Going to school this year will be easier for freshman and single-mother Linda Luft.
She is one of nearly 2,000 Cypress College students who will share $2.5 million in financial aid, a record for the liberal arts institution.
"It will be just about enough to cover my books and supplies," said Luft, a business major, after happily picking up her first check. "It really helps out. It gives people a chance to have an education who normally wouldn't."
The record disbursement of state and federal aid is a welcome relief to many students faced with decreasing course offerings, increasing class sizes and tuition boosts as a result of the state budget crunch.
Harry Jacobs, interim director of financial aid, credits the college's informational outreach campaign started last year for increasing the student-aid numbers.
His staff worked overtime to distribute information packets and flyers on campus. They even gave up some Saturdays to help increase student awareness about what types of aid would be available, he said.
"We decided to do something to reach out to students," Jacobs said. "The results have been dramatic."
Friday, the financial aid office began distributing the $2.5 million, about twice the amount received during the 1990-91 academic year. In addition, about 600 more students will be receiving checks. The mass distributions will take place again in October and November for the following semesters.
Cypress is not the only community college trying to help make education more affordable and available. Several other colleges have reported a significant increase in the number of students applying for both state and federal aid.
Janet Hermosillo, coordinator of financial aid at Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, also reported a substantial increase in the number of students looking for assistance. This semester, about 2,600 students have applied, almost double the number of applicants for the entire 1990-91 year, she said.
Because initial efforts at Cypress have been so successful, the campaign to inform students will go on next year, Jacobs said.
"According to our projections, there are another 2,700 students out there eligible to receive financial aid. We would be able to award an additional $2 million in aid if these students would only apply."