Students, parents find help with financial aid process

By Christen Grumstrup/For CU-CitizenAccess — Financial aid might be somewhat overwhelming to future college students and parents, but with the new College Illinois! Corps Program, planning and paying for college gets a little bit easier for thousands of students.

Last year alone, the program and its employees interacted with over 35,000 students and 9,776 parents, according to the College Illinois! Corps Overview missions statement.

The College Illinois! Corps Program was created in 2009, and since then has been striving to help high school students figure out their next step.

Sara Henschen, a regional coordinator for the Corps Program, said, “We help high school students figure out what comes after high school, whether it is a four-year university, a community college or some sort of trade school.”

The Corps Program was created by Eduardo Brambila and Jacqueline Moreno, both of whom, Henschen said, “saw that a shift was happening, and that there was a need for an outreach program.”
Henschen added,  “A lot of the stuff we do is behind the scenes, but the purpose of Corps is to be a resource to parents and students.”

Henschen just recently became a regional coordinator, which means she oversees six districts around the central Illinois area.

Henschen said the state is split up into six regions, all which contain about six or seven districts. Each district then has one or two core members that work directly with the high schools or community colleges.

When the Corps Program began, Henschen was a core member, and said as a core member, there are three main responsibilities.

The first is holding presentations around the community and at high schools to get the program’s name known and the assistance it provides.

The second responsibility is mentoring small groups of parents and students about the program.

And finally, the last and most serious responsibility is meeting one-on-one with parents and/or students to discuss personal situations.

“These meetings can become very personal and are specific to each individuals needs,” said Henschen.

Last year, the program partnered with 351 community and college based organizations and 425 high schools, and are hoping for numbers to grow as the program has.

Henschen said, “There have been so many success stories, so many people have benefited and come back and said to us, we couldn’t have done this without your help, that Corps made it doable.”

While the program has had many successes and is growing, Henschen said there have been challenges.

The program is funded by the College Access Challenge Grant Program from the U.S. Department of Education, according to the Corps Overview.

Henschen said that because the program is run on a federal grant, there is concern that possible funding could be taken away.

“We are working with the legislators though, so that they might see the value … but for now everything is going strong,” she said.

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