Finding money for college is an ongoing, hands-on process. Consider the following sources and activities when looking for ways to lower you tuition bill.
Some of the greatest sources of financial aid are the nation’s colleges and universities, which distribute money in the form of scholarships and grants. These awards are made directly to the student by the college and are outright “gifts,” which the student does not need to repay. While the amount of most awards is determined by a student’s financial need, there are usually other criteria that an applicant must meet. The most commonly used criterion is “academic potential” as measured by high school records and college entrance tests (e.g. SAT or ACT tests).
In recent years, more colleges are offering “academic merit scholarships,” which are based completely on a student’s academic record without regard for the financial circumstances of the family. Students who cannot demonstrate financial need but have proven themselves to be strong academically should inquire about such awards at all colleges in which they have an interest.
As the availability of financial aid varies from college to college, families should be sure to ask about the percentage of students at each college who are receiving aid, as well as the amount of the average aid package. High numbers in these two categories usually indicate that a student will have a better chance of getting adequate financial aid.
The more selective the college, the higher the applicant’s grades and scores must be to get a merit scholarship. Thus, at a very selective college, a student might need to rank in the top 5 percent of the class while at another, less selective college, merit scholarships might go to students who rank in the top 30 percent. The key to merit scholarships is matching the student’s credentials to the requirements at specific colleges.
Other scholarships, often called activity awards, may be given to applicants who are active in such things as debate, band, dramatics, newspaper or yearbook, or athletics.
College-awarded scholarships oftentimes will cover tuition or more, and are renewable for four years, provided that the student meets the stated requirements of the award.
A number of scholarships are made available each year by many local groups, such as labor unions, veterans groups, businesses, professional organizations, fraternal societies, benevolent organizations, high schools, and church groups. A good Web site to consult for all types of scholarships is fastweb.com. You can also start your search at finaid.org or collegeboard.org, or consult your high school counselor.
Regular Student Employment
In addition to the Federal College Work-Study Program, many colleges employ students directly. Students work in all phases of the college, often working at the same type of jobs as students in the Work-Study Program. In many instances, however, there is no financial need requirement, and jobs are open to any student who wishes employment, regardless of his or her financial circumstances.
Students should also consider part-time work in local business and industry. Often the Director of Financial Aid or the Placement Office will help students to find such off-campus employment.
Under this program, the student alternates periods of study with periods of work directly related to his or her academic interest. The salary earned during work periods enables the student to pay a major part of college expenses. More colleges each year are participating in this program.
WACE (World Council and Assembly on Cooperative Education) is a resource of information and assistance to schools, employers and governments that want to initiate or strengthen Cooperative & Work-Integrated Education programs. This organization also offers scholarships to students who attend partner schools. For more information visit waceinc.org, e-mail Marty_Ford@uml.edu or write to WACE, 600 Suffolk Street, Suite 503, Lowell, MA 01854.
AmeriCorps is a national service project that works with nonprofit organizations/agencies and educational institutions to operate local community service programs. AmeriCorps volunteers have served across the country to address the most pressing education, public safety, human and environmental challenges facing our communities. Volunteers who have completed a term of service (generally 10 months to one year) are eligible for a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. The award amount is tied to the maximum amount of the U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant, which is currently $6,195. The award may be used to repay educational loans for those who have attended college or may be used for future educational costs by volunteers who have not yet attended college.
AmeriCorps participants may also qualify for the new Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Income-Based Repayment Plan. As an added benefit, there are currently more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide that offer matching grant programs to students who are Segal AmeriCorps Education Award recipients.
For information about volunteer opportunities and benefits and a list of schools participating in the matching grant program visit nationalservice.gov or questions.nationalservice.gov or call 800-942-2677. You can also contact the state or local project office.
Work for a Company that Pays College Costs
Many large corporations have tuition payment plans for their employees. Plans vary from company to company. Some firms will advance monies needed for tuition, others will reimburse costs after the student completes each course or semester.
Reimbursements vary from 100 percent to a portion of the total tuition, with some reimbursements contingent on the employee/student’s final grade. In some cases, a company will pay only for courses directly related to the job.
When interviewing for a job, be sure to ask about the firm’s education funding plan.
Handicapped students who are eligible for routine help from the rehabilitation agency within their state are usually eligible for substantial financial assistance to pursue higher education. Such students should contact their rehabilitation counselor for more detailed information.