Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Know Your Options When It Comes to Paying for College

(ARA) – Is your son or daughter one of the 18 million students heading for college this fall? If so, you’re probably still recovering from the shock of seeing the tuition bill.

During the 2007-2008 academic year, The College Board reports that the estimated average annual cost of attendance was $35,374 at a four-year private college, $17,336 at a four-year public college and $13,126 at a two-year college. Those figures are even higher for the 2008-2009 school year.

So how are you going to come up with the money? If you haven’t figured that out yet, here’s some important advice that will help:

1. Apply for Scholarships
To find scholarship opportunities, start your search early -- December or January for the next school year -- and utilize the resources around you. Begin with your high school guidance counselor for a list of possible resources. Next, check with the college financial aid office. Most state and many colleges offer scholarships. Think small -- competition can be tough for large awards. Smaller awards ($1,000 and less) typically have less competition and are easier to obtain. Finally, the Internet and organization Web sites are excellent places to search. Remember, this information should always be free.

For example, at www.usbank.com/studentbanking, you can apply to be one of 30 high school seniors to receive a $1,000 U.S. Bank Internet Scholarship. Over the past 12 years, U.S. Bank has awarded more than $320,000 in scholarship funding for this program. Scholarship award recipients are selected through a random drawing process. To qualify, students must be planning to attend an accredited two- or four-year college full time next fall. The U.S. Bank Web site also features a powerful scholarship search engine that contains 1.68 million scholarships and awards worth $7.69 billion.

2. Apply for Work Study
The Federal Work Study program gives students the opportunity to earn money for school and gain valuable work experience. It’s available to both undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. The amount you can earn depends on several factors: need, other aid received and availability of school funds.

3. Student Loans -- Covering the Big Costs
Student loans are some of the most commonly used financial tools. Student loans are funds borrowed from a financial institution or federal or state government. Education loans must be repaid. There are at least three types of education loans:

* A Federal Perkins Loan is a federal loan program administered by colleges. It’s available to both undergraduate and graduate students and is based on need and the availability of government funds.

* Federal Stafford (student) Loans and Federal PLUS Loans (for graduate students and parents of undergraduate students) are available through financial institutions, such as U.S. Bank, that participate in the FFEL program or through the federal government in the direct loan program.

* Financial institution (or “supplemental”) loans are for students (or their parents) who attend participating colleges and graduate schools. They are not based on need. As you determine the best way to finance your education, remember to consider the full range of student financial aid options available to you. Supplemental loans are often used to supplement federal student loans when they are not sufficient to cover the full cost of education. U.S. Bank offers a number of supplemental loans where students can borrow up to the entire annual cost of attendance, minus other financial aid received.

Information on U.S. Bank student loans can be found on the Web at www.usbank.com/studentloans or by phone at (800) 242-1200. Even if you think you won’t qualify for college financial aid, try anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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