CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Del Mar College is making it easier to pay for school in the Coastal Bend.
A new grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II, or HEERF II, allows the two-year college to provide $800 to students for a three hour course, textbooks and other needs.
“Borrowing student loans is an epidemic that’s plagued the country for many, many years,” said Joseph Ruiz, director of financial aid services at Del Mar.
As universities around the country charge students enough to accumulate tens of thousands of dollars of debt on average, Del Mar is trying to change that with the new grant. It is not a loan, so students will not need to pay it back if they qualify.
“A lot of students fill out a FAFSA application and sometimes they're awarded a package that includes student loans," Ruiz said. "They accept everything, not realizing that a good portion of that financial aid package has to be paid back.”
Ruiz said you can save between $10,000-$14,000 over two years just by taking core curriculum classes at a two-year college instead of a four-year university. He said the $800 grant will help pay for one Del Mar course, textbooks, and provide extra money for other needs.
“We looked at what the average cost of tuition is, what the average cost of a book is, and then determined $800 should be enough to cover all of that,” Ruiz said.
Students like Dylan McKaig and Juan Castillo already accepted grants from Del Mar to pay for their associate degree. They said they have already seen the difference it makes for them.
“It helps me to where I don’t have to work as much," McKaig said. "And I can actually focus more on class and keep my grades high enough to pass.”
For Castillo, the money left over after a grant pays for school and supplies can help pay for other expenses like his commute.
“I currently live in Aransas, that’s a 30-minute drive every time I have to come to school," Castillo said. "And so, it helps out because that covers some of the stuff I don’t need to pay for already—my books, my tools and everything—and I can focus on gas and food and things I need.”
Ruiz also said the more money students save early on their education, the more likely they are to continue on to a four-year university and pursue more advanced degrees.
You can apply online after registering for courses and the deadline to apply for the grant is October 24.
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