Educational Funding; What Are the Options for High School Seniors Heading to College?

College preparation is a large focus of every high school student’s senior’ year. For many, the frustration of financing the college tuition may lead to many not pursuing a college education simply based on fear of the financial struggle. Understanding the various options of college financing will further support the high school senior in the most important educational decision, pursuing an undergraduate degree.

The first option for college financing lies in and among the various scholarship awards. Scholarship awards are varied in both dollar amount and sourcing. For most high school seniors, pursuing a scholarship through the extra curricular activities is quite common. However, there are many more options available. Scholarships may come from local profit organizations, retailers, specialty occupations or may simply be awarded based on ethnicity, gender, degree plan and age. Scholarships are never repaid and are considered the first line of financing when paying for college tuition, fees and supplies.

The second line of financing comes in the form of Federal Pell Grants. Pell Grants are a form of government awards which are not repaid. Generally, the Federal Pell Grant is offered to those pursuing a bachelor’s degree, fulltime or parttime, and can also be awarded to specific degree plans at a graduate level. To determine eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant, an FAFSA application must be completed through www.fafsa.ed.gov. Once completed, the financial eligibility will be forwarded to the student in a report known as an SAR, Student Aid Report. This should be presented to the school at which point the eligibility determination, and amount, for a Federal Pell Grant will be determined.

Beyond the Federal Pell Grant, the third line of application would be in what is known as a Federal Work Study program. Work Study programs vary depending on the college or university. The program allows for the eligible student to work, at a rate equal to no less than minimum wage, for the university or a local not-for-profit organization. By doing so, the school issues payment to the student, at least once per month, for the hours work. Payment is made directly to the student unless the student has indicated the funds should be applied to the tuition or educational account. The disadvantage to the Work Study program is due to the limit of funding or work which can be completed. Again, this is determined through the results of the FAFSA and SAR results.

The fourth line of college funding is in the form of student and parent loans. Loans are considered a last line of opportunity as they provide financing for college, with deferred payments, subject to interest. Loans payments are deferred only until such time as the student is no longer attending fulltime. Interest rates on loans vary depending on the type of loan utilized and many college students will result to loan financing to supplement the varied other forms of financing obtained.

With Federal Pell Grants, Work Study and Federal Loans, college financing is possible. Even when scholarships are not awarded, the high school senior should not be discouraged by the opportunity to finance a college education. Pursuing opportunities for scholarships and submitting the FAFSA form will set the path to an education with significant impact on career and future earning potential.

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