BY LORRAINE McKINNEY
One of the biggest problems faced by college students today isn’t how they plan to go about their studies, but how they plan to pay for them. Even with student loans, many students still lack the funds they need to get through college. After all, the cost of studying at a college or university involves a lot more than just tuition and books: students also have to consider how to manage living expenses like rent, food, transport, and a whole lot more.
If you’re worried that you won’t have the funding you need to complete your education, we’ve got you covered – check out the following seven steps to help you secure more funding for your studies.
1. Ask Your School for Help. Many schools offer financial aid for their students, though not all of it is based on academic merit. Some schools offer “preferential packaging”, and only give financing to students who can raise the profile of the school. If you have great grades and are involved in extracurricular activities, you may be eligible for one of these awards. Speak to your school’s financial aid office to find out if you qualify for financial aid.
2. Claim a Tax Credit. Your parents can get a tax credit of as much as $2,500 annually per child, after paying tuition, room and board, and books. If your parents’ modified adjusted gross income is less than $90,000 (or $180,000 if they file jointly), they can claim this credit, which will cover many of your educational costs. They can file for this credit for every year that you are in college. Make sure to ask your parents whether they’re aware of this option – it could save them a lot of money in the long run, and ensure you have the funds you need to complete your education.
3. Look into Grants and Loans. Government grants are also an option and are available both at state and federal levels. Some colleges even provide their own grants. Most of these grants are based on the financial needs of the student, which are determined by your reported income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students at public colleges can receive up to $5,000 on average, and those studying at private colleges can receive over $16,000.
If you have a more immediate need for funds, you can consider an emergency cash loan, so long as you perform due diligence to make sure you’re going with a reputable company and not taking on debt you can’t handle.
4. Ask about Payment Plans. Talk to the school’s billing office, bursar’s office, or cashier’s office to find out if they offer any payment plans that can help you spread out the cost of your tuition so you don’t have to pay the full amount up-front. This would allow you to make payments during the semester and avoid late fees if you are unable to pay all your expenses at once.
5. Possible Special Circumstances. Unexpected events can change your circumstances overnight. For instance, your family’s finances could quickly change if there is a loss of a job or a divorce. A special circumstances re-evaluation of the financial information on the FAFSA could result in your eligibility being recalculated, and you could end up with more financial aid.
6. Get an Emergency Advance. Often, students have expenses, such as paying for housing and other living expenses, before they actually receive their financial aid. In such cases, they can apply for an advance in their financial aid or apply for a school-based loan. Talk to your financial aid office to find out if this option is available at your school. However, before you take on an emergency advance, it’s vital to make sure that you fully understand the terms and repayment schedule.
7. Research Private Scholarships. Many companies, community groups and non-profit organizations offer private scholarships to deserving students. A good example is the scholarship offered by Air Charter Service. This is something that you should talk to your guidance counselor about, as they will likely be able to point you in the right direction. You can also go online to research the various scholarships that you may be eligible to receive. Another option is to use a company such as Fastweb to find the best scholarships based on your needs.
Lorraine McKinney is an academic tutor and elearning specialist.