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Financial Aid Information

By Emerson, Don

August 14, 2017

 

Financial Aid Process

1.  First things first - Apply for Admission.

2.  Leave no stone unturned - Research and apply for private scholarships.

3.  Give yourself a chance - File FAFSA.

4.  Weigh your options - Review financial aid award notifications.

5.  Make your decision - Submit your enrollment deposit and finalize your award.

Families have the primary responsibility to pay for higher education, but sometimes a family’s resources are not enough to pay all college expenses. To help close the gap, different types of financial aid are available to help meet educational costs.

How Do I Apply for Financial Aid?
The first step in the financial aid process is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application, which is available to complete online (preferred method) or in paper format, will use income, assets and other factors to determine the amount you and your family are expected to contribute to your college expenses. Most of the questions are demographic-related and the rest of the answers come from your and your parents' tax forms. If you file the FAFSA online (FAFSA on the Web), you can list as many as six different colleges that you may be attending and have information sent to them. Your eligibility for financial aid will be determined by your and your family's financial situation, and by filing your application on time.

Fill out your FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible. You can complete the FAFSA online or a paper application.

The FAFSA need analysis determines the minimum you will be expected to contribute toward your education. It takes into account your income and assets, your parents' income and assets, the size of your family, and the number of your family members attending college. The determination of your family contribution€ through the FAFSA has nothing to do with college costs. Rather, it determines how much you and your family are expected to contribute toward college, whatever it costs. The difference between a college's total costs including tuition, room, board, fees, books, supplies, and personal expenses and your family contribution€ equals your need.

The term financial aid packaging€ refers to the process that financial aid officers use to combine various types of aid included in the package depend upon each students level of need and the quality of the student's academic record. The types of financial aid include grants, scholarships, loans, and work study programs.

Grants are awards based on the financial need of the student and family and their limited ability to pay for college. Grants do not need to be repaid when college is completed.

Federal Pell Grants are funds for undergraduate college costs, like tuition, fees, room, board and living expenses; eligibility is based on financial need.

Scholarships can be awarded based on academic achievement, athletic ability, artistic talent or ethnic background, as just a few examples. Scholarships also generally do not require repayment, but some may have conditions that will need to be fulfilled to receive the award, or prevent it from becoming a loan.

Colleges, universities and other higher education institutions also offer financial assistance to their students. The financial aid office on campus is the best place to find out about financial aid, which in addition to grants and scholarships, might also include work, internships, cooperative education and loans.  Many agencies, associations and organizations (for example, corporations, civic, religious and philanthropic groups, and associations connected with your field of interest) provide money for college students. There are different eligibility requirements, award amounts, application forms and deadlines, so be sure to research them carefully. Some scholarships may require you to qualify by showing special talents or abilities. You may hear about using scholarship search services, many of which are available on the Internet, to locate financial aid opportunities. While most of these services are legitimate and can offer valuable information to families seeking financial aid, others may be fraudulent and charge a lot of money for little information. Please view with caution any service that requires you to pay more than a nominal fee. Access to reputable scholarship search services can be gained through collegezone.com, as well as cautionary information about possible scams.

Work-study (or part-time employment) opportunities for a student can be provided by the college through federal, state or institutional employment programs.

Loans must be repaid and should always be considered as the last resort for paying for your education. You (and your parents, if you're a dependent student) may receive loans through federal programs or private or alternative sources. The first rule of thumb for borrowing any kind of loan, including an educational loan, is to never borrow more than you need, since the more you borrow, the more you'll have to pay back later with interest. You also might want to consider researching the starting salaries of career fields in which you're interested, and then determining what percentage of your after-college income should be taken up by educational loan payments. Use the SLOPE Calculator at collegezone.com to help ensure you don't borrow more than you can reasonably be expected to repay, based on your income.

Subsidized Federal Stafford loans are eligibility is based on financial need, and the interest is paid by the federal government during the in-school, grace and deferment periods.

Unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans are eligibility is not based on financial need, and the student is responsible for paying the interest from the date funds are disbursed. Borrowers may make monthly or quarterly interest payments to the lender, or the interest can be added to the balance of the loan when it enters
repayment. The second option, known as capitalization, will cause your monthly payment amount to be higher.

Federal Perkins Loan a need-based, low-interest loan for undergraduate and graduate students who show exceptional need and are attending at least half time. The college is considered the lender for Perkins loans.

College Financial Aid Office The financial aid office at the college is where you'll learn how much financial aid you can be expected to receive, and how much of that will be in the form of a student loan. You may apply for your loan through the college (or in some cases, you can apply online with your lender), as well as receive your required entrance counseling, pick up your loan proceeds if funds remain after your college account has been settled, and receive required exit counseling when you stop attending.

Other Financing Options

When the financial aid package offered to you is not enough to meet your college expenses, you may need to consider other options. Look into these other financial resources that may be available to you and your family.  Check on the availability of an installment payment plan at the college, which may allow you to spread your out-of pocket payment over a period of time. Also find out if the college will give a discount if you prepay or if more than one family member attends the same college.

Loans from private educational organizations (also known as alternative loans) that offer flexible repayment options are available. Eligibility for these loans is often based on credit approval. Contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend for more information and be sure to ask about interest rates and any fees that may be connected to this type of loan. A home equity loan or home equity line of credit may be a choice. Your parents should contact their lender or financial planner to decide if this option is right for your family. Some families may consider a PLUS loan a better choice.

Although military service isn't for everyone, it does offer several educational benefits. The U.S. Armed Forces offer many programs to help students pay for higher education. Contact a local recruiter for more information if you're interested in joining the Armed Forces.

Financial Aid Links

Findaid - This exhaustive resource provides plain-English explanations of how to get a loan or scholarship and walks you through the process of filling out application forms that can be excruciatingly complex.  

Illinois Mentor (http://www.illinoismentor.org/FinAid/wizard/financial_aid_calculator0.asp) - A financial aid estimator

FastWeb (www.fastweb.com) - a nationwide scholarship search

Collegezone.com (www.collegezone.com) a comprehensive website includes information about College Illinois, specific college loans, and scholarship information.

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid (https://fafsa.gov/)

Illinois Student Assistance Commission

What's Next Illinois

Illinois Student Assistance Home Page

Scholarship Searches

Free financial aid for graduating high school seniors, scholarships, grants, tuition, fellowships, internships and loans.

Fastweb

Scholarships.com

Collegeboard.org

Scholarshipsexperts.com

Petersons

Salliemae

Discover Colleges

High Five Scholarships

Scholarships and Grants

Tuition Funding Sources (TFS) scholarship search by Wells Fargo

Financial Aid

FAFSA

Federal Student Aid

Fin Aid

Midwest Exchange

Your Financial Aid Journey in 5 Steps by Wells Fargo

Tuition Funding Sources

 

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