3 Sources to Help Pay For College

April 27, 2015

college students

Families may feel intimidated by the high cost of higher education these days. Fortunately, numerous options and resources are available to make this important life goal more attainable for the average family.

The initial step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most states and colleges employ FAFSA information to award their financial aid. After completion, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from the US Department of Education. The front page of the SAR will indicate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which colleges and universities will use to calculate your financial aid amount. Although the report will also specify which student loans and grants you have been awarded, this is only the beginning; additional funding options are accessible beyond the FAFSA process.

1. Student Loans

Federal student loans such as Perkins, Direct, and DirectPLUS are the most common and straightforward type of student loans. You borrow a set amount of money and then repay the loan over a period of years with interest. In addition to federal loans, there are state loans that can supplement them, as well as private loans from commercial lenders, although these tend to have less favorable terms. Many financial aid offices at colleges and universities work with specific lenders to offer better loan options than those available on the open market.

2. Grants

Unlike loans, grants don’t have to be paid back. There are Federal Pell Grants, campus-based grants like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work Study program (FWS), and numerous specialized grants available to teachers, children of the military, and from particular institutions. Most grants will be awarded on the report provided after you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

3. Scholarships

If you didn’t receive any grants or loans through the FAFSA process, all is not lost. Numerous community organizations and institutions offer scholarships for college. These are awarded based on merit, financial need, demographic, and sometimes in contests. The US Department of Labor’s free search tool can be a good place to start sorting through the labyrinth of scholarship sources.

The Alliance Direct Benefits believes very strongly in higher education, and thus since 1996 has offered its own Scholarship Program. Last year alone, we gave $130,000 to 103 deserving students. If you are an Alliance member or eligible dependent between the ages of 16 to 28, this scholarship could be for you! June 15th is the deadline to apply; if accepted, the scholarship can be renewed yearly for up to 3 years as long as you maintain a 3.5 GPA.

The Alliance College Guide

The Alliance has also created the Alliance College Guide, which helps students and their families with the information they need to prepare and apply to college. Throughout this online resource, you will find helpful tips, checklists and guidelines for succeeding in every step of the college search and admission process.

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