BY: GERALD SCHULTE, DIRECTOR OF FINANCIAL AID
“Wow”, “Fantastic,” ”Super”, and “Now I can afford to buy my tools” are just a few of the responses from students that were awarded the Minnesota Occupational Grant for fall term of 2016. The Minnesota Occupational Grant was created in 2015 by the Minnesota State Legislature for recent high school graduates or completion of GED’s in the state of Minnesota. The student’s program of choice must be able to be completed within two years. The grant’s purpose is to fill high needs positions with qualified applicants and also to increase the completion rate of the students enrolled in these programs. Some of the high needs areas include nursing, welding, automotive technicians, plumbing, and many of our other health and technical trade programs.
Northland Community and Technical College was awarded $127,000 for this purpose for the 2016-2017 school year and thirty-three students have been awarded these funds this year. The grant pays any remaining balance of tuition and fees less the Federal Pell Grant and the Minnesota State Grant. The grant ranged from $400 to $7,700 with the average award at $3,346, which is renewable for a second year providing the student meets the criteria. This is a huge benefit to students when student debt is at an all-time high. We encourage students to apply early for these opportunities and for all scholarships; you can’t receive them if you do not apply.
Students need to meet certain criteria to qualify for the grant. One criteria is, the student must meet with a mentor to review their status to complete their program. If the student needs tutoring, the mentor will then direct the student to the correct office, such as our Academic Success Center. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education has contracted with Inside Tract to help with this.
The recipients of this grant were selected by the date that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was filled out. This is one reason to fill out the FAFSA early. This is the first year that students may fill out the FAFSA any time after October 1 using 2015 tax information. Any student pursuing post-secondary education should be encouraged to complete the FAFSA early. This will give them the best opportunity to maximize their financial aid and make the best-informed decision where to attend. The FAFSA can be filled out online at https://fafsa.ed.gov/ .
The early FAFSA start date this year will allow students to make better-informed decisions and will align the financial aid application process with the more traditional college application times. We encourage you to fill it out early and remember your FAFSA needs to be updated annually. You can find out much more about NCTC Financial Aid at http://www.northlandcollege.edu/financialaid.