Are you a high school junior or senior making financial aid plans for college? Or maybe you’re someone’s who graduated from high school in the past couple years and you’re thinking about college for the first time. Or you’ve been out of high school for quite a while, and you’re thinking of getting a degree to make a career change. Maybe you’re a single mom who’s tired of struggling on low wages, and you’re determined to get a degree to make a better life for you and your children.
No matter your situation, congratulations on taking positive steps toward getting a college education and the necessary financial aid. Not only does earning a degree demonstrate to the world that you’re a motivated, intelligent, organized, and disciplined person, but college graduates usually earn far more money over the course of their lifetime than persons without a college degree. The federal government estimates that the average college graduate will earn $900,000 more in their career than the average person without a degree. That’s over twenty thousand dollars a year difference in a forty year career. Clearly, a college degree can mean the difference between just scraping by, and creating a life of abundance for you and your loved ones.
But how to pay for it? College is already very expensive, and college costs are increasing every year, and at every school. The vast majority of college students would never be able to attend school without some sort of financial aid assistance. Even using your own savings, and/or borrowing from your family, aren’t usually going to provide anywhere near enough money to get you through school.
That’s where financial aid comes in. The various states and the federal government realize the tremendous value of an educated citizenry, and what it means for the future of communities and America. So they’ve created all sorts of ways to assist those who want and need a college education, but don’t have the means to pay for it. In addition, colleges and universities themselves are aware of just how expensive a proposition obtaining a college education has become, and they’re doing more and more to make sure that every student who wants to attend their school is able to, without regard for financial need. On top of this, thousands and thousands of public and private groups, businesses and non profits, also make billions and billions of dollars of financial aid available to their own constituents, and the general public, because they also know how important it is for our communities to have educated citizens.
So if you want a college education, and you’ve got the talent and the drive to achieve it, the money to help you make your dream come true is out there. And our website will show you your financial aid options, and help you chart your course, and take the necessary steps to getting that degree.
Various Types of Financial Aid Available to Students
Probably the number one concern on the minds of those thinking about attending college is figuring out a way to pay for it. A college education is extremely expensive, and it’s the rare student who can pay for everything out of their own pocket, even with their parent’s help. Tuition alone is over forty thousand dollars a year at some schools, and it’s going up every year. Almost every college student in America takes advantage of financial aid (or “finaid”) in one form or another. Most receive several forms of aid to enable them to earn their degree. In fact, during the 2003-2004 college year, the average full time college student received $9100 in financial aid. Available to Students”>
And there’s a lot of different types of financial aid available for prospective and returning students. In 2003-2004, over $105 billion in total college financial aid was awarded. And the aid comes in many different forms, and from a wide variety of sources. Some kinds are gifts, which never have to be repaid. These come in the forms of grants and scholarships. Most grants come from government sources, both state and federal. They are usually based on financial need, and don’t have to be repaid. Scholarships are usually awarded based on the student achieving excellence in one field or another, such as academics, athletics, music or theater performance, etc. But these types of financial aid can also be partially or completely based on financial need. And there are thousands of scholarships for students who are members of certain groups-religious organizations, ethnic minorities, sons and daughters of union members, children of the employees of different businesses, children of members of fraternal organizations, etc.
Another kind of scholarship is the work scholarship. This is awarded based on financial need, and doesn’t have to be repaid in dollars. The student repays the scholarship by working for the college several hours a week during their course of study. The jobs can be in all sorts of things, depending on the needs of the college. This is an excellent option for students who would prefer not to take out loans.
But loans are another very popular option for most college students. These types of financial aid, of course, unlike grants and scholarships, must be repaid. But for most loans, repayment can be deferred until after graduation, which means the student can concentrate on their studies instead of having to work while going to school. Another benefit of student loans is that they’re made at lower interest rates than other kinds of loans, so that both the total repayment, and the monthly payments, are much lower than they would be if banks charged the regular commercial interest rates. Students may take out loans directly, and/or their parents may also take out student loans to help pay their child’s way through college.
