Going back to school might be more difficult for those who don’t have a high school diploma or GED, when a new law goes into effect July 1.
The law, passed by Congress in December as part of an omnibus spending bill, stipulates that potential students without GEDs won’t be allowed to apply for federal Pell grants through the online FAFSA application.
That could affect about a quarter of students enrolled at the Center for Employment Training (CET) in Santa Maria.
This year, about 100 potential CET students lacking a GED or diploma took the Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) exam in order to be eligible for federal financial aid when enrolling in post-secondary vocational training and education.
Law changes will force CET to turn away between 2,000 and 3,000 students nationwide next year.
Local CET employees, who learned of the change at the end of March, have been trying to get the word out through the current 200 students at CET.
“I think it’s a travesty,” said Maria Rocco, CET recruiter and student adviser. “We only have a small window of opportunity to serve this demographic of people. If you’re out there and you’re even thinking about your future, and you’ve been putting it off, you don’t have much time.”
The change might also affect a smaller population of students attending Hancock College.
About 100 students of the 5,000 who applied for federal financial aid at Hancock this year did not have a GED or high school diploma, said Robert Parisi, interim dean of student services. Half of those students were re-entry adults, he added.
CET instructors and students tried to see the positive and negative effects of the change last week.
Some students might be discouraged to continue an education, while others could see this as a motivation to finish high school or to get a GED.
“I see it as an encouragement,” said instructor Leticia Chavira. “That little fallback is not going to be there anymore.”
Instructor Dave Haeberle said the change could affect society as a whole, increasing the unemployment rate or causing family problems.
“The population that I see being affected is parents,” Haeberle said. “What if you need a job like now? It’s going to take a lot more time. That’s not an option for everybody. I don’t think they’re looking at the whole picture.”
Rocco said about 54 percent of CET students receive financial aid, and she’s hopeful the law could be modified in time to help the most needy.
Those thinking about enrolling at CET can call 928-1737. For those who don’t make the June 30 deadline, CET and Hancock both offer GED classes.