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Another school year signals college financial aid opportunities

Austin Liu, News Editor, Reporter

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Returning is that time of the year again: the beginning of another school year. Students schedules overflow with homework, extracurricular activities, school events, and yet more commitments in and out of school. Often among students during this period of these turbulent times is a negative and hopeless view of the rest of the school year experience. However, the fresh beginning for students can also be viewed in a more positive and bright light: it opens up various previously unknown or unavailable educational opportunities to students. One of these, especially significant and applicable to high school seniors, is the wide variety of college scholarships, grants, fellowships, work-study options, and other helpful sources of college education funding.

As they prepare for the transition from high school to college and seek information about types of financial aid and college funding, many students and parents are left feeling confused, anxious, and overwhelmed. However, a more complete understanding of the terms and the language of financial aid and college funding can alleviate these feelings.

At the center of the subject of financial aid are the differences in describing the prices of college attendance. In their online article, “The Difference Between College Sticker Price and Net Price”, recommended scholarship and college resource College Greenlight stated, “The total yearly cost of a college education is called its sticker price. This price includes the total cost of yearly tuition, books, room and board, and any fees the campus might charge like a parking permit or library card fee.” Often, students and parents obtain information about the costs of a college education and encounter the sticker price, despairing about these facts and not continuing in their search. However, students and parents are recommended to not pay as much attention to the daunting high costs of the sticker price; the more realistic expectation of costs is derived from the net price, “what a student will actually pay to attend a college.” In reality, “sometimes the colleges with the highest sticker prices offer the lowest net prices to students who don’t have a lot of money.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, students and families can approximately estimate their net price for a specific college by filling out family financial information in a Net Price Calculator of that college, which offers students and families the opportunity “to enter information about themselves to find out what students like them paid to attend the institution in the previous year, after taking grants and scholarship aid into account.” In addition, students and families can receive a more exact calculation of their college education prices through the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), described by the Federal Student Aid Office as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school” by completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which is available for students and families for the 2018-2019 school year beginning Oct. 1, 2017. Ensuring that the FAFSA form is completed is also especially important because “many states and colleges use your FAFSA information 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.” Furthermore, the general advice about filling out the FAFSA form is that “The reality is, EVERYONE who’s getting ready to go to college or career school should fill out the FAFSA form!”

Subtracting the EFC from the sticker price of the college calculates the amount of student and family financial need. One type of financial aid offered is need-based aid, “financial aid that you can receive if you have financial need and meet other eligibility criteria.” Students receive no more need-based aid than the financial need of the student and family. Need-based aid is available through federal student aid programs, including the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Direct PLUS Loan, Direct Consolidation Loan, and Federal Work-Study. Students can apply for these listed forms of need-based aid by completing and submitting the FAFSA.

The Federal Pell Grant is a grant, “financial aid, often based on financial need, that does not need to be repaid” and is “awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.”

A Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) “is a grant for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need” and “is administered directly by the financial aid office at each participating school.” However, not all schools offer this type of financial aid, so students are advised to confirm with the school’s financial aid office about this opportunity for financial aid.

Another type of federal aid that are loans borrowed money for college or career school; you must repay your loans, with interest. Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans “are federal student loans for eligible students to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school…at participating schools…” The difference between these two types of loans is that for Direct Subsidized Loans,  “The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on a Direct Subsidized Loan while you’re in school at least half-time, for the first six months after you leave school (referred to as a grace period), and during a period of deferment (a postponement of loan payments) and for Direct Unsubsidized Loans, “you are responsible for paying the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan during all periods” and that “if you choose not to pay the interest while you are in school and during grace periods and deferment or forbearance periods, your interest will accrue (accumulate) and be capitalized (that is, your interest will be added to the principal amount of your loan).”

Students and families can also consider receiving financial aid from Direct Plus Loans loaned by the U.S. Department of Education if the parent of the student applying for this financial aid isthe parent (biological, adoptive, or in some cases, stepparent) of a dependent undergraduate student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school,” not carry “ an adverse credit history,” meet “the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid, and check as well that their child qualifies to receive federal student aid. Regarding the amount of financial aid that this loan offers, “The maximum loan amount is the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received.”

