WOODLAND HILLS : Pierce Students Offered Quake Aid

When the Northridge earthquake struck Jan. 17, it nearly derailed the plans of Pierce College sophomore Nicole Nguyen.

Nguyen of Encino said she lost one of her two part-time jobs--and a major portion of her income--when the quake-damaged Topanga Theatre was closed. That left her, she said, with one low-paying, part-time job at Pierce College.

She figures she lost between $2,000 and $3,000 in wages because of the quake. With her reduced income, she said, it was a struggle to pay the rent for her one-bedroom apartment and meet other bills.

Nguyen, 20, recently received some good news. Pierce College, school officials say, will soon distribute $1 million in federal grant money to students who have been affected by the quake.

The temblor disrupted the lives of hundreds of students at the school, said Joy McCaslin, the school's associate dean of student services.

Students who were left homeless had to spend much of their time looking for places to live instead of concentrating on school, said McCaslin. And, like Nguyen, many students lost jobs.

McCaslin said that new students may also be eligible for the grants. "They can file a financial application now before they even sign up," she said.

McCaslin said the grant amounts have not yet been determined, but because several hundred students are eligible, a $500 cap may have to be set.

The school is expected to start allocating the money within the next two weeks, she said. Those seeking information are asked to call McCaslin's office at (818) 719-6422, or the financial aid office at (818) 719-6428.

Under the grant arrangement, $435,000 is available in supplemental education opportunity grants, which students can spend on living expenses, McCaslin said. The remaining portion, $670,955, will be used to fund work-study jobs.

"It helps a lot," said Nguyen, a biology major who plans to transfer next year to UC San Diego. "Now, I will be able to save a little of it for some other emergencies."

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