Don't let the high cost of college discourage you. Numerous sources of financial aid can help you afford even the most expensive schools. In fact, nearly half of all college students receive some financial aid. The key is to start saving and researching now.
Save Early: Consider the types of college you might attend (public, private, urban, rural), the requirements of your potential major (books, supplies), and living costs (housing, transportation, food). Estimate your financial needs, and begin saving money each month. Many banks offer special college savings accounts.
Explore Your Options: You can apply for several types of aid from federal and state agencies, private foundations, and colleges. The federal government alone provides nearly $50 billion in student aid to U.S. citizens annually. Delve into the topics below for more information.
Financial aid is based on the amount a family is expected to pay for college, called the Expected Family Contribution or EFC. Therefore, although the costs of colleges vary widely, the dollar amount a family is expected to contribute to a student’s college education will not. If the family’s EFC is calculated at $5,000 and a school’s total cost is $15,000, the family’s need is $10,000. If the school’s cost is $40,000, the same family’s need is $35,000. Not all colleges guarantee to meet the family’s full need, but many do. There are numerous instances where students end up paying less to go to a school that costs $40,000 than they do at a UC because private colleges often have more money available for aid. In addition, the amount students have to borrow from a private college may be less. We encourage almost all families to apply for financial aid since you may be eligible for more aid than you think. In addition, in case there is a family emergency that affects income, your forms will be on file and you will be able to discuss contingencies with the college financial aid office. To get an idea of what your EFC is, go to www.collegeboard.com and click on “Pay for College” and then “Calculators.”
Financial Aid Calculators - The most popular calculators are the College Cost Projector, Savings Plan Designer, Financial Aid Estimation Calculator and Loan Payment Calculator.
MOST IMPORTANT – CHECK WITH EACH COLLEGE WHERE THE STUDENT IS APPLYING TO DETERMINE THE PRIORITY DEADLINES FOR APPLYING FOR FINANCIAL AID. THE DEADLINE FOR THE UC’S, CAL STATE UNIVERSITIES AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES IS MARCH 2ND, BUT THE DEADLINE FOR MANY PRIVATE SCHOOLS IS EARLIER. ALSO CHECK TO FIND OUT WHICH FORMS ARE REQUIRED.
The Student Guide - This government publication is one of the best, most concise and well-organized explanations of the financial aid process anywhere. Check it out to discover the answers to all your financial aid questions!