Attending college is very rewarding, but can be very expensive. The Department of Education has given all of us a chance to ease the burden of paying for college through Financial Aid, by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The Department has decided that the costs of attending a higher education institution must be shared by students, parents, the government aid programs, and sources of private aid funds. FAFSA funds are awarded on a first come – first serve basis, so it is important to apply early. If you are a California resident, be sure to apply to Cal-Grant, California’s own education grant program. However, Cal-Grant money is only useable at in-state institutions.
Students are expected to contribute from their income and assets, as well as provide this information on the FAFSA. Parents of dependent students are also expected to provide income and asset information on the FAFSA. Then parents’ and student contributions are all calculated to form the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which determines how much a student may be eligible for in Federal Grant and Loans.
Remember, if you are considered a dependent by the Department of Education, your parent’s income information will be required unless there are extenuating circumstances. Please contact us or your school’s financial aid office for more information.
The following is a description of the type of financial aid available, who qualifies for it, and how to apply. If you would like personal help with this process, please contact the CEF Mentor at your church.
Meeting the Need:
Federal financial aid is based on financial need, which is calculated using information from the school and FAFSA. The college’s total Cost of Attendance (COA) is determined based on the school you are planning to attend. An important calculation to remember is Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Need. Need determines if the loans you receive will or will not have interest accruing while you’re in school, or if it will be a combination of both. Need will vary from college to college.
Even though your family may be eligible for full Financial Aid, there may be a “gap” (difference between institutional charges and financial aid received). The gap can be covered through various means like scholarships, grants, private education loans, or for dependent students, the parents may be eligible to borrow from the Federal PLUS loan program.
Aid that is not based on financial need is known as “merit” aid. It is used to attract students that college admissions officers hope to enroll. It may be based on academic ability, musical talent, home state or other special qualities of the student. Athletic scholarships are an example of merit aid. For students who aren’t eligible for need- based aid, merit awards are a bonus. When students are eligible for aid, merit awards will be included in the aid packages.
Financial Aid Packages:
Aid packages may contain both grants, student loans and may even include jobs. Every student is entitled to borrow under the Federal Direct Loan program. More likely than not, a Federal Direct Loan will be part of almost every aid package. You will see your financial aid package when you receive an award letter from the schools you applied to. This will include all scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans that you are eligible for.
Financial Aid Presentation:
Sources of Financial Aid:
Scholarships and grants are FREE money. Federal work-study allows students to have a paying job while attending college. Loans must be repaid. Military aid requires that you or a qualified family member served time in the American Armed Forces. Sources of Financial Aid are: Federal, State, Private College, Loans from Private Banks, and Private Scholarships.
These are scholarships provided by parties other than the government and the college you will be attending. These are a great source of scholarship money, as there are a vast amount which range from a few hundred dollars to even a full ride for all years of college. Many of these are often very low competition, so dedicating some time to them can result in lots of easy scholarship money. Outside scholarships are especially great for creative writers as many of them require essay writing. You can find many outside scholarships by conducting a google search or using a scholarship search tool such as cappex.com or chegg.com. The CEF Merit Award is considered an outside scholarship.
Selecting a School
It is important to strongly consider finances when selecting a school. For example, Cal-State universities are much cheaper than a UC, so it may be more economical to attend a Cal-State. Likewise, a UC may be cheaper than a private school, so it may be more economical to attend a UC. If you receive multiple acceptance and financial aid packages, you can use other aid packages to try to convince a school to give you more money. Ultimately, it is imperative to weigh a schools cost and financial aid heavily while choosing a school.
Financial Aid Resources:
- Aid Money Overview
- Federal Programs
- State Aid
- Private Aid from Colleges
- Alternative Loans
- Outside Scholarships