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What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

May 10, 2019

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.

 

Federal Scholarships for College

 

It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.

 

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

 

You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.

 

Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.

 

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

 

Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:

 

 

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.

 

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 – 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.

Amount Received Dependent On:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need

  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?

 

 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

 

 

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation.

Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School)

Qualifications:

  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.

 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.

 

 

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.

 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

 

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2020-02-10
Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, students and their families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While high-income families may have the resources to pay tuition, footing the entire bill just isn’t realistic for some families, especially if they have more than one child attending college. This is why many students rely on financial aid to fund their education.

 

It’s generally known that students from lower-income families can qualify for special scholarships and grants that help fill the gap to fund their education, but for families around the middle-income tier, financial aid options may be harder to come by and make them feel that their options are limited. Rest assured that there are options for middle-class families to receive the financial assistance they need – it just may take a bit more effort.

 

FAFSA

When it comes to looking for financial aid for college, the FAFSA is a great place to start. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has no income cutoff for eligibility, so your child could still receive some need-based aid from the FAFSA, especially if he or she plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year prior to your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid. 

 

Scholarships

Researching and applying for scholarships has continually proven itself worthy of the effort. Many scholarships are merit-based instead of need-based, so your child may be eligible for many different scholarships depending on the qualifications. Start by looking for local scholarships – many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. If your child visits the school guidance office, they may have some applications on file. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they offer any type of scholarships or financial aid for employees’ children. After exhausting local options, your child may want to research national opportunities. A quick web search could reveal countless free scholarships – Niche, Fastweb, and eCampusTours are a good place to start. Finally, many colleges offer merit-based scholarships and endowment scholarships. Make sure your child looks for institutional scholarships at the school he or she plans to attend. You may discover that if your child joins a club or raises a standardized test score by a couple of points, he or she could receive thousands more dollars of financial aid.

 

Tuition Discounts

If a family member, such as a parent or grandparent attended the same college or university you're enrolled in, you may receive a tuition discount. There may be additional requirements to qualifying for this discount, such as, your family member being active in the school's alumni association or maintaining a certain GPA.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning credit has income requirements that exclude those who earn over and under certain amounts. Programs like this, as well as tuition savings plans, offer a few different ways for middle-income families to receive tax benefits.

 

Federal Loans

If you’ve taken advantage of all your financial aid options and find you still have more to pay, it may be time to consider loans. Non-need based federal loans such as the Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for students and the Federal PLUS Loan for parents can bridge whatever gap you find in your aid and your expenses. Federal education loans generally have low interest rates or may be tax-deductible, so they’re a smart alternative to using a credit card, for example.

 

Private Loans

You may find that you still need financial assistance after exhausting all the options above. If that’s the case, private student loans may be for you. We always recommend you take advantage of grants, scholarships, and federal aid before taking out a private student loan. To learn more about ELFI’s private student loan options,* click here.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels, but middle-income families often struggle the most to find good financial aid options because their finances fall between affording college and needing assistance. If your family is in this situation, don’t let it get you down. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. Don’t lose sight of the end goal – getting the degree you want and establishing a successful career. If you’re already looking for financial aid options, you’re well on your way.

 
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.  

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

2020-01-27
FAFSA Deadlines for 2020

Congratulations! You are graduating high school and taking the next step into college. You may have been accepted into different schools and still deciding where you will attend or you have already been admitted into your dream school and are now wondering how you will pay for it. Whether you’re already committed to a school or still planning your future, it’s important to know what the FAFSA is and the deadlines associated with it when you are figuring out how to pay for college.

 

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You should complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible to receive federal, state financial aid, and aid from your school. The aid can be in the form of grants, scholarships, work study, and federal student loans. The application is easy to complete online or by paper. The application provides the necessary information to calculate your financial need to see what aid you would be eligible for. There are no income limitations so it’s smart to fill out FAFSA regardless of your financial situation. Even if you think you and/or your family may not qualify for financial aid, you will not know for sure until your university’s financial aid office reviews your application.

 

Note: As the name states it is a free application, so be aware of any websites that charge you to fill out the application to avoid any scams!

 

Who Should File the FAFSA?

