New staff helps students pay and stay for classes

Blaine Ganter, new COM student success coach, talks with Julie Arenas-Purvinis. Ganter will help students create an individualized plan to graduation.

Two new College of the Mainland staff members are helping students successfully apply for financial aid for college and succeed once enrolled.

Dr. Lisa Gulesserian, financial aid advisor/financial literacy educator, seeks to ensure students have the knowledge to make wise financial decisions about college.

“The burden of paying for college shrinks when students take advantage of financial aid options that don’t need to be paid back, such as work-study positions, grants and scholarships. Aid options that must be paid back, such as low-interest loans, can be used as a last resort to further help families pay for college,” said Gulesserian.

Through workshops, game shows and trivia nights, Gulesserian plans to expand the COM Financial Aid Office’s efforts to take the stress out of applying for financial aid.

“We want to get students excited about financial literacy,” said Gulesserian.

Gulesserian will serve as a resource for local high schools, community groups and college students on financial literacy, including information about student loans, credit card debt, budgeting and more. Gulesserian will also share how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), required to receive financial aid at any college or university.

“We want students to complete the FASFA on time and know what documents they need to do so. I will be talking to students who may never attend COM about options for paying for college,” said Gulesserian. “We’re trying to address misconceptions. Some students think: ‘my parents make too much money and I won’t get aid.’ What students don’t realize is that [financial aid] depends on many things – for example, how many college students are in a family. You have nothing to lose by applying.”

After students enroll at COM, Blaine Ganter, student success coach, will help students stay on track to graduation.

“Learning is not a one-size-fits-all deal. It’s an individualized process,” said Ganter. “I am here to help students to identify what unique academic strategies work to maximize their time dedicated to academic studies. This is about encouraging students to work smarter not harder."

Ganter is working with COM’s early alert system, which aims to connect students to resources as soon as possible if they begin struggling in a class.

Ganter, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in instructional design from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, is developing study skills, test-taking, note-taking and reading comprehension strategies that students can access online. Plus, he meets with students, who are referred through the early warning system, to craft an individual success plan to address academic challenges they are facing.

“Often students aren’t aware of resources available to them such as professor’s office hours, participating in student groups, or research assistance provided at the library,” said Ganter. “I look to be a bridge to connect students to services they will find valuable."

Both Ganter’s and Gulesserian’s positions are funded by the $2.6 million federal Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program Grant COM received in 2015. That year COM was one of only two colleges in the Gulf Coast area to receive the grant.

For more information, call Gulesserian 409-933-8533 or Ganter at 409-933-8007.

Lisa Gulesserian

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