To help pay for college, the attention of most parents and students is focused on financial aids offered at the federal level which include federal student loans, work-study packages and Pell grants. Some colleges may also provide financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships which can be used to supplement the financial aid gotten from the federal government. But one aspect of financial aid that doesn’t get enough attention like the other aforementioned incentives is the state-awarded financial aid. Here we will see about What States Pay for Your College?
There are several states that pay for college education. These states might offer free tuition for both two-year and four-year programs. But free tuition is in no way the same as free college. Students fortunate to attend free-tuition institutions still need to cover the costs of other aspects of a college education such as room and board, transportation and fees. All these can be paid using a combination of grants, scholarships and savings. Student loans, though detested, can also be utilized to fund a college education. Some states that offer to pay for four-year college include New York, Washington and Indiana while states such as California, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri and Oklahoma pay for two-year colleges.
How To Qualify for State Financial Aid
States are different:
Although, administration of federal government financial aid is uniform nationwide, state-mediated financial aid may vary from state-to-state. A good way to learn about available programs is to get in touch with the department of education. Some states require students to attend a public university while others may make funding available for both private and public university students. In most states, the first requirement to qualify for aid is to fill and complete the FAFSA. However, some states might require parents and students to complete other forms of state aid application alongside the FAFSA.
Deadlines should be monitored:
While deadlines offered for the completion of FAFSA may be generous, most states have deadlines which may be earlier than expected. You should keep in mind your state’s deadline. It is always advised to apply early for state financial aid. Some programs have limited funding and even though the actual deadline for such programs are met, you might be unlucky not to get funding because your application might have come too late.
Merit-based or need-based:
The way by which states also make financial aid decisions may differ across the country. Is financial aid awarded based on the academic performance of the student, application of a need-based formula or a combination of the two criteria. If awards are based on merit, it is essential the student does everything in their power to ensure they have all academic requirements.
In-state or out-of-state financial aid:
Most states try to influence students to attend colleges that exist within their geographical area but some programs might allow students resident in one state, attend colleges located in another state without making them pay out-of-state tuition. It is important to check and confirm with your state or the colleges you have an interest in attending, about the presence of any of these sort of reciprocity arrangements. Note that the amount contained in in-state grants may not be as generous as that given for attending college in another state.
To get the best out of financial aid, it is essential that you avail yourself of opportunities from different angles and take advantage of them. Do your research and pay no mind to information other people may be spreading as to what qualifies one for financial aid. Until you make your own findings, fill the FAFSA and make contact with the financial aid office of the college you are interested in, you may never get the full picture of what the financial aid looks like. Aid does not necessarily come in a neat package but it is always pleasing once you receive an email or letter confirming you as a beneficiary of one.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I apply for state financial aid even though I might not qualify? Yes. Many students and families erroneously think they do not qualify to receive a particular financial aid and this prevents them from receiving it since they do not apply. Since the FAFSA form is free, there is no harm in filling it out just to see if might benefit from financial aid.
- Do I need to reapply for financial aid each year? Yes. Most financial aid offices require you to apply each year for financial aid. If there is a change in your financial situation, you may receive less or more aid, depending on the outcome of the change. After the first year of receiving financial aid, you’ll be given a “renewal application’ which consists of information pre-printed from the FAFSA of the previous year. Your eligibility for financial aid may not remain the same, especially if the number of your family members in college changes. Financial aid renewal is also dependent on you making progress in your academics, in gaining a degree, through achieving the required minimum G.P.A or earning the stipulated minimum credit needed for financial aid.
- Do my parents bear responsibility for my educational loans? No. your parents are not responsible for your educational loans. However, they are responsible for PLUS loans, if you’ve taken those. The only circumstance in which parents might be responsible for educational loans you take, is if they are co-signatories to your loans. If your parents or other family members are interested in helping you pay off loans, you can send your billing statement to where they reside but your parents are under no obligation whatsoever to pay for your loans.
- Am I compelled to immediately start paying my loans? No. Some loans have grace periods. The Perkins loan grants have a grace period of 9 months after which repayment may begin while the subsidized Stafford loan has a period of 6 months before repayment of loans are to commence. When you are on a leave of absence, for instance, you do not have to repay your loans once the grace period has not elapsed.