How to Find College Aid—by Yourself or With Help

"Students seeking to lower their college tuition bill may be eligible for 'free money,' but tracking it down requires some homework," the Wall Street Journal reports. 

"Many people don’t realize the extent to which grants and scholarships are available—and not just for students who are the smartest or most athletic. These awards have varying requirements, and unlike loans they usually don’t have to be paid back.

Experts say students and their families can do the digging themselves, or pay a specialist to help them—much like the choice between using an online 'robo adviser' or paying a financial adviser for more-personalized expertise. The good news for those who want to do their own legwork is that there are plenty of free resources available.

'With the amount of information available [online], there is very little you can’t find out on your own,' says Mike Loparo, a remodeling consultant in Cleveland, whose 19-year-old daughter landed a full scholarship to the University of Cincinnati.

'It takes some work and it takes some time,' but it’s worth it if the end result is saving money, says Mr. Loparo, who is now researching options for another daughter, a junior in high school.

Undergraduate students received a total of $181.1 billion in federal, state, institutional and private aid in 2016-17, according to the College Board. That amount included $46.1 billion in institutional grants, $38.8 billion in total federal grants, $10.8 billion in private and employer grants and $10.4 billion in state grants.

The first task is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the Fafsa, which is used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid. Some wealthier families may skip this step, thinking it isn’t worth their time because they make too much money. That’s a mistake, experts say, because the Fafsa is used for other types of aid unrelated to need.

Many states use Fafsa information for loans and grants, and many colleges and universities use the information to make decisions about institutional aid, so filling out the form is worth it regardless of income, says Megan Coval, vice president of policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

The Fafsa, which must be filed annually, becomes available each year on Oct. 1. Experts advise filing the form as close to this date as possible since some programs allocate money on a first-come, first-served basis."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.



Publication Date: 1/9/2018

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