October 25, 2006

Research is critical to pay for college

Posted in Student Loan News at 10:04 AM by Joe From Boston

Gone are the days of low tuition or ubiquitous financial aid packages. College costs are rising much faster than inflation and families are left struggling to pay. Here is an interesting article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that I think you should all read. I’m including sections of it here, but as it’s a longer article than I normally post, you can read the rest of the article online here.

“When it comes to paying for college, research is the key

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Learning how to pay for higher education is an education in itself.

It requires throwing away myths that only straight-A students get scholarships and money for needy students will suddenly appear.

It requires mastering a new vocabulary — such as FAFSA, the ubiquitous financial aid application, and PHEAA, the state agency that offers financial aid, and a host of federal loan and grant programs from Pell to Perkins to Stafford.

And it requires much detective work to find out just where the money is.

“I was just amazed at how complicated the process was and how different the game is played at every school,” said parent Connie Ruzich of Sewickley whose daughter, Emily, won a full scholarship to the University of Richmond.

Nationally, most college students receive some sort of financial aid.

Most institutions do not have enough financial aid — federal and state grants and loans, work-study jobs and grants provided by the school’s own money — to go around to all of those who need or want it.

They ration it by merit, need or a combination of that and other factors.

Unless they have large endowments, such as Harvard University does, many schools cannot afford to meet all of the financial needs of the average student. Some meet less than 75 percent of the financial need of students who do receive awards based on need.

Students and their families often are left to fill the gap themselves by finding outside scholarships, digging deeper into their savings, taking out private loans, getting help from grandparents or choosing cheaper schools.

Many high school counselors long have recommended students apply to a “safety school” they are sure to get into. With rising college costs, students now are advised to be sure to include a financial safety school.

The bottom financial line is the net cost of attending — not the sticker price. But that can be hard to determine before applying….

Many students miss out simply because they don’t meet the deadlines, said Patricia McCarthy, director of financial aid at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Schools with rolling admissions — ones that act on applications as they come in rather than waiting until a set date — often have rolling financial aid as well, and money can become scarce late in the cycle.

Deadlines for particular scholarships can be as early as the fall of the senior year of high school….

Some schools, including Carnegie Mellon University, practice “preferential packaging,” giving more grants to meet the needs of students they want most.”


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