Each fall, as students of higher education prepare to go back to school, countless college families face the financial realities of earning a post-secondary education. Fortunately, motivated students are not left to their own devices – plenty of financial help is available for those needing resources for school.
The price of higher education goes beyond the cost of tuition. Each semester, students must not only cover tuition bills, but must also find resources to pay for books, housing, food, transportation and other typical costs of living. With so many financial demands pulling at student budgets, where does the money come from?
In practice, most college students draw from a blended pool of financial resources, covering higher education expenses. Savings and family contributions are a start, but scholarships, grants, student loans, and work-study programs are commonly used to supplement cash on hand.
Excellence is rewarded with college aid, giving high-achievers a chance to compete for scholarship money. Athletes, academic standouts, and other notable young people are invited to apply for financial aid from various organizations willing to contribute to the cost of college. Each award has its own eligibility requirements, so it is up to student applicants to submit proper application materials. Scholarships originate from these sources:
Trade Organizations – In order to ensure a steady flow of qualified graduates, trade groups and vocational organizations frequently sponsor scholarships for education. Accounting associations, for example, may offer full or partial academic scholarships for high achievers studying the field.
Community/Civic Groups – Local sponsors often support education, maintaining scholarship funds for worthy applicants. Proof of residency, high school transcripts, an essay related to local issues, or an in-person interview may be required as part of the application process.
Advocacy Organizations – Some scholarships are reserved for those of a particular race or religion, and others are earmarked for applicants facing disability or other personal challenges. In order to make the most of available resources, it is essential for students to use personal traits to secure funding.
Typically reserved for students demonstrating financial need, grants are offered to help even the financial playing-field for aspiring students with limited financial resources. Government grants, for instance, are available to wide-ranging applicants, requiring only that they prove some level of financial hardship. Information like family income, number of family members attending college, and the actual cost of a particular college program, are factors used to evaluate applicants’ level of need for grant money.
Like scholarships, grants do not require repayment. These forms of gift aid are particularly valuable to students, enabling them to graduate without excessive student debt. Public grants are available to all qualified applicants, but some private awards have special eligibility requirements. Studying in an in-demand field, such as teaching and healthcare, may open doors to grant money earmarked for recruitment into these careers.
Although they must be repaid, loans furnish vital financial aid for many college students. In the United States, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program extends loans for education. Money borrowed under the government-backed student aid program may be applied toward tuition and other related costs. These direct loans carry competitive interest rates and offer flexible repayment terms, but government loans are not the only option. Private financing is also available – even for college students without established credit references.
With the help of a parent, friend or family member, a college student with limited credit interactions may still qualify for a loan. A guarantor loan uses a co-applicant’s credit strength to boost the primary applicant’s score. If the student ultimately defaults, the guarantor shares responsibility for the bad debt. After a period of successful payback, on the other hand, some lenders may actually remove the guarantor from the loan, leaving the debt with only the student borrower. For the best outcomes, it is important to evaluate options before committing, and to partner with a trusted guarantor.
The cost of post-secondary education includes hefty tuition bills, but financial responsibilities don’t stop there. Books, lab fees, food, housing and other college costs quickly rise beyond affordability. Fortunately for cash-strapped college students, various forms of assistance ease the burden, furnishing grants, scholarships and loans for school.