Merced County Office of Education launching month of financial aid workshops

The Merced County Office of Education will kick off a series of financial aid workshops this month for students planning on attending college, a university or a technical school.

The workshops are offered through the California Student Opportunity and Access Program. Lyalla Dias, the project director, encourages all families to submit applications, even those who don’t think they will qualify or believe they make too much money for financial aid, officials said.

The workshops include an introduction and access to computer labs to complete applications online.

Last year, the program helped more than 2,500 high school seniors in Merced County, and about 1,200 parents and family members attended the workshops. The workshops are free.

Students may qualify for a new scholarship geared toward the middle class, which can help reduce tuition costs by 10 percent to 40 percent.

This also will be the third year undocumented students can receive assistance through the Dream Act. Information will be given to the Federal Student Aid Commission and not to the Internal Revenue Service or immigration authorities. Parent information is not shared with any other entity.

March 2 is the deadline to complete Cal Grant applications.

Sessions begin Jan. 14 at Atwater High School. They will be held at Atwater, Chowchilla, Delhi, Denair, Dos Palos, Merced, Le Grand, Livingston and Los Banos high schools. The last high school session will be Feb. 5 at Pacheco High School in Los Banos, county officials said.

Community workshops also will be held Feb. 13 at UC Merced and Feb. 24 at the Wolfe Center of MCOE, 732 W. 13th St.

Sessions typically last from 6 to 8 p.m. About 15 college students will be on hand to provide English, Spanish, Hmong and Punjabi translation.

Walk-in students and families also can receive help on financial aid applications at MCOE on West 13th Street.

For more information about Cal-SOAP, go to