With the total costs of many private colleges now exceeding $35-60,000 per year, financial aid is a topic on the minds of an increasing number of people. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind regarding financial aid is this: You will not know whether or not you qualify for assistance, and you will not receive any aid, if you do not apply. It is not uncommon for more than half of the students at some very well-known schools to be receiving some type of financial assistance. There are two different types of financial assistance offered by colleges and universities:
Every school will require that you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) www.fafsa.ed.gov in order to be considered for aid. The FAFSA is only available on-line. Many schools will also ask you to complete the CSS Profile, https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org second form, available in the early fall, with which you must send a processing fee.
Both forms are submitted to processors who then calculate your expected family contribution and forward that information to you and to any schools you have indicated on the application. The FAFSA calculations are based on federally legislated methodology. The CSS Profile calculations take additional discretionary information into account, as requested by the various schools to which you are applying. A step by step, walk through the financial aid process is available https://www.mefa.org
Some colleges ask that applicants for financial aid submit the school’s own financial aid form directly to the school, in addition to the FAFSA, and sometimes the CSS Profile. If this is the case for a school to which you are applying, be attentive to deadlines and provide complete information.
The Financial Aid Office at each institution will take the information provided by the form processor and put together a financial aid "package" which might be some combination of grant, scholarship, loan, and/or work-study. Unfortunately, an increasing number of colleges are not able to meet 100% of the demonstrated need of their applicants. That means there might be a "gap" between what you can afford and what the college can provide to assist you. Information on all forms of financial aid is available in both English and Spanish at: https://www.mefa.org
Grants and scholarships are monies given to you by the college which do not have to be repaid. The Pell Grant is the largest of the federal grant programs, and its awards range from $200 to $$5,775. Determination is made on the basis of information provided by review of your FAFSA. The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) is another federal program (administered by the colleges) for students with exceptional need. Awards range from $100 to $4000 in addition to the Pell grant.
Loans must be repaid and have different terms. The Stafford Student Loan is a federal program (administered by private lenders) based on need. The loan is interest free while the student is in college and until repayment begins. The federal government pays interest while you are still in school and for six months afterwards. The repayment period is five to ten years, and there is a 5% origination fee subtracted from the loan. Perkins Loans of up to $5500 per year are federally funded and are offered by the colleges. They are based on need. The federal government pays interest while you are still in school and for six months afterwards. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are designed for students who do not demonstrate need. The terms are the same as for the Stafford Loan described above, except that interest must be paid while the student is in college. Repayment of principle begins upon graduation. PLUS (Parents Loans to Undergraduate Students) and SLS (Supplemental Loan to Students) Loans are also not based on financial need, but you usually must first apply for Pell and Stafford Loans before being considered. Both have yearly maximums. Interest accumulates while you are a student, but payment can be deferred until after graduation. The repayment periods are five to ten years.
College Work Study is employment which you must take while in school, earning a salary which you are expected to contribute toward your expenses. The program is administered by the colleges, and the financial aid or work study office will help you find an on-campus job which qualifies.
Merit-Based Assistance A growing number of colleges and universities are making available scholarship money which is awarded not on the basis of need, but for some outstanding quality or accomplishment demonstrated by the student. The only way to learn of these awards is to seek them out; check the literature you receive from the schools to which you are applying and do a search on the web.
Net Price Calculators Net price calculators are available on a college’s or university’s website and allow prospective students to enter information about themselves to find out what students like them paid to attend the institution in the previous year, after taking grants and scholarship aid into account.