Financial Aid and Scholarships
Finding money for college is the most important task when you decide to continue your education. Everybody knows that postsecondary education in the USA is very expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2009, the average cost of a public 4-year college (including room and board) is over $10,000 a year; when the private college averages $35,000.
Where can you find money for college? There are many ways to finance your education and very often people are not fully aware of what is available. Below we have listed some of the ways that students can get money to help pay for their college education.
Private scholarship and fellowship aid is a very important source for undergraduate and graduate students to pay for their education. Over 3 billion dollars are awarded every year in private scholarships. Unlike loans scholarships do not have to be repaid.
Many of the private scholarship providers are members of National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) and every year they publish report of their members awarded scholarships. To read the report go to www.scholarshipproviders.org/Document/PrivateSchoolCount.pdf
There is also a study about the number and amount of scholarships in the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education. To see this go to www.nces.ed.gov/surveys/npsas.
Scholarships are usually awarded to students with special qualifications. The variety of scholarships is unlimited and comes in different shapes and forms. There are scholarships awarded to students with outstanding academic, athletic or artistic achievements. Other scholarships could be offered to certain ethnic groups, some have organizational affiliation, personal, occupational and educational backgrounds. The majority of private sector scholarships do not require financial statement or proof of need.
There are a few very reputable sources to search for scholarships and fellowships. The best way to search for the scholarship is to use the personalized search like FastWeb scholarship search, which can match your personal background with a database of awards offered. FastWeb is the largest most accurate and updated scholarship database. An electronic application to some scholarships could be submitted through FastWeb to save you time and money.
Another very good source of information for scholarships research is The Scholarship Book (13th Edition) by Daniel J. Cassid.
The site www.scholarship.com also provides very helpful information for students looking to finance their education.
Some sites like Vinyl Interactive offer you help in searching for specific scholarships for moms, dads, working adults, military scholarships and offer a $10,000 scholarship giveaway contest for users in going back to school. Click on the link below to see what they have to offer.
Warning: Please be aware of scams when searching for scholarships. If you are asked to pay for scholarship application, most likely it is a scam. You do not have to pay money to get scholarship!
Federal Student Aid
The U.S. Department of Education provides over $100 billion in grants, loans and work-study for college or career school each year. It is very important to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) regardless of your financial status. Do not think that if you or your family makes too much money, you should be automatically excluded from state and federal funding. State funding programs vary significantly from state to state. You can get a FAFSA from any high school, college, university or from U.S. Department of Education by visiting www.studentaid.ed.gov. After completing the FAFSA you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). You will also be able to see your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the number that will show if you are eligible for federal grants.
Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. The most popular grant is a Federal Pell Grant www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/PellGrants.jsp?tab=funding. Pell grants are awarded usually only to undergraduate students however sometimes a student enrolled in post-baccalaureate may receive a Pell Grant. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2010-11 award year is $5,550. Students who are eligible for Pell Grants may also receive a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). This grant is for undergraduates with exceptional financial need. Most students receive between $100 and $4,000 a year.
www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/FSEOG.jsp?tab=funding Pell grants recipients With academic achievements may also be eligible for Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/AcademicGrants.jsp?tab=funding and for The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant) www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/SmartGrants.jsp?tab=funding.
State Sponsored Grants
Most states offer grants for students based on specific criteria. The Connecticut state offers Independent Student Grant (up to $8,332 a year). To find information on the financial aid and state-sponsored grants offered by your home state go to the State Education Agency website link below http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_ID=SHE which provides contact information for the higher education department of every U.S. state.
These types of Grants usually awarded to the students who are perusing certain type of careers which are in demand at the moment. There is a federal Grant Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant) www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/TEACH.jsp awarded to students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. This Grant provides up to $4,000 per year.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed a Nursing Scholarship Program www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/scholarships/Nursing/ that helps alleviate the critical shortage of registered nurses currently experienced by certain types of health care facilities. In exchange for the scholarship, upon graduation the nurses work at these types of facilities for at least 2 years.
After applying for a FAFSA you should check with your college to see if they offer any grants available for low-income students. Colleges and Universities very often have Athletic Grants to attract the most talented athletes to their colleges. Also many colleges support Scholarships based on merit. Currently over 200 colleges are providing scholarships from National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) www.nationalmerit.org/sponsorship.php#corporate
There are two major types of loans: federal and private student loans. Private student loans usually come from the lending institutions; require credit approval, certain interest rates and re-payment schedules set by the lenders.
Federal loans come in two major varieties: Subsidized and Unsubsidized federal student loans.
Direct subsidized Stafford Loans www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/studentloans.jsp are low-interest loans for eligible students. Re-payment of the Stafford subsidized loan usually starts 6 months after graduation.
Direct unsubsidized Stafford loans www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/studentloans.jsp do not require the proof of financial need. The unsubsidized Stafford loans charge higher interest rate and re-payment starts while student is at school.
Perkins Loans www2.ed.gov/programs/fpl/index.html are subsidized low-interest student loans, which not require re-payment for usually 9 months after graduation. Borrowers who undertake certain public, military, or teaching service employment are eligible to have all or part of their loans cancelled.
Additional loan types provided under the Federal Direct loan Program include Direct PLUS Loans (for parents and graduate and professional degree students) www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/PlusLoansGradProfstudents.jsp and Direct Consolidation Loans (to combine federal education loan debts into a single loan) www.studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/PlusLoansGradProfstudents.jsp
We hope that this information was helpful and wish you the best for your future.