The Key to Obtaining Federal Financial Aid
Education is the cornerstone of a successful career. Education creates opportunities. And yet, the toughest part of pursuing education after high school is often...how to pay for it. Whether you want to attend community college, university, or trade school, it makes sense to have a thoughtful college financial aid plan, so you're not caught by surprise by high loan bills after you graduate. Fortunately, there are numerous college financial aid programs to help with education costs.
The key to federal financial aid for college or career school: Apply!
The U.S. federal government offers college financial aid programs that help millions of students pay for school every year. Last year alone, federal financial aid provided nearly $78 billion in the form of grants, work-study and low-interest loans!
There's money available - but you need to apply to be eligible!
According to a recent report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy, 20 percent of students between 18 and 22 (traditional college age) who took out private loans had not applied for any federal loans at all, and an additional 19 percent took out federal loans but didn't borrow up to the federal limits for which they were eligible.
These statistics are puzzling because usually, federal student loan rates are lower and repayment terms are more flexible than those of private loans.
The key to federal college financial aid: the FAFSA
Applying for federal financial aid starts with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is long and can be a little daunting, but it looks harder than it really is. If you collect the materials you need for the FAFSA questions and set aside some time to complete it, the application may open a door to low-cost funding that you didn't know you had. It is worth the time investment to apply!
A number of advantageous changes to the federal college financial aid programs were made into law in 2006, including:
- Fixed interest rates instead variable interest rates for Stafford and PLUS loans,
- Higher limits on Stafford loans,
- Expanding PLUS loans to include graduate and professional degree students,
- Two new grant programs,
- A military deferment option, and
- A change to the definition of dependency status.
So, if you have an education goal you want to achieve after high school, take advantage of the resources that federal government can provide. As you go forward into new successes, federal college financial aid can help keep your mind on your studies and career plans instead of on bills!
1) "Funding Education Beyond High School," Guide to Federal Student Aid, 2007-2008, U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid (Student Aid on the Web)
2) "The Future of Private Loans: Who Is Borrowing, and Why?", Institute for Higher Education Policy, December 2006.
Carlos Soto is a content contributor for CourseAdvisor.