The Schaefer adminstration, in a move that would base the state scholarship program entirely on need, says it will ask the General Assembly to abolish the current program and replace it with one that would more than double the $11.6 million that now goes to needy students.
It's that time of the year again.
The time when high school seniors are scrambling to get those college applications in the mail -- and sweating the outcome.
This school year, there is an added burden on the minds of many young people. Although worrying about financing a college education is nothing new, teens who are motivated to continue their schooling are aware that these are precarious financial times.
Despite the times, there are still millions of dollars available in scholarship money from state, federal and private sources.
"I do worry about it," said Sonal Mehta, 17, a senior at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County. "I worry about what's going on with the recession and all. It concerns all of my friends."
Ms. Sonal, whose father is a comptroller, comes from a middle-class family that lives in a middle-class community. She is forging ahead with her plans for college and applying to six of them -- a mix of public and private ones in and out of state.
She and others at the school in northeastern Baltimore County are spending part of their days scouring the "scholarship file" the school keeps and using a computer to aid them in their search.
The computer search is a service school systems can purchase to aid in scholarship searches, explained Bruce Seward, who runs the guidance department at Perry Hall.
The particular service used by the Baltimore County school system is called CASHE, which stands for College Aid Sources for Higher Education and is operated by a company in Gaithersburg.
A computer search is only one way students can look for financial aid and scholarships for college, Mr. Seward said. "There are lots of things kids should be doing" to ensure that they have money to attend college, he said.
If they have not already done so, seniors should be filling out the financial aid form (FAF) that was given to them the week of Dec. 19, Mr. Seward said.
The form, which is due on March 1, is used to determine whether a student qualifies for grants or student loans.
Eligibility is based on family income, assets, family size and the number of students in college, explained Robert Massa, executive director of academic services for Johns Hopkins University.
On Thursday, the Schaefer adminstration, in a move that would base the state scholarship program entirely on need, said it will ask the General Assembly to abolish the current program and replace it with one that would more than double the $11.6 million that now goes to needy students.
Students may also qualify for a maximum of $2,400 per year through Pell grants, which are financed by the federal government. Financial eligibility for need-based grants and loans is determined by the family's 1990 tax forms.
Colleges and universities also offer a variety of other scholarships that are based on merit instead of financial need, Mr. Massa said.
For instance, at Johns Hopkins there are scholarships offered to aspiring engineers, he said.
On a national level, there is the National Merit Scholarship competition, among other things, that will give out $25 million in scholarships for the school year.
Nearly 65 percent of the students at Hopkins, Mr. Massa said, receive some form of financial aid to help pay their way through school.
"Students should amass several scholarships and loans to assist in financing a college education," Mr. Massa said. "It should be a matter of getting a little bit from here and a little bit from there."
So students such as Shamit Choksey, another 17-year-old senior at Perry Hall high school, are doing the right thing by researching financial aid for college right now.
"I am very much concerned," said Mr. Choksey, whose father is a structural engineer.
Mr. Choksey has been working at various after-school jobs since he was in eight grade to earn money for college. "I've saved up a considerable amount," he said.
He has also begun a T-shirt business with a friend of his. If it is successful, he will funnel the money back into financing his college education, he said.
He is fairly certain that he will find the money needed to attend college, although he is far from being cocky about it.
"I'm confident in some respects," he said. "At the same time, I'm a little bit worried. I do need financial aid of some sort."