Napa Valley College student Jesus De Haro may one day become a mechanical engineer, but for now he is working 20 hours a week at Kentucky Fried Chicken to pay for school costs not covered by financial aid.
In book costs alone, the 21-year-old has paid $1,300 this semester for seven or eight textbooks needed for his math and physics courses. In addition to KFC, De Haro works 10 hours a week at the college as a math and physics tutor.
While the cost for books comes out of his pocket, De Haro’s tuition is covered through scholarship money and financial aid. De Haro said he applied for financial assistance because his family has limited resources.
“There are six of us in my family — me and my three brothers, my mom, and my dad,” De Haro said. “My dad is the only source of income ... He has to support the whole household.”
The Napa High School graduate is among roughly 45 percent of students at Napa Valley College who have received financial assistance during the 2012-13 academic year.
The college’s financial aid office reports that applications for financial help has increased significantly — despite fewer enrolled students.
Over the past five years, the number of students receiving financial assistance at NVC has increased by about 26 percent.
Meanwhile, state budget cuts have led to course reductions at the college and fewer enrolled students. According to the financial aid office, 12,455 students were enrolled during the 2008-09 academic year, and just under 8,000 have enrolled thus far in 2012-13.
The economy, coupled with new government policies, have been “huge factors” in increasing the number of applicants for aid, said Patti Morgan, Napa Valley College’s dean of financial aid.
People who have lost their jobs are going back to school, and many are now eligible to keep their unemployment benefits while they learn new job skills, Morgan said. Prior to the Obama administration, people would lose their unemployment benefits if they were enrolled in school and not actively seeking work.
During the 2011-12 academic year, Napa Valley College provided more than $11.5 million in financial assistance (excluding veterans benefits). The largest portion of this assistance came from federal and state grants. Federal Pell grants, which are available to low-income students, provided about $6.8 million to Napa Valley College students last year.
For students who qualify, Napa Valley College offers a wide range of financial assistance including federal grants, state grants, private and corporate scholarships, loans, work-study and access to reduced-cost or free services — such as childcare.
Napa Valley College student Shanice Watts has her enrollment fees covered this semester through the Board of Governors Fee Waiver program, which provides assistance to income-eligible California community college students.
Watts is studying chemistry at Napa Valley College and hopes to transfer to UC Berkeley or UCLA this spring. Her long-term goal is to apply to medical school and become a doctor.
The Vintage High School graduate said she wasn’t aware of the resources for financial assistance during her first year of college, and she ended up paying $800 to $900 for classes out-of-pocket.
“I got money from graduation, and I spent all of it on that first semester,” Watts said.
When a friend encouraged her to check out financial aid options, Watts met with a college counselor who helped her with the application process.
“It was really simple and quick,” Watts said.
For De Haro, this is his last semester at NVC. He plans to graduate and pursue his mechanical engineering studies at a four-year school.
His goal is to transfer to UCLA, UC Davis, or UC San Diego — although he said it will all depend on receiving enough financial aid to cover the costs.