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Maricopa Community Colleges implement new system to make scholarships easier to get

Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 19:08

STARS MCC Scholarship Maricopa Community Colleges students

College Times • Ryan A. Ruiz

GCC students Joseph Jenneford (left) and Francene Johnson have both applied for financial aid through the new online STARS program.

The Maricopa Count Community College District is implementing a new online scholarship application program, making financial aid more easily accessible to college students.

The STARS Scholarship Program is being launched by the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation, at Glendale Community College and Phoenix College first, with plans for it to be launched at Mesa Community College soon. It will be implemented at all MCCCD institutions by 2012-13 academic year.

The program was implemented at GCC August 8 and soon thereafter at Phoenix College. This online system requires students to input their demographic information as well as answer several essay questions, and allows students to upload transcripts and letters of recommendations. Once all of that is completed, students can be matched with scholarships accordingly. Students will be notified electronically if awarded a scholarship.

The deadline to apply for this pool of scholarships through GCC's STARS program is September 16, and through Phoenix College's STARS program is October 7.

Judy Sánchez, the director of development for STARS and alumni relations at GCC, said the college previously had an online scholarship application, but the STARS program is the most streamlined and comprehensive.

"The ease for students was our first priority," she said. "It allows students to find out what scholarships they might be eligible for."

Since August 8, GCC's STARS program as attracted 795 students to start the application process. It was created, in part, as a response to students' needs for something more technologically-based, Sánchez said.        

"This is absolutely a response to students being technologically savvy," she said. "We have seen that this is exceeding our expectations, and we find that we're getting very little – I don't think we did more than five – phone calls for assistance.

"They can do it from home, 24/7, on the weekend, and while it's much easier for students, it's also easier for us on the other side of it. The behind-the-scenes is that we're also able to go online and review what they're submitting, and work on that. And for those who aren't [technologically] savvy, we have workshops so they can learn how to navigate."

Francene Johnson, a current GCC student who is in the process of completing her STARS application, said having an online application makes sense.

"Today's students and younger generations are being exposed to computers and technology at younger ages and that is what they are comfortable with," she said. "It makes it much more accessible to everyone and I think less intimidating to the kids that feel comfortable with computers."

For her own application process, Johnson said she applied for 20 scholarships, and "fairly quickly" was able to see which ones she received.

"It's really easy to maneuver because it's a step-by-step process," she said. "It is a list you can scroll through and see which you have applied for, which were denied, etc."

Johnson is a single mom who also has a daughter in college. She said both her and her daughter find the STARS program simple to use.

"We can use all the help we can to accomplish our goals," she said. "Scholarships are a blessing and STARS is so easily done and accessible we will both continue to use it."

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