By Brandy Hudson
Special to GUIDON
According to collegeboard.org the 2017-2018 average full-time, undergraduate student costs range from $25,000 a year for an in-state public four-year university to $40,000 a year for an out-of-state public four-year university.
These costs include transportation, books, supplies, food, room and board. The average costs for private universities are significantly higher, some exceeding $100,000 per year depending on the discipline of study.
How do parents and students even begin to tackle these higher education costs without burdening themselves with a monstrous amount of student loan debt?
Well, there is no single solution. In fact, funding a college education without going into debt may require contributions from a variety of resources. These resources vary from federal financial aid, personal savings, local and national scholarships, institutional scholarships and state financial aid.
In fact, the amount of scholarships and grants that go unpaid and unclaimed every year due to no applicants is alarming. Thankfully, parents and students don’t have to look to far. The FAFSA must be filled out every year for students to see if they qualify for any federal assistance. The data on the FAFSA is also used to determine financial need for other scholarships and grants as well.
Every state has its own Department of Education; this resource should be one of the first ones to check.
The state the student is a resident of and the state of the college should be checked.
For instance, the Missouri Department of Education offers a wide variety of scholarships for different disciplines of study and for different academic achievements. Missouri provides scholarships for students who score high on the ACT, students who have a parent that was injured in public service, students who have an Expected Family Contribution of $12,000 or less, students who are less than part time but working while they are in school, and for our military community there is a grant for children of veterans who have died in war or sustained injury.
The A+ scholarship, with a minimum GPA and time given for tutoring, pays for the first two years’ tuition at selected schools within Missouri. Students can then transfer to a four-year institution to finish their final two years.
In addition to your state programs, look at the local scholarships being offered as well.
High schools normally keep an ongoing list of these scholarships for the upcoming graduating class. These scholarships are offered at smaller amounts but if a student is awarded multiple scholarships, these can add up to a significant amount of money.
Sometimes local scholarships can pay for a year’s worth of books and supplies, transportation costs, a semester of room and board, technology fees. Each little bit helps. Local scholarships will be the most time consuming. Local scholarships normally require letters of recommendation, volunteer service and essays.
Colleges and universities also provide their very own institutional scholarships and every institution has many scholarships. According to the Wall Street Journal, the biggest source of aid remains with colleges and universities, used as competition to attract top applicants and athletes. Normally, students will fill out a basic application and the college system will use the data provided and match the student with a scholarship and/or grant. These financial assistances are easier to obtain. Colleges and universities offer scholarships upon enrollment due to good grades, high ACT/SAT scores, and being a minority. These institutional scholarships have deadlines so make sure dates are verified so applications can be submitted in a timely manner for the following school year.
Most importantly, study hard and be active in your community. Students do not realize until it is too late how important good academics and community service play a role in receiving financial aid for higher education. Some scholarships are only available to students that have a 3.5 GPA or higher. Local scholarships often require an essay or proof of what the student has given back to the community or what local organizations they are involved with that supports the community.
Sadly, a large percentage of people choose a much easier route of taking on student loan debt without ever putting in the work to research free financial aid options. There are several scholarships available to our military families from Folds of Honor, Army Emergency Relief and Freedom Alliance, just to name a few. Sometimes the tasks of getting letters of recommendations or writing essays become extremely daunting and taxing for families.
If fully funding a college education on scholarships and grants is placed as a priority, be prepared to making filling out scholarship and grant applications a small, part-time job. The process will require time and research but the reward will be well worth the sacrifice.
The following are helpful funding resources:
Missouri Dept of Higher Education
Missouri Student Financial Aid
Folds of Honor
Army Emergency Relief
(Editor’s note: Hudson is a financial readiness specialist at Army Community Service.)