Saving each penny for a smart future investment

Saving each penny for a smart future investment

Austin Liu, News Editor, Reporter

In the point of view of many high school students, the transition between a four-year high education to a four-year undergraduate university education seems to be a colossal jump between two mountains. Much of this anxiety and feeling of overall discomfort originates from the expectations and pressures from friends and family to produce the best results in academics and extracurricular activities and also from concerns about how to integrate into a new setting and environment. However, another important factor that acts as another large source of worry is the financial situation to support and fund the heavy costs of pursuing higher education and setting off another four years of a rigorous intellectual journey that results in achievement of an undergraduate degree. A bright future for a student can feel complicated and difficult to plan and reach, but many high school students across the state and the country and parents of these students do not realize exactly the great variety of available opportunities and choices to consider as the student travels down their high school path to their new future paths as the road splits at the end of the high school journey.

One of the more common and stress-producing questions for many families with children passing through the high school years in life is what and where the opportunities for financial support and need are for the high costs of college. The answer to this question is simple and one that is not that difficult to locate at school or on an online site.

The Federal Student Aid of the U.S. Department of Education website states that aid for high school students entering college as an undergraduate student is present in the form of money from “the U.S. federal government, the state where you live, the college you attend, or a nonprofit or private organization.” Breaking the sources of student financial aid further, a student can learn about the specific openings in aid for each of the above general categories based on their background and their experiences from their life.

Under the category of federal student aid are sources of money paying for college from the U.S. Department of Education and from other smaller sources depending on the status and background of family such as “aid for serving in the military or for being the spouse or child of a veteran, tax benefits for education, an Education Award for community service with the AmeriCorps, Educational and Training Vouchers for current and former foster care youth,” and scholarships and loan repayment options with the Indian Health Service, National Institutes of Health, and National Health Service Corps offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Outside of this list of sources of federal aid for students, the Department of Health alone sets aside an average of more than $120 billion in financial aid for over 13 million students across the country in three different groups: grants, work-study funds, and loans. These federal student aid programs pay for all the kinds of costs that are necessary for attendance and other minor costs, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and computer care. Grants, as defined by the Federal Student Aid website, are financial aid that does not need to be repaid while or after attending college. Work-study is another method to pay the costs of college in which the student applies and participates in a work program that allows the student to earn money that will reduce some of the costs. Loans, however, are a type of aid for college that is borrowed money that is required to be paid back with additional interest over time with a plan.

Besides student aid distributed from the U.S. government, some aid can also be obtained from the state government. The aid presented by the state is usually limited to just students living within the borders of that state who plan to attend a college located within their state, but a few exceptions are present also for this type of aid. These state programs differ from state to state based on the opportunities offered through the state’s education agency. For more information about financial support available for high school students continuing to college, visit the official website of NASFAA, or National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and ask how to take advantage of aid opportunities by contacting the state department of education or higher education agency of your state.

Another method to drop the costs of college is by receiving financial aid from the college or school you will attend after high school from their own funds. Students who are interested and wish to obtain aid from their colleges should visit the financial aid page of their colleges or ask further questions about financial aid to the school’s financial aid office, find out if the specific department for their major of the college they will attend offers any kind of scholarships for its students, and remember to submit applications for financial aid from that college by the due dates. Some of the scholarships offered by schools are academic-connected, and others may be athletic-connected ones. However, not every school may present scholarships of all kinds that there could be to its students.

The one last choice for students and their parents to relieve some of their heavy college costs is that of nonprofit and private organizations who also offer scholarships and grants such as the National Merit Scholarships offered by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation or the Siemens Math, Science, and Technology Award Scholarships sponsored by the Siemens Foundation just as the U.S. government and college offer their own scholarships and grants. These scholarship and grant amounts could range in value from just a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. One useful resource to seek out these opportunities and find which types of scholarships seem interesting and fit to try to obtain is FastWeb. FastWeb is an online service that has been a helpful and open resource for students since 1995 that matches students with a wide variety of scholarship opportunities. Students should also resource their college and career center or their high school counselors to request information about available student scholarship and other financial aid opportunities.

