financial aid

Cochise College Director of Financial Aid Karen Emmer, center, stands with Scholarship Navigator Jean McNeil, right, and computer information student Megan Frates in the campus financial aid area.

COCHISE COUNTY — Cochise College is lending a helping hand to students with their summer scholarship, which covers tuition costs for students.

“This year, I had some money and I thought, ‘you know what would be a really good idea, to give students free tuition for summer, and see if we could get students to come out and maybe help students who didn’t have financial aid or it’s their first time back to school,’ “ said Cochise College Director of Financial Aid Karen Emmer.

Emmer said the summer scholarship provides tuition for up to seven credit hours — the max a student can take for the summer session — which equals $637.

As of April 29, Emmer said she has awarded 515 students.

One of those is Megan Frates, who started attending Cochise College this spring.

Frates, 23, a computer information systems major at the Sierra Vista campus, said the scholarship was critical in enabling her to enroll in the summer session.

“I actually am only working part-time right now at the college — I work for the computer lab as a lab aid,” said Frates, who was awarded $546 for six credits. “I don’t get paid much, so this scholarship will really help me. I know that I wouldn’t be able to afford school as it was without this scholarship.”

Emmer credits the Cochise College Foundation — a 501(c)(3) organization that aims to generate revenue for scholarships for Cochise College students — for its extensive fundraising efforts.

Emmer said she isn’t sure if the scholarship will become an annual offering. She said she would like that to happen if if the funds are available.

Emmer said those willing to help can contact the foundation to donate by emailing foundation@cochise.edu or calling (520) 417-4149.

The summer scholarship isn’t the only new item the college is offering.

“We have a new scholarship called ‘Earn to Learn,’ and the students actually have to save a certain amount throughout the year,” said Emmer.

The foundation contributes $2,000 toward the scholarship and the amount is matched by Cochise College.

“The Earn to Learn Foundation is about financial literacy,” Emmer said. “So, they have to do a three-hour financial literacy workshop, and then, they have to open up a savings account. So, those students — there’s several in the pipeline for that. But they actually have to finish those steps before we can say for sure that they got that award.”

Cochise College Scholarship Navigator Jean McNeil said the early bird has a better chance of getting the worm.

“Applying early actually really does start with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid),” said McNeil. “You just can’t leave out that all-important piece, which opens up every Oct. 1 for the following school year. So, you do need to fill out one of those applications once every year — you have to renew it.”

“Our Cochise College Foundation has approximately 180 scholarships, which every student who completes the FAFSA is automatically considered for those scholarships,” McNeil said. “They’re usually awarded in April. And as long as the student meets the eligibility criteria for each of those, they can be considered for those and like I said, they will be automatically awarded.”

McNeil said the deadline for the Cochise College Scholarships applications is June 10.

“There’s a lot of things that come up, students get busy, they have good intentions but we really do try to encourage them to go ahead and get those applications filled out early,” said McNeil. “We just don’t want them waiting until the last minute. Because once that deadline comes, we’re ready to start assigning those scholarships and we just don’t want anybody to miss out.”

Emmer and McNeil said that when applying for scholarships, students need to be aware of the eligibility criteria, Changes in the number of credits a student is enrolled in or a change in a major can make all the difference.

“You also will be looking at what the minimum GPA requirements are,” said Emmer. “Most scholarships do require a certain minimum GPA — those can range between anywhere from a 2.0 to some set the bar really high at 3.5. But that minimum GPA is very important to note.”

“Some scholarships will also require that you do have that documentation of need — like Karen was talking about earlier, that’s based on your FAFSA information,” McNeil said. “So even if a student does not qualify for the Pell Grant, that FAFSA information can be really critical in determining that they do still have some unmet need.”