Will Financial Aid Cover My Full Tuition?September 13, 2022
Can financial aid cover full tuition? With college costing more than ever, many students and their families wonder how much financial aid will help.
Most incoming college students receive financial aid — the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 87% of first-time undergraduate students received aid — but it may not be as much assistance as you expected.
As of 2019-2020, the average total costs after financial aid for a year of college at a four-year school ranged from $14,000-28,000. The remaining amount was paid for with family contributions, savings, and income.
If you are worried about not getting enough financial assistance for college, here’s what you need to know about how aid is calculated — and what you can do to get more financial aid.
How Is Financial Aid Calculated?
You must first submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for financial aid. The FAFSA uses that information to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
It’s important to note that your EFC is not the amount your family will have to pay for college — it’s the starting point for financial aid calculations. Your EFC is an index that schools use to determine what aid you’re eligible for when creating your financial assistance package.
Your school will use your EFC, the cost of attendance, and other information to determine how much need-based aid you can receive. The amount of aid you’re eligible for may also vary depending on the type of financial aid.
Can Financial Aid Cover Full Tuition and Other Expenses?
Can FAFSA cover everything in terms of aid? It depends on your financial situation and available aid. Some students may receive enough financial aid to cover their tuition but still need money to cover other expenses.
Review each school’s total cost of attendance (COA) when considering your options. The COA encompasses all education-related expenses, including tuition, fees, textbooks, room and board, and transportation.
Most students will receive a mix of gift aid, like scholarships, grants, and loans. Students and their families are generally expected to cover some of the costs themselves through their savings or loans.
What to Do If You Need More Money to Pay for College?
It’s a common question: does financial aid cover everything? In most cases, the financial aid package doesn’t cover 100% of your education-related expenses. If you’re unable to pay for the remaining balance yourself, you can use these four options to get additional help:
1. Contact the College Financial Aid Office
If you need more money for school, first contact the school’s financial aid office. The staff can help you understand your aid package and may be able to assist you in getting additional aid. Depending on your circumstances, the financial aid office may be able to adjust the amount of federal unsubsidized student loans you can use, or additional institutional aid may be available.
Some colleges participate in federal or state work-study programs. With this financial aid option, you take on a part-time job related to your major — either off-campus or on-campus — and use your income from that job to pay for some of your expenses. If that is an appealing option to you, talk to the financial aid office to find out if your school participates in work-study programs.
2. Consider Federal Parent PLUS Loans
If you reach the federal maximums for undergraduate student loans, another option is to see if your parents would be willing to take out federal Parent PLUS Loans. Unlike federal loans for undergraduate students, Parent PLUS Loans don’t have loan limits, so your parents can borrow up to the total cost of attendance.
Unlike federal student loans for undergraduates, Parent PLUS Loans require credit checks. And they have higher interest rates and stricter repayment terms than other federal loans. For example, the current interest rate on Parent Plus Loans is 7.54%, and they also have a 4.228% disbursement fee.
Tip: Parents that want to help their children pay for school may want to compare Parent PLUS Loans with private parent student loans. Depending on your credit, you may be eligible for a parent loan with a lower interest rate from a private lender.
3. Research Other Gift Aid Opportunities
Although you may be eligible for grants or scholarships through your school, there are also external sources of gift aid. You may be eligible for gift aid through your state, non-profit organizations, or private companies.
You can contact your state education agency to see if there are programs you can utilize, and you can search for grants and scholarships via The College Board’s scholarship search tool.
4. Apply for Private Student Loans
Can financial aid cover full tuition? While it’s possible, most will need some extra financial assistance.
You can also use private student loans if you need additional help to pay for your tuition and other related expenses. With a private loan, you can usually borrow up to the total cost of attendance for your program.
Unlike federal loans for undergraduate students, private student loans are issued based on your credit and income. As a college student, you will likely need a co-signer to qualify for a loan.
You can check your eligibility — without impacting your credit — online with ELFI’s Find My Rate tool.