As you can see, there is an abundance of financial aid available for college students in this country. Our government and our society place a high value on a college education, and consequently make it possible for just about everyone who wants a college education to be able to get one no matter their financial situation in life. And the flexibility and generosity of many of these programs means that these days it’s pretty certain that a financial aid package from a variety of sources can be put together to meet your specific and individual needs.
Free Financial Aid
What’s the best kind of financial aid? The kind that doesn’t have to be paid back! While student loans certainly have their place, and most students will borrow some money at some point in their college career, every student should make the effort to acquire as much free financial aid as possible. Scholarships, grants, and work/study programs are all examples of financial aid that never needs to be repaid, and there are tens of billions of dollars in each of these formats that’s available to students every year.
Most of these programs, but not all, are based on financial need. If you’re an exceptional student, or have tremendous skills and achievements in some field such as athletics or music, there are many, many programs that can assist you without regard for your financial need, or lack of need. When it comes to free financial aid, there’s nothing quite like being awarded a full four year scholarship for you achievements in academics or other areas. By all means inquire with your chosen colleges about scholarships in your field of excellence, and do a scholarship search at one of the many websites set up to search scholarship databases.
Everyone planning for college, regardless of need or achievement, should check with your employer, and your parent’s employers, about grants, scholarships and other forms of free financial aid for employees and their children. Almost every business of any size has some sort of program to assist their employees and their families with college scholarships. If you’re a member of a religious organization, be sure to inquire about college financial aid for members. Most organized religious groups want their young people to attend college, and set aside money for the purpose of helping them do so. If yours is one, be sure to take advantage of whatever is available.
Besides merit based and need based scholarships, by far the most common form of financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid is the Pell Grant. Pell grants come from the federal government, and are based strictly on financial need. At present, you can get up to $4050 a year in Pell grants. Pell grants are a backbone of many student’s financial aid packages.
Does Your School Choice Matter When Applying for a Student Loan?
Yes, in some ways. In most cases, your school choice won’t be a problem, but there are some exceptions. The school must be accredited to be eligible to allow student’s to use government loans at the school. Some colleges choose not to be accredited, for a variety of reasons, which means that you can’t use student loans to pay for going to school there. Many of them are religious in nature, and don’t believe it’s proper for a religious institution to submit to being approved by a secular accrediting organization. Bob Jones University in South Carolina is probably the most famous college that isn’t accredited, but there are some others who refuse accreditation.
Also, some accredited undergraduate schools have lost their accreditation, for a variety of reasons, and you can’t use government grants and loans there until the school is once again certified as up to par. This is an unusual situation, but it does occur from time to time. There are also a tiny number of schools that, even though they are fully accredited, refuse to participate in government student aid as a matter of principle and independence. Two of the most famous ones are Hillsdale College in Michigan, and Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
School choice can also be a factor in how much and what kinds of financial aid you get. Federal, and much state, student aid is based on the difference between what money you and your parents have, and how much your chosen college will cost to attend. Pell grants are one example of financial aid that can vary depending on the cost of the college you want to attend.
Financial Aid Counseling
Don’t be afraid to seek out financial aid counseling. Getting a handle on all the ins and outs of financial aid -the paperwork, the deadlines, what’s available, when do I get it, who do I talk to, and a thousand other questions-can be overwhelming at first. That’s one of the reasons we created this website. You’ll find answers to most of your questions right here. But sometimes, you’ll need or want to talk to a live person about your own particular situation. Thankfully, financial aid counseling is readily available. If you’re still in high school, your high school guidance office is a good place to start. And most colleges have financial aid counselors, who are experts on pretty much everything that has to do with financial aid, such as what aid is available at their school, and how to apply, who to turn to in case you’re denied, etc. They’re there to answer your questions, and to help you get the aid you need to attend their school. A good counselor can help you determine your best financial aid offer. You should probably call their office before going to visit them. Although many of them are staffed to handle walk in clients, some financial aid counseling offices may require that you make an appointment first. But don’t hesitate to avail yourself of their services.