How’d you do?
We’re driving home a point here: federal financial aid for college is readily available; there’s a lot of it; and yet gobs of students pass up on the opportunity. An estimated 661,000 eligible students last year did not file their FAFSAs. Truth.
College can be expensive. Don’t let it be any more expensive than it needs to be. In fact, if you follow the tips in our Guide, you’ll have a real plan for making college affordable. That’s why we started Fair Opportunity Project—it’s info by students and for students to make college happen. Our Guide is free and downloadable on our website. In Chapter 12, you’ll find key tips on financial aid--check it out!
(Remember that there’s also a cost of NOT going to college, and that’s the cost of missing out on higher-income jobs that require a college degree.)
In The Guide, you’ll find explanations about how colleges determine financial “need”; what merit aid is; where to find scholarships, and an explanation of student loans. (Here’s a short guide from the federal government that explains how student loans work.)
Bonus: A few sections from The Guide:
Finding a College’s Price
As you won’t usually pay the price that a university costs, understanding the types of institutional financial aid will help decode a college’s actual price. Every school is required to offer a net price calculator with which students can input their family’s assets and get a rough approximation of what they’ll pay. We strongly advise that you do this as it may surprise you what you’ll owe! If a school offers need-based aid, also assess whether the school offers merit aid that you can apply to receive. Oftentimes merit aid applications have different deadlines from regular applications, so make sure to confirm those ahead of time. To double check what you’ll approximately be paying, the US Department of Education has set up college cost calculators that allow students to see the mean price of cost, debt, and graduation indexed per school. Our recommendation is to use both the colleges’ calculators and the government’s assessment for a good, although not perfect, estimate.
Get Away from Bad Aid Information
There’s a lot of poor information out there on college expenses, most notably with the Ivy League, which has some of the best financial aid in the nation. For one of our writers, it was less expensive to go to Harvard than the University of Minnesota – as it would be for 90% of Americans. Other private schools are known for strong financial aid programs; here’s a list of 18 schools that ranges from Rice University to Mount Holyoke College, all of whom meet full financial need.
If these schools don’t align with your interests, here’s another list of 50 schools ranked according to ability to serve applicants whose families earn less than $48,000. Generally, public universities have much lower tuition fees for in-state students, making a higher education possible and affordable. In addition, many states have in-state tuition reciprocity with neighboring states, and some even have international reciprocity: for example between Minnesota and Manitoba. You should think a bit about the return on investment in education via tools like Edmit. The point is to seek out the facts yourself using tools like the college cost calculator and the annual “Best Bang for the Buck” college list from Washington Monthly.