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Financial Matters: Money for College

financial aid paying for college
Financial Matters: Money for College

Money often plays a significant factor in pursuing a college degree, but hopefully, it will not stop anyone from attending college! Yes, college can be expensive, but aid is available to help you and your family pay for college. Significant sources of financial aid for college include:

Grants – Grants are "gifts" from the government and from individual colleges that reduce college costs. Grants are awarded based on your family's financial situation. Colleges are the largest source of grants for higher education. The Federal Government and some state governments also offer grants to help students from lower-income families pay for college costs. Grants do not have to be paid back or earned. Grants may be renewed every year you attend college, although if your family's financial situation changes, the amount you receive may also vary.

Merit Scholarships – Many colleges and private organizations offer merit scholarships. Scholarships are similar to grants because they are gifts; you don't have to repay them. Merit scholarships can be awarded for many reasons, including your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, intended career or college major, and in some cases, your family's financial situation. Some merit scholarships are only good for your first year of college; others may be renewed every year you attend college.

Federal Work-Study – Work-study is a program that allows students to earn money for college expenses by working in an on-campus job while they attend school. Usually, a work-study job will help you pay for books and other personal expenses, but not tuition or your living expenses. In addition, work-study jobs often have flexible hours that make attending classes easy. Work-study jobs can also be a great way to start building a resume. Work-study does not have to be paid back but is earned over time as you perform your work-study job.

Federal Student Loans – The Federal government offers low-cost student loans to help students and parents pay for college expenses. When used wisely, Federal student loans can be an excellent way to finance some college costs. Federal student loans have low-interest rates, and in most cases, you won't have to start paying them back until after you graduate. However, if you leave college without graduating, you will still be required to repay the loans.

Important Tip: Every college is required to provide families with an estimate of the amount of financial aid they may be eligible to receive. This estimate (while not a guarantee) can help you compare colleges and make sure your college list is financially feasible. To get the estimate, go to each college's website and look for the Net Price Calculator, usually located in the college website's financial aid section. You'll need a copy of your family's last tax return to use the Net Price Calculator.