WKU students left without grant money

For more than 1,000 WKU students, paying for school was tougher than normal this fall.

The College Access Program grant, which provides up to $1,900 for students from low-income families, ran out of funding on March 7. But it wasn’t until April that it became evident the money wasn’t there to fund CAP grants that were applied for between March 7 and March 15, said Cindy Burnette, director of Student Financial Assistance.

That left thousands of students across the state – including 1,500 WKU students – without much-needed money, she said.

Burnette said the money for awarding CAP grants has lasted past the priority date into April, May and sometimes even June in past years.

According to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority’s website, CAP grants are awarded on a “first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted.”

An alternative to the grant is a student loan, but many students may have already taken out loans, Burnette said.

Other students were eligible for the Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant, but most were already recipients of this grant, she said.

Staff in the Financial Aid Department met with students to discuss their situations and triedto offer individualized help, but sometimes, there weren’t many, if any, options for students, Burnette said.

“We really haven’t been able to offer them a lot of extra help,” she said.

Statewide applications for financial aid have increased.

For the 2009-2010 school year, Financial Aid received 23,271 student aid applications. For the 2010-2011 school year so far, they have received 21,469, which is 92 percent of the previous year’s total, Burnette said.

In order to compensate for the lack of CAP grant funding, University of Louisville set aside about $1 million to help students pay for school, The Courier-Journal reported this summer.

Burnette said U of L sent financial award notifications before it was evident CAP grant funding wouldn’t be available for everyone who applied. Because students planned on this aid they were told they received, U of L compensated by using university money.

WKU and other universities across the state sent their notifications after the cut-off date for the grants, she said.

Burnette said she does not know of any other schools other than U of L that used university money to compensate for CAP grants.

Owensboro senior Allie Kenczka is one of the students who turned in her application before March 7, and because of that, she received the full $1,900.

For Kenczka, who is studying to be a dietician, receiving the CAP grant is important because she is responsible for paying for her own education.

Without the grant, Kenczka said she would have to take out a student loan to pay for what her scholarships and other grants don’t cover.

“College is really expensive now,” she said.