Another common question many students and parents may ask about financial aid, especially from that of the U.S. government, is who qualifies for federal aid and how the estimated cost of attendance is determined at a college based on the how much the cost is covered by money from scholarships, grants, and work-study. The answers to these two questions are also easy to find.

The Federal Student Aid Office online website states that the general requirements to be considered for federal financial aid, the student must “demonstrate financial need, be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen, [hold] a valid Social Security number, be registered with Selective Service if the student is male, be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program, be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds, maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school, sign the certification statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) stating that the student is not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money on a federal student grant and that the student will use federal student aid only for educational purposes, and show that the student is qualified to obtain a college or career school education by [holding] a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law, or enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting one of the “ability-to-benefit” alternatives.” Information regarding students without United States citizenship can be found also on the Federal Student Aid Office website such as those who hold a green card, are U.S. nationals, or are refugees living in the United States.

For students to learn about much money is expected to be paid by the student and their family, the FAFSA4caster resource located on the website of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, is a beneficial tool that allows the student and their parents to produce a free and accurate estimate of how much federal financial aid they will most likely obtain in the future from applying. Students starting in their junior year and their parents are recommended to use it to take a quick look at their college costs to begin preparing and saving for costs. The FAFSA4caster will ask for information about the student’s family’s financial situation and specific questions about certain subjects such as taxes that will require referencing of forms and documents from parents. If completed, the FAFSA4caster will supply the student with significant financial aid such as the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, and information for comparing different school costs based on other sources of aid such as State aid.

However, for students to be presented with the actual costs of attending college and an overview of types of financial aid together that consist of the aid plan that the student and family will receive, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is required to be completed. The FAFSA form is the method for high school senior students to take to be considered for college-paying aid offered by the federal government. Besides its usefulness in entering a student into an opportunity to receive much-needed aid that will reduce costs, it is used and sometimes required “to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.” For this year’s seniors graduating in 2018, the form was available to submit since October 1, , 016 and will still be open for applications until June 30, 2018. Students can enter in their family’s financial information online at fafsa.gov or print out a paper copy of the form by downloading the form from online. After finishing all sections of the application and sending it, it will be shared with the colleges the student is listed on the application and processed. The student should receive further information through a Student Aid Report, or SAR, within a few days to a few weeks after submitting the form. The Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, should be calculated and will be the factor that affects the amount of financial aid the colleges that interest you will offer to the student. Colleges will then notify the student of their school aid and may ask the student to complete more forms or meet other kinds of requirements.

Another available application that could be a helpful resource in obtaining financial aid is the CSS Profile that is linked with the College Board educational organization. The CSS Profile and the FAFSA share many of the same characteristics with each other. However, aid that is offered through completing the CSS Profile is different from that of the FAFSA in one important characteristic, which is that applying with the CSS Profile enters the student into gaining non-federal student aid. It is a resource that is a tool for almost 400 colleges and universities around the country holding more than nine billion dollars in aid. Many of the more well-known and highly-ranked colleges in the country accept the CSS Profile for being considered for financial aid. Similar to the FAFSA application, the CSS Profile is open for senior students on Oct. 1 each year. To complete and answer questions within the application, students and their parents should prepare to gather all types of financial documents such as tax returns, W-2 forms, bank statements, and records of other sources of money such as savings and stocks. For more information about applying to be offered aid through submitting a CSS Profile form online, visit the College Board website or ask your counselor for help in the process of applying for aid.

Much of this information may seem so complicated, unmanageable, and cause a greater load of stress. However, once beginning the to complete the application, the process along the path to reaching the finish line will not feel so much as a mission with its end result requiring so much time and effort. To all 2017-2018 Fayetteville High School seniors, wishing you all the best luck in the college search and application process and with meeting all other types of requirements during the transition to being independent for all other future plans!

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