College is Affordable if You are Willing To Go For It
by Howard Freedman
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Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A college education is an investment that appreciates in value and should not be sacrificed regardless of your ability to pay. Realize its lifetime value while exploring creative ways to afford one. Paying for college is an expense but also an investment. The bottom line is that regardless of the college you attend, success is in your hands. All you have to do is – GO FOR IT!
Paying For College First-Budget and Expense Review
Get Together with your family to discuss the financial guidelines, affordability and your options. Parents should review their financial position and spending patterns to separate “necessities” from “nice to have items.” Downgrading cable and phone plans, paying down credit card debt, reducing auto insurance coverage and by decreasing entertainment and vacation expenses can generate real savings.
Options must be defined by using your creativity and motivation. These are some to consider: go to college full time or part time; two-year transfer to a four-year college or university; take a gap year off; work; commute or live on campus; cooperative education; distance learning; ROTC; community service; military service; or clergy.
Federal programs and Loan Forgiveness – The U.S. Department of Education provides other types of financial aid beyond completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Before throwing in the towel about a college education, discover many of the great programs that make a college education more affordable without needless stress. Here are just a few that are easily within your reach: AmeriCorps (www.Americorps.gov) or VISTA (www.teachforamerica.org). The Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov) also provides awards for educational costs after the program is completed. Military Service (www.todaysmilitary.com) such as ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) pays college costs at most U.S. colleges in exchange for years of service.
Grants require that a student completes a FAFSA that determined a family’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution). This amount is based on the EFC, cost of attendance and whether the student is attending full time or part-time. Federal Work Study: You can earn a fixed amount in designated on and off campus and community service positions to offset your college expense. The amount of FWS is determined by the college and included in your financial aid award.
Loan Programs –The nicest aspects of student loans is that they are not based on parental credit, are easy to get if you complete a FAFSA and repayment options are long-term and flexible. The result of the FAFSA is the EFC the amount that a family should be able to contribute to a college education is used to determine your need for certain federal loans and grants. Eligibility also varies by state. There are Stafford loans that offer graduated amounts of $5,500 to $7,500 each academic year until graduation and can be repaid between 10 and 25 years based on the repayment plan and amount owed. Parent PLUS loans are available to credit-worthy parents, but parents denied a PLUS loan may result in additional student Stafford loans.
Outside Scholarships – Finding an outside scholarship is not as simple as filling in an application and hope that you get picked. The good news is that there are many legitimate Web sites (collegeboard.com, finaid.org, etc.) that offer many scholarships with no application or consulting fees. Think of areas of interest, leadership, associations, hobbies, athletics, community service and ethnicity before beginning your search. Be prepared by listing your accomplishments, talents, and skills that will grab the reader’s attention and make you worthy of consideration.
There is the standard plan with a fixed annual payment amount not to exceed 10 years. The graduated repayment plan has low starting payments. The extended payment plan (FFEL Loans) is a fixed annual or graduated plan not to exceed 25 years. The income-sensitive plan is adjusted according to income. Income-based repayment is a new repayment option to help borrowers to keep their loan payments low based on income and family size. Check with the US Dept of Education for other options.
Tax Benefits – Several federal income tax benefit programs provide some tax relief for qualified taxpayers with college students (check the IRS Publication 970: Introduction to Tax Benefits for Education for further details).