approved will be notified via FAM Mail.