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Latino students face more financial aid issues, report suggests

Transparency within the national financial aid program would help Latino students who, according to a recent study, receive fewer benefits from the current financial aid system than other ethnicities, Boston University students and faculty said.

Kelly Carrion, a College of Communication junior who identifies as Latina, said she and her parents have faced obstacles while communicating with BU Financial Assistance.

“My mom, she understands it [English], but it’s really hard for her to communicate,” Carrion said. “At BU there is not a lot of Latino staff or interpreters … It’s really hard for my mom to get what she wants — she has to go through me and I have to communicate to them [Financial Assistance].”

The current financial aid system is difficult to navigate for post-traditional students, which leads to Latino students receiving lower financial aid awards, according to the report released Thursday by Excelencia in Education.

Twenty-one percent of Latino adults have received an associate degree or higher as of 2012, whereas 41 percent of all adults did the same in 2012, according to the report.

Many Latino students are first-generation college students, which makes it more difficult for them to navigate the U.S. college system, said Nazli Kibria, a BU sociology professor.

She said the system should be adapted to meet the needs of post-traditional students.

“They [Latinos] are one of the fastest growing groups in the U.S.,” Kibria said. “There is a higher percentage of Latino students and there will be in the future, so I think in order to build a college-educated workforce, this would be a critical step.”

Kibria, who served on a minority student advisory group to BU Admissions, said there should be a greater focus on educating Latinos and other students about financial aid before they begin applying to colleges.

“Clearly the pipeline is in schools and high schools,” Kibria said. “That is the critical point where it all comes together — advising for college admissions and career counseling so that they are aware of the transparency or what kind of support Latino families might need, in particular for college admissions.”

Carrion said at age 17, she had to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid herself since her parents could not understand it.

The FAFSA form is part of the Federal Student Aid program, the largest national student financial aid provider which gives aid in the form of federal grants, loans and work-study, according to its website.

Emily Lee, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said she knows many Latino students who had to turn down their acceptance to BU for financial reasons.

“BU does a pretty good job of recruiting people of all different backgrounds — it’s just that international students have to pay full tuition,” she said. “At BU though, I know a lot of people who have to turn it [BU] down because they don’t get enough money.”

Jocelyn Toll, a College of General Studies sophomore originally from Costa Rica, said her family did not apply for the FAFSA during her application to college after her brother did not receive any aid.

Toll said she encouraged her parents to apply for aid again, but they believed it was too much trouble.

“You just apply to FAFSA and hope for the best,” she said. “I don’t really understand what it is they are looking for.”

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