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Paying for College: How HCC's Financial Aid Services Can Help

Counseling speaks with student at a table.

The cost of college tuition can be overwhelming, but there are ways to make it affordable. You just need to know where to look.

The Financial Aid Services staff at Howard Community College (HCC) advises new, current and returning students on how to access financial aid and ensure a college education is within reach.

In 2020-2021, HCC students received more than $17.8 million in financial aid, including almost $1.3 million in scholarships from the Howard Community College Educational Foundation (HCCEF).

“There is so much financial aid and financial assistance out there,” said Detra D. Hooper, interim director of Financial Aid Services at HCC. “The goal is for students to apply early, reach out to counselors and get tapped into all of the scholarships that are available.”

HCC breaks financial support into two categories: self-help aid and gift aid. Self-help aid includes loans and federal work study programs, which allow students to earn money for school by working part-time. Gift aid, or aid students don’t need to repay, includes grants and scholarships.

To keep the aid process simple, HCC advisors recommend students start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – the online form that determines a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid.

Then, students can explore a range of aid options, including scholarships offered through the HCCEF and its generous donors. Criteria for HCCEF scholarships vary, and can be awarded based on financial need, academic merit, learning program, or special skills and talent, said Missy Mattey, director of development and executive director of HCCEF.

“From completing the FAFSA to making sure financial aid is disbursed to student accounts, HCC provides a lot of opportunities for specially-trained financial aid counselors to walk students through the process,” Hooper said.

Sophomore Maheen Ahmed is one of the many students who benefited from counselor assistance and financial aid.

During her first year at HCC, Ahmed worked more than 40 hours a week as a medical assistant to help pay for her college tuition. Unable to keep her grades up while working, she took a break from HCC in 2019. But a year later, she wanted to give college another try. She reached out to the HCC Financial Aid Services office for help.

“Since I was trying to improve my grades and get more time for school, I wanted to give more time to my academics and have less hours for a job,” she said. “I figured if there's any way I could gain some financial aid, it would mean I’d have to pay less out of pocket.”

Financial aid counselors met with Ahmed regularly, guiding her through the process. She ended up receiving enough grants and scholarships to cover her entire tuition.

The financial support had a significant impact on her academic performance. By the end of the year, Ahmed earned a 3.8 GPA and membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges.

“The stress of paying for school can definitely kill motivation and burn you out really, really easily,” she said. “I had the privilege of being awarded grants and scholarships. Having those and academic recognition definitely just propelled me to keep moving forward.”

Along with scholarships, HCC also offers emergency funds for unforeseen or emergency costs like car repairs, transportation, childcare and food.

“People often think they’re not eligible so they don't even ask,” Mattey said. “But almost half of our credit students received some form of financial assistance last year. Help is out there. You just have to ask.”

Hooper agreed.

“The most important thing for students is to just share their stories with us,” Hooper said. “Our counselors are willing to work with them through any problem, and if we don't have the funding or if we don't have the answer, our counselors are trained to put you in contact with those who do.”

To learn more about HCC’s financial aid services, visit


Financial Aid Glossary

Financial aid – Money given or loaned to a student to help pay for college.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – The free application students submit to apply for federal financial aid.

Grant – A form of “gift aid” that doesn’t need to be paid back and is typically awarded based on need.

Maryland State Financial Aid Application (MSFAA) – An aid application for applicants who are ineligible to receive federal aid using the FAFSA.

Scholarship – A form of “gift aid” that doesn’t need to be paid back and may be awarded on merit (academic ability, athletic ability, etc.).

Work study – A program where students work a part-time job on campus as part of their financial aid.

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