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In February, higher education institutions across the country celebrate Financial Aid Awareness Month. The purpose of this commemoration is to educate students and their families on crucial information about federal, state, and institutional student aid.
The basic cost of a college degree can be a huge burden on families. It may even seem unreachable. The annual Citizens’ Survey of Student Loans found that nearly 70% of current students and 69% of high school graduates said concerns about college affordability had a moderate or high impact on their college plans. registration for fall 2021.
Often, students do not realize the amount of financial aid available to them. In the 2020-2021 academic year, institutions provided about $57 billion in grants to undergraduate students, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). And, the previous year, 84% of full-time undergraduate students received financial aid.
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There are many funding options for current and prospective students. Here are five ways to fund your college education.
1. Complete FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the first things you should apply for even if you don’t know what college you’re going to. It helps colleges and the government determine if you qualify for certain need-based grants and loans. The application opens on October 1. Some aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s best to do it as soon as possible.
FAFSA is free to complete and eligible students can apply for a federal grant. Remember that you must complete the FAFSA every year and the deadline for the 2022-23 academic year is June 30, 2022. On average, it only takes 23 minutes to complete the form.
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2. Apply for grants
Grants are often referred to as “gift aid” and are provided with no expectation of repayment. They are usually given to students who are in financial need and are often determined by family income level. The US Department of Education offers a variety of federal student grants.
One of them is the Federal Pell Grant. Pell Grant recipients can currently receive up to $6,495 based on their financial need. It’s free money from the government. In the fall of 2021, high school graduates missed out on $3.7 billion in Pell Grant aid because they failed to complete the FAFSA. States and colleges also offer different grant programs separate from federal programs. Most colleges provide this information on their websites in the Financial Aid section.
3. Ask about scholarships
Scholarships are generally merit-based. They are awarded to students who demonstrate academic, athletic, artistic or even social success. In addition to institutional scholarships, many private and non-profit organizations offer scholarships. At your university, you may find need-based or merit-based scholarships.
Need-based scholarships depend on your financial situation, while merit-based scholarships are based on GPAs, test scores (PSAT, SAT, and ACT), athleticism, artistic ability, or other categories. Your college may even offer scholarship-based positions in your field of study. Be sure to determine if the scholarship is renewable or if it is a one-time gift aid.
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4. Consider taking out loans
Loans, on the other hand, have to be repaid and usually come with an interest rate. They can come from both government and private lending companies, such as banks and credit unions. Government loans are often offered as part of the financial aid program provided by your university.
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A few things to consider are that government loans tend to come with lower interest rates and have more lenient repayment options than private loans. The government offers subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans. Subsidized loans do not earn interest while you are in school at least half-time. Unsubsidized loans start earning interest while you’re in college.
5. See if you qualify for federal work-study
Students in financial need can earn money for college by working part-time through the federal work-study program. The total amount awarded to you depends on when you apply for the program, your level of need, and the level of funding from the school. Be sure to check with your financial aid office that your college participates in the federal work-study program.
Work opportunities could be at your school or with a private, for-profit employer. Remember that you cannot earn more than your federal work-study grant total. However, you will earn at least the current federal minimum wage. A report by Sallie Mae found that the average student in the work-study program earned $1,847 in 2020. You can apply for federal work-study in the FAFSA application.
When it comes to financing your education, every penny really counts.
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When it comes to financing your education, every penny really counts. As colleges across the country celebrate Financial Aid Awareness Month, you’ll want to follow your school of choice’s social media accounts to see what kinds of scholarships and grants are available to you. Many colleges publish guidance on navigating the financial aid process. Although the whole process may seem overwhelming at first, remember to start early, take your time to figure it all out, and ask for help when you need it.
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