Tips to prepare parents, students for financing college

By Alisha Pabon
Special to The Stuttgart Citizen

One of the most stressful aspects for high school seniors is applying to college, as well as applying for scholarships and financial aid. A study conducted by New York University concluded that 49% of students reported feeling a great deal of stress caused by homework and preparing for college.

Planning how to finance tuition and expenses is a large factor in preparing for college. According to the National Student Financial Wellness Study by The Ohio State University, seven out of 10 college students feel stressed about their personal finances. Nearly 60 percent are worried about having enough money to pay for school, while half are concerned about monthly expenses.

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Army Community Service Financial Readiness Specialist Merilee Nevins offers military community members the following tips and advice to parents and students about saving for college.

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“An important first step for college is figuring out how to pay for it,” Nevis said. “Paying for college may seem scary, but there are resources to assist you. For instance the GI bill, FAFSA, scholarships and grants.”

The Post 9/11 Government Issue Bill (GI bill)

The GI Bill is applicable for individuals who served active duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Transferring the GI bill must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The benefits include up to 36 months of education benefits. If the college is a “Yellow Ribbon School” benefits could also include a monthly housing allowance, annual books and supplies stipend, and a one-time rural benefit payment.

Financial Aid

For financial aid, the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and future college students. The FAFSA determines eligibility for student financial aid. The college or career school will then determine how much financial aid a person is eligible to receive, by reviewing the FAFSA.

Financial aid is calculated using the Cost of Attendance (COA), an estimated reasonable cost of completing a full academic year (usually, nine months) as a full-time student. Which is then subtracted by the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the estimate of the parents’ and/or the student’s ability to contribute to a year of post-secondary education expenses. The total equals your financial need. Remember, scholarships can affect financial aid.

Scholarships

Start the scholarship search process sooner than later, and be aware of “Scholarship Scams”. For example, scholarships are free and should not request financial information.

The biggest source of scholarships come from a college directly, but the most prestigious, competitive, highly ranked colleges do not provide any merit-based scholarships.

Not all scholarships require perfect test scores or straight A’s, unless it is a merit based scholarship. Students should apply for any merit, athletic, and artistic scholarships they qualify for.

Depending on the organization and committee, an essay could be required. However, when winning a scholarship, also ask the organization what is needed to maintain an award. In some cases scholarships can even be renewable. If a scholarship renews for more than one year, there are often requirements to keep the award such as having a certain GPA or keeping the same major.

Current high school students are encouraged to be in contact with a counselor throughout the year. Counselors have reliable resources available. Mesharn Joseph, a school counselor at Stuttgart High School, recommends a variety of different options.

  1. Check your email or the daily student bulletin for scholarship information.

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  2. The guidance office has books with scholarship information.
  3. Check the Scholarship Wall, just outside the guidance office which is updated with references of scholarships available, including the description and requirements for applying.
  4. Visit scholarship websites. A list can be emailed upon request, and are occasionally placed in the student bulletin.
  5. Keep up with deadlines for both colleges and universities you are applying to and for scholarships.

Visit a list of some available scholarships.

Grants

Grants are federal need-based rewards that do not need to payed back, making them another viable option for financial aid in lieu of loans or scholarships.

A Federal Pell Grant is awarded to students who can demonstrate the requisite level of financial need, status as a full-time or part-time student, with intent to attend an academic school year or less. Most of the recipients come from families where the annual household income that falls below $25,000.

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), gives anything between $100 and $4,000 per year depending on the gravity of the person’s financial aid need.
Lastly, a Teacher Grant is available for people who want to become a teacher in a high-need field in a low income area. Certain classes are required and you must teach in a low income area for a certain amount of time. If this is not done, the grant becomes a loan.

For more information about financial planning for college, check out the free Financial Readiness classes available to all ID cardholders at ACS, Building 2915 on Panzer Kaserne.

The next Lunch and Learn Financial Readiness class focused on saving for college, scholarships and student loans is Feb. 7 at ACS from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The class helps attendees to create a financial plan to make college dreams a reality.  It also helps people to become familiar with the variety of scholarship resources, and calculate the cost of college to set realistic savings goals.  The instructor explores all types of tuition assistance including loans, grants, scholarships and the GI Bill. Participants will also learn about the processes and deadlines for applying for financial aid.

Sources:
● https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2015/august/nyu-study-examines-top-high-school-students-stress-and-coping-mechanisms.html
https://news.osu.edu/news/2015/07/01/financial-wellness/

Editor’s Note: Alisha Pabon is a senior at Stuttgart High School and is a part of the Career Practicum program for the garrison Public Affairs office. She is interested in majoring journalism and communications.