An additional choice of a college-paying loan plan for students and families is the Direct Consolidation Loan, which “allows you to consolidate (combine) multiple federal education loans into one loan. The result is a single monthly payment instead of multiple payments. Loan consolidation can also give you access to additional loan repayment plans and forgiveness programs.”

Still, another source of alleviating the load of federal financial aid is work-study. The Federal Student Aid states on their website that work-study “provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school”, is “available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with financial need”, is “available to full-time or part-time students”, and is “administered by schools participating in the Federal Work-Study Program.” The program assigns jobs for students that will be based at the school they attend or off campus usually non-profit organization or other public agency and “emphasizes employment in civic education and work related to your course of study whenever possible.”

High school students may also receive financial aid from their state governments if they meet particular requirements. To seek information about these opportunities, it is advised for students to visit the websites of the state departments and agencies or call their offices. This specific information is listed at the following website: https://www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state/ar.html. Some scholarships specific to students in the state of Arkansas are described at the websites: https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-state/arkansas-scholarships/ and https://www.unigo.com/scholarships/by-state/arkansas-scholarships.

Colleges and career schools offer their own type of financial aid. Students interested in obtaining this financial aid are suggested to visit the financial aid office pages on the school’s website and of the departments of those schools that will offer the classes the student will attend. This aid may require the submission of additional applications.

Colleges may practice different types of financial aid distribution policies. One of these is a need-aware policy. These schools “examine the financial need of students” to select some of their admitted students as stated by the College Solution website. However, others may choose a need-blind policy, which “accepts students without regard to the applicant’s financial need.” Some colleges also claim that 100 percent of student demonstrated financial need will be met through their financial aid programs. The College Greenlight website states that “a college or university that promises to make sure every penny of an accepted students’ demonstrated financial need is covered through grants, work-study, scholarships, and in some cases, federal student loans” is described as a 100% meet need college. Many of these often are some of the top-ranked universities with high competition in college admissions for high school students.

Some schools to which students may be applying also request that another form, the CSS Profile™ developed by the College Board, be completed. The College Board website states that this form “is an online application that collects information used by almost 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs to award financial aid from sources outside of the federal government,” ranging from schools in California to others in New Hampshire. Students should fill out this form and submit it online “at least two weeks before the earliest college or scholarship priority application date” that needs to be met. However, one of the differences between this form and the FAFSA form is that it carries a fee to be completed and sent. The costs for “Submitting your CSS Profile™ to one college or scholarship program costs $25. Additional reports are $16 each.” However, students who face financial challenges paying the fee may qualify to apply for a fee waiver. These are offered “to students who qualified for an SAT fee waiver”, or to students “ whose parental income reported on their CSS Profile falls within the federal reduced-price or free lunch program guidelines. It is also available “to students who are an orphan or ward of the court and under the age of 24.” High school seniors who plan to enroll in college for the 2019-2020 school term may begin filling out and submitting information for the CSS Profile™ Oct. 1, 2018.

For more information about college financing options and opportunities, students may schedule an appointment with their school counselor to stay updated about different types of financial aid and organized during the application procedure. In addition, students are urged to fill out the FAFSA form and possibly the CSS Profile™ for applicable colleges online as quickly as they can to be able to take full advantage of the wide range of financial aid offered by the federal government and the schools to which they are applying as well as visiting the websites of the state Department of Education and of their schools of interest to learn about other scholarship awards for which they qualify to apply. Another valuable and helpful resource, Fastweb, matches students with privately funded scholarships that may seem interesting to them. Students first need to set up an account and answer questions in a short survey about their background and their personal interests. Some scholarships may require essay writing or other requirements; others simply ask students to register and enter into a drawing. Scholarship awards range from $50 to fully covered college tuition and application due dates vary from organization to organization.

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About the Writer
Austin Liu, News Editor, Reporter
I am currently a senior attending Fayetteville High School. Welcome to the official website of the FHS Register Newspaper and its publications!Besides being a staff reporter of the News section for the newspaper, I am also a copy editor for that section for the first time this year. This is my third year on the...
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Another school year signals college financial aid opportunities