Saturday, November 1, 2008

Keep Your Money in Your Pocket: November is National Scholarship Month and the Ideal Time to Plan How to Pay for College

(BUSINESS WIRE)--As economic reports signal a national recession and consumers look to cut back on spending, scholarships are an ever-more important way to pay for college. Unlike other forms of financial aid, scholarships do not have to be repaid. November is National Scholarship Month and the ideal time for students to research the college scholarships that meet their needs.

Sallie Mae’s recent study on How America Pays for College, conducted by Gallup, found that 17 percent of students used scholarships to pay for college last year and that the average family covered 15 percent of the cost of college using a combination of grants and scholarships.

Scholarship awards range from a few dollars to a full tuition bill and are offered by private sources, such as The Sallie Mae Fund, in addition to federal and state governments. Students and parents can quickly identify the scholarships they may be eligible for by using Sallie Mae’s free online Scholarship Search, which includes information about more than 2.9 million scholarships worth more than $16 billion in scholarship dollars. The Scholarship Search is available at www.SallieMae.com/scholarships and through a new “widget” that allows any organization -- including high schools, colleges and other community organizations -- to easily make the free tool accessible on the organization’s own Web site. Organizations can visit www.SallieMae.com/widget and simply copy and paste the code into any page on their own Web site.

Families can see the value of scholarship contributions by using Sallie Mae’s Education Investment Planner (www.SallieMae.com/plan) to customize their own pay-for-college plan. Using the Planner, families may estimate the total cost of a college degree, build a plan to pay for college, and estimate the salary a graduate would need to keep repayment of student loans manageable. Sallie Mae’s Education Investment Planner helps families understand the total cost of college and how to pay for it without going beyond their means.

“In tough economic times like these, now is not the time to overpay for anything, particularly college,” said Martha Holler, spokeswoman, Sallie Mae. “With a little bit of extra effort, students will find that scholarships can help them keep more of their money in their own pocket.”

Scholarships are a key part of Sallie Mae’s 1-2-3 approach to paying for college: first, use free money by filling out the FAFSA to access need-based grants, research and apply for scholarships, and supplement with current income, college savings, and an interest-free monthly tuition payment plan. Second, explore federal loans, which offer fixed interest rates and flexible repayment options for students and parents. Third, consider covering any remaining unmet need with private education loans.

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