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      UTPA financial aid office encouraging students to apply early

      According to administrators at UTPA's Financial Aid Office not only have they seen an increase in the number of students applying for financial aid, but they've also been doing so way before the deadline.

      That's the message they want to emphasis again this year as students begin to prepare to apply for funding to help them pay for their 2011-2012 academic school year.

      Administrators said it's especially important now that deep cuts are being proposed to higher education this legislative session.

      UTPA freshman Crystal Garza knows how important it is to apply for financial aid early.

      As a part-time employee at UT Pan American's Financial Aid Office, her job is to educate students about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA as its commonly known and encourage them to fill out the form as soon as possible.

      Crystal plans to take her own professional advice and file her paperwork in the next few days even though the deadline is April 1st.

      She says without the extra funding she won't be able to continue her education when the new academic school year begins in the fall.

      "By working here at the University I get to see what people are going through and I get to learn from them so I won't have to make the same mistake," said Crystal Garza a UTPA Student.

      Administrators overseeing UTPA's Financial Aid Office say some certain types of grants are more readily available to help students who meet the qualifications; however other options for assistance that are more popular and awarded more often are limited in funding which means many college goers could lose out on the opportunity to get aid if they don't apply early.

      "There are a lot more students that qualify for those types of awards than what the university has money to award so in that case for those types of awards it's very important for the students to apply as early as possible because that will increase their chances of getting funding from awards that are limited in funding," said Jael Garcia a Financial Aid Office Asst. Director.

      Garcia said changing student's mind set about applying early for financial aid is more important now than ever.

      With major cuts in higher education expected to be announced in this year's legislative session, UTPA administrators are concerned even less funding will be made available through programs like the Texas Grant and the UTPAdvantage.

      "What that means is that those types of awards that were already limited in funding they're going to be even more limited probably in the next few years which makes it even more important that in the next few years to try to apply as early as possible," said Garcia.

      For now though, students are being urged to apply early instead of waiting to the last minute before the April 1st deadline.