As a society, we place a tremendous value upon the educational process. A college education is often touted as a means toward advancement, opportunity and freedom. Simultaneously, however, the media abounds with stories concerning the escalating costs of higher education.
The net result of these conflicting messages is that students often believe it impossible to attend the college of their choice. What can follow is disappointment and a sense of powerlessness. This need not occur because financial help is available.
The purpose of financial aid is to supplement the difference between what students and their parents can contribute and the actual costs of educational (tuition, books, fees, etc.) and personal expenses, including housing, transportation and meals.
There are three categories of financial aid:
* Grants and scholarships--These do not have to be repaid.
* Loans--These repayments begin when a student leaves school or graduates.
* Work study--This often is on-campus employment.
Sources for this assistance include the federal and state governments, institutional funds provided by colleges and funds from private organizations.
The federal government offers Pell grants (awards range from $200 to $2,200 per year), which serve as the foundation for a student's financial aid package. Eligibility is determined through the use of a congressional formula that takes into account a number of variables, including family size, adjusted gross income and assets. There are also a number of federal low-interest loans available to qualified students.
The state of California administers three grant programs:
* Cal Grant A: ($200-$4,700 annually) bases eligibility upon financial need and high school grade point average. An award must be used at a California four-year college or university. However, students who decide to attend a community college may initially place these funds in reserve until they transfer to a four-year institution.
* Cal Grant B: ($1,400-$6,100) is intended for students from families with low incomes (less than $25,000 annually). It may be used at a community college or four-year institution within the state of California.
* Cal Grant C: ($500-$2,300) provides assistance for students who desire to enroll in a vocational course or technical school in California. Vocational studies can range from four months to two years in duration.
The state also offers low-interest loan options to eligible students.
Other sources of financial aid are scholarships and grants that are offered by colleges and private organizations, including unions and civic, community and church groups. Students can obtain information about the latter through high school guidance counselors, college financial aid officers, family, friends and in scholarship reference books available at public libraries.
Students must submit a student aid application for California. Applications must be postmarked by March 2. (It is suggested that you obtain a certificate of mailing at the post office.) The applications can be obtained at high schools and college financial aid offices.
Even students not eligible for financial aid based on need may qualify for funds based solely upon superior academic records.
It is imperative that students not rule out the possibility of attending the college of their choice on the basis of cost alone. There is money available to help finance a college education. However, in order to unearth this treasure, students must engage in some thorough prospecting. Make it happen!
The deadline for submitting a student aid application for California is March 2. Applications can be obtained at high schools and college financial aid offices.