Planning for college expenses is one of the biggest financial projects that a family can undertake. Four years of college can cost tens of thousands of dollars -- the average annual cost (tuition plus room and board) at private U.S. colleges is now $35,636 -- and it's increasingly easy to break into the six-figure range, especially for advanced degrees [source: Lewin]. Parents, you've probably wondered just how you'll afford to send your child to the college or university that he or she has dreamed about and earned the right to attend.
Students receiving financial aid are required to complete 67 percent of the classes they attempt with a 2.0 GPA to continue receiving aid. For instance, you are awarded aid for Fall/Spring of the academic year, are making progress, and started in the fall semester with 12 credit hours and withdrew from a 3 credit hour class. You will have completed 75% of the classes attempted. Your aid is not in jeopardy. If you complete less than 67% the fall semester and/or your GPA falls below 2.0, you will receive a letter stating you are on warning; your aid for spring is not jeopardized. However, if you do not complete 67% of the total classes you attempt with a 2.0 GPA for the fall/spring semesters, you will be denied further aid.
You could get more non-federal aid: “Schools and states have a limited amount of aid, and a bunch of states have a FAFSA deadline of ‘as soon as possible after October 1,’ (meaning they actually could run out of financial aid) so it’s good to be at the front of the line!” according to a post on the Department of Education blog. If you apply early, you’ll have a better chance to qualify for these non-federal financial aid programs.
In addition to grants dedicated to the economically disadvantaged, there are a wide range of grant programs designed to target the needs of students with both physical and mental disabilities. Grants for students with disabilities help to increase college accessibility to students facing a wide range of personal challenges, including blindness, hearing impairment, autism, and decreased mobility due to physical impairment. Disabled students looking for grants to help them pay for college should begin their search by focusing on advocacy groups and charitable foundations dedicated to the needs of people with their particular disability.
States issue need-based grants to students who need help paying for school. If your EFC is low, and your federal financial aid doesn’t cover your tuition, state grants boost your college fund when you need it most. For instance, Minnesota Office of Higher Education provides state grants to low and moderate income students, with nearly 80% of funds distributed to students with family incomes below 50K/year.
Students that never attend, stop attending, or withdraw from all classes will be required to repay some or all of the Pell Grant and/or SEOG and subsidized or Unsubsidized loan funds originally awarded. A federal formula will be applied based on student's last date of attendance, percentage of the payment and period attended. If the formula indicates an amount “unearned” a repayment of aid will be necessary. There is no appeal available for Repayment of Federal Funds.
It can also be helpful to understand how the Federal Student Aid Office uses the information on the FAFSA to decide how much aid each student gets. The financial details are used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the Federal Student Aid office’s estimate of what your family should reasonably be able to pay toward college costs, based on these factors:
You’ll need a good reason to appeal your financial aid. For instance, if your circumstances changed between when you received your financial aid package and the time school starts. Maybe your sibling decided to enroll in college at the last minute, your parent lost a job, or there’s been a family financial emergency. You might also be able to appeal for more financial aid if you’re in an abusive family situation.
Every state maintains its own college grant programs, and they are typically only available to student residents. While it would be impossible to list every education grant from each state in the union in the space available here, the following examples will give students an idea of the types of programs that may be available through their own state governments. College-bound students are encouraged to visit their state’s higher education website for detailed information on any and all merit-based and need-based grant programs which may be available.
Student income, parental income and assets, and total family size are used to compute your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC is included on your personal Student Aid Report (SAR), which spells out your anticipated college financial needs. Your SAR is shared with the schools you choose, where financial aid offices evaluate your eligibility for grants, loans, and other forms of student assistance. Your individual financial aid package, which often includes federal grants, is issued in a formal ‘offer letter’ from each university.
The Academic Competitiveness Grant is available to students who have already qualified for the Pell grant. A grant award of $750 is available to freshman students, and a further award of up to $1300 is available to qualifying sophomores. The ACG is open to students majoring in a critical need area, such as math, science, technology, engineering and foreign languages.
Low-income and disadvantaged students qualify for general need-based aid in most states that offer it, but specific funding is also set aside for students whose access to education is severely limited by social and financial conditions. Exceptional hardship is calculated differently in each state, but the students whose circumstances present the greatest educational obstacles are the first to be considered for state grants.
Women make up 51% of the population of the United States, yet are still considered a minority. While the numbers may prove that women are a majority of the American populace, they unfortunately remain under-represented on most mainstream college campuses across the country. Private women’s colleges have a long history of providing solid educations with an emphasis on career self-sufficiency. But the need for greater diversity at mainstream colleges and universities still remains, as does the need to diversify the American workforce.
The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant picks up where the Academic Competitiveness Grant leaves off—providing funding for low-income third and fourth year college students. Eligible students must be Pell Grant recipients, academically talented and majoring in STEM fields or high need foreign languages. SMART Grant annual maximums are up to $4000 per qualified student.
Completing a FAFSA can be a time-consuming process that some students or parents might be tempted to skip. “On one end of the spectrum, you have students that don’t think they qualify for aid so they don’t [apply],” Randolph said. “On the other end, you have students that are so confused by the application, verbiage, and choices, that they struggle, perhaps even to the point of not finishing the FAFSA.”
While you are waiting for the Student Aid Report (SAR) that will be generated as a result of filing of the FAFSA, you should contact the Records/Admissions department at EFSC to make sure your records are complete. You will have to order your high school transcript, declare your major, and take the appropriate college placement test for your program of intent. If you have attended other colleges, you also have to order official transcripts for evaluation of transfer credit.