The author, scientist, and civic leader Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” It’s hard to argue with that statement. When going to college for increased knowledge and next-level skills are on your mind, answering the question “How do I pay for college?” deserves a much study and smart decision-making.
Do you – or someone you know – have plans for a college education? Here are 6 tips about college financial aid you should definitely have in your knowledge toolbox.
Why consider college, some say, because of the cost? Here’s how an investment in the right college education compares to high school graduates. Over a lifetime of working:
One place to start is to understand a university’s Cost of Attendance (COA), which every institution is required to report. The COA establishes an average cost of attending that school during an academic year. A school’s COA is typically stated as a yearly amount and is updated annually.
Colleges will calculate financial aid by subtracting the expected family contribution (EFC) from the COA. Included in the COA:
The COA is useful for comparisons of total costs. Still, understand that many indirect costs of attending a school are under the student’s control. Examples: weekend food costs, laundry, and fuel for vehicles.
The beginning point for any college financial aid from any program of the U.S. government is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. You should submit the FAFSA before applying for any scholarship, loan, or grant help.
There is no fee for completing a FAFSA form, and you are not obligated to take any college financial aid offered.
Once submitted with your information and processed, the form results in a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR details the amount of aid to be awarded from the school and from which federal sources.
Gather the following information to complete your FAFSA form. Remember, if you’re the student borrowing the money and someone else can list you as dependent on their taxes, you’ll also need most of this information from a parent or guardian:
Financial aid for college comes in two flavors: funds that are repaid – usually with interest – and funds that do not have to be repaid. Obviously, not borrowing money for college is a better option. Any money that’s borrowed will have to be repaid. Two better options are scholarships and grants.
Scholarships are terrific. Just remember that certain academic standards are needed to keep them. Some scholarships are merit-based, meaning they are tied to previous academic achievements or other criteria.
Other scholarships are need-based, meaning students fit specific categories. A need-based scholarship might depend on family status, your family’s ethnic origin, or an area of study, such as health care.
Grants are usually need-based and, like scholarships, don’t have to be repaid, presuming you stay in school. The FAFSA form is essential to be considered for federal grants.
There are options regarding loans for attending a university or college.
The U.S. Department of Education provides money to college-bound students as low-interest loans. Again, the starting point is completing the FASFA form. Filling out this form will result in knowing about eligible awards from various federal programs.
There are private loan options, too, typically from loan lenders such as Sallie Mae and Discovery Student Loans.
Typically, education loans have lower interest rates than other types of loans these institutions offer. The interest rate on a private student loan may be higher than the interest rate for federal direct loans.
It’s best to seek financial aid at least one year before you intend to start college. Be mindful of the trimester or semester you plan to begin college studies and adjust your financial aid timeline accordingly.
A college or university’s financial aid department can let you know when applications for college financial aid should be submitted.
The truth is, there are many sources of good information about how to pay for college and all the possibilities and pitfalls to know. A good place to start your education is studentaid.gov, a free U.S. government website. This site will get you up to speed and offer a lot of basic information and resources.
Another free option is a financial aid eBook, presenting loads of information in a straightforward manner. Cleveland University-Kansas City has put this information into a free eBook.
When health sciences and healthcare careers are what you’re interested in, Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) may be the right next step for you. You can see the list of undergraduate and graduate/professional degrees here.
CUKC is a nonprofit, private, chiropractic and health sciences university in Overland Park, Kansas, a nationally acclaimed suburb of Kansas City.
There’s a lot to know about paying for the college degree you desire, and it’s our desire to answer any college financial aid questions you have. To be connected with someone and get an overview of financial aid options by downloading this free eBook: Your Guide to Navigating College Financial Aid.