By: The Campaign for College Opportunity
Annaly Medrano is a 25 year-old Latina college student at San Bernardino Valley College, finishing her requirements to transfer to California State University, Sacramento. Her journey into higher education has been met with multiple obstacles, yet her passion for public policy and making a difference in the lives of future students has kept her motivated to complete her studies.
Annaly wasn’t able to complete her senior year of high school, but her mother encouraged her to attend community college to earn her GED. Entering community college was a turning point for Annaly and she began to thrive academically. During that time frame, Annaly also discovered a learning disability, which qualifies her to receive special accommodations while taking exams–something that had gone undetected through primary school, but could have made a difference in her life.
Nonetheless, Annaly is now excelling in her studies, receiving high praise from her professors. At the same time, she has become involved with multiple student groups on campus, including her community college’s Student Senate as well as the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, which enabled Annaly to explore her interests in political science and public policy.
One hurdle that has prevented Annaly from transferring in a timely manner has been the challenge of paying for her studies. Annaly learned about Federal Financial Aid at her community college during the spring semester of her first year after initially paying for classes out of pocket. Someone on campus told her about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which she attempted to fill out.
Annaly found the FAFSA application process difficult, particularly because her parents are divorced and her mom—who had been her sole caregiver—was retired, so gathering their income information was challenging. Additionally, Annaly received mixed information about the amount of units she needed to be enrolled in to be eligible for aid, which led her to not fill out the FAFSA form. Rather, she continued working part-time to pay for rent, books and other expenses.
This year, Annaly moved to Sacramento to take a full-time job at the Association of California School Administrators and to be closer to the school where she plans to transfer. She’s excited to finally transfer to Cal State Sacramento after 6 years at community college and pursue her dreams of making a difference in the lives of other individuals. Her only worry: filling out the FAFSA accurately and receiving enough aid to help her complete college in a timely manner.
On the importance of prioritizing financial aid, Annaly asserts that “elected officials should invest in higher education since it helps build our economy and communities. These investments help students reach their full potential, which go to college not just to get a degree or fill the status quo, but because they want to build society. There are rewards that come in the long-run by investing in financial aid.”