Through our partnership with the Gap Year Association, all FOCUS students will be able to earn up to 18 credits per semester through Portland State University.
Credits are designed to be experientially grounded, but supplemented with smart materials, readings, interaction with experts in climate and renewable energy, group learning, and end-of-semester capstone projects to demonstrate and synthesize learning. At the end of the experience, whether a semester or a year with FOCUS, students must call to the PSU Registrar's office to get an official copy of their PSU transcript to either transfer it to another institution, or, continue at PSU.
Students are of course able to earn credit without accessing FAFSA, but we are thrilled in our ability to work with such a progressive school as Portland State University, and to also open the doors for Federal Financial Aid dollars.
Young leaders between the ages of 17-22 from any country can apply to take a FOCUS Climate Gap Year. However, only US residents will be able to access Federal Financial Aid packages through the US government.
In addition to accessing US-based federal financial aid, FOCUS offers an additional scholarship fund to help students take a climate gap year. All students interested in accessing our partner scholarship fund must first fill out their FAFSA application. For 2019, Pattern Energy is providing five $1000 scholarships for climate gap year students. The application for one of these scholarships can be found here.
FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid
Students can apply and leverage federal financial aid toward their FOCUS Climate Gap Year. This includes Pell grants for lower-income, as well as access to favorable educational loans through established higher education channels. Students wanting to access FAFSA dollars will need to apply both online for the FAFSA, sharing the PSU code (003216), and apply to Portland State University as a matriculated student. Once you are accepted to Portland State, students will be packaged with a financial aid award listing grants, loans, and any scholarships that they are eligible to receive. Students are then paid directly by the university, and then you use your scholarship monies to pay for your FOCUS program.
Here's a great tool at the FAFSA website that will give you an estimate of how much federal financial aid you could access and apply toward your FOCUS Climate Gap Year.
Students can use their full 529, tax-deferred college savings plans, for a FOCUS experience.
Access to college credit also opens up significant secondary financial aid channels through everyone from Hosteling International, to the Travel Access Project, to your local Rotary chapter, and even from the US Department of State. We encourage you to visit the Gap Year Association's website to learn about additional scholarships that might be available to you.
Cautions About Credit Transfer
Every university accepts credit differently and we cannot guarantee full credit acceptance at any university, just as Harvard cannot guarantee credits will transfer to your local community college. We encourage every student to check with their receiving institution (wherever you might plan to transfer your credits), and get them pre-approved if possible. In every case, we are here to support you.
As well, it is important to understand that students have a limit to the amount of FAFSA monies they can use. Happily, students graduating from a gap year have a median graduation time of 3.75 years and are more focused when they return to campus.