If you are a senior in high school and will be attending college you should fill out the form. Also, returning college students who previously filled out the FAFSA must fill out the FAFSA every year while in school. The information allows financial aid offices to determine your financial need.
  • Your financial need is determined by taking the Cost of Attendance (COA) and subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  COA - EFC = Financial Need.
  • The COA is different for each school and includes tuition, books, supplies, transportation, and room and board.
  • Your EFC is calculated by a formula established by law based on the information provided on the FAFSA. The formula takes into account your family’s income, assets, and family size, among other factors for a dependent student.
  • If your EFC is low you may be eligible for more financial aid.
  So how does all this work? Here is an example:
  • You plan to attend a school with a COA of $25,000.
  • Your EFC is $10,000.
  • $25,000 - $10,000 = $15,000 is your financial need. This amount could be awarded to you in grants by the school, state or federal grants or by subsidized federal student loans.
 

Preparing to File the FAFSA

Ready to file? Here is the information you will need to complete the application.
  • If you are a dependent student (receiving financial help from parents) you will need the following for both you and your parents:
    • Social Security Number
    • Tax returns
    • Bank statements
  •  You will also need to apply for a FSA ID. This is a username and password that will allow you to access the Federal Student Aid’s system to complete and sign the FAFSA electronically.
 

Important Dates to Know

The earlier you file the FAFSA, the better because you will be eligible for more aid. It is also important to file before the federal deadline because some states set their own deadlines that may be earlier than the federal deadline. Your state may also require an additional form, so be sure to check the Federal Student Aid website to see what your state requires. In addition, some schools have an earlier deadline then the federal deadline so you should check with your school’s financial aid office to ensure that you don’t miss their deadline.

  The important federal dates to know are:
  • October 1 - the application becomes available
  • June 30 - the deadline to file each year
The application becomes available on October 1, the year before you would start school. While you have until June 30 after the school year to submit the application, it’s advantageous for you to apply as early as possible.   This means for the 2019-2020 school year the application became available on October 1, 2018 and the deadline is June 30, 2020. For the 2020-2021 school year the application became available on October 1, 2019 and must be submitted by June 30, 2021. On October 1, 2020 the application for the 2021-2022 school year will become available.  

Other Options: Private Student Loans and Student Loan Refinancing

Maybe you didn’t know about the financial aid process and the deadline passed or didn’t receive enough aid and are looking to cover the gap in education expenses. Luckily, there are other options to help you pay for school.   Private student loans are a great resource to help you pay for higher education. Private student loans are from a private lending company or bank that you can use to pay for your school expenses included in the cost of attendance. You can apply for private student loans at any time. Just like with the FAFSA, you will need to provide some financial information and documents, such as your most recent W-2 and paystub. If you do not have these items you may need a co-signer, such as a parent, who will have these documents.   There are many private lenders so it’s best to do your research and compare. You want a lender that is reputable and offers a good rate on your loan. It’s also important to compare the terms of any loan offers. For example, you should check if there is a prepayment penalty on the loan or any fees associated with the loan.   A private student loan company should make the process easy. At ELFI there are no fees to apply, no origination fees and no prepayment penalties*. There are also flexible repayment options. The online application is a simple process that allows you to see personal rates within minutes and you receive a dedicated Personal Loan Advisor to help you through the loan process.   Private student loan companies can also help if you have already taken out loans. Through student loan refinancing*, you can reduce the interest you are paying on your student loans and as a result, reduce your monthly payments and the amount you pay over the lifetime of the loan. To see how much you could save by refinancing, check out our student loan refinance calculator.  

Bottom Line

Mark the dates in your calendar and be sure to fill out the FAFSA early. Paying for school can be one less worry if you plan ahead!  
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

2020-01-24
This Week in Student Loans: January 24

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:

A Zero Based Budget Helped This Woman Pay Off $215k Worth of Student Loan Debt in 4 Years

When Cindy Zuniga accomplished a major milestone when she graduated from law school in 2015, however, she also came out with $215,000 in student loan debt. See how she managed to eliminate her debt in just four years by both refinancing her student loans and using a zero based budget.  

Source: ABC News

 

signing legislation

Court Cites Student Loans As Reason To Deny Bar Admission To New Lawyer

Student loan debt can sometimes be a barrier to obtaining professional licensure, specifically for teachers, doctors, and nurses. For one recent graduate of law school, her student loan debt played a significant role in her being denied a license to practice law.  

Source: Forbes

 

Student Loan Debt Is a Key Factor for Gen Z When Making Career Decisions

A recent survey found that Gen Z's concern over student loan debt is a key factor in their career decisions, causing many to prioritize finances over passion when it comes to their fields of study. The study found that an overwhelming 61% of college students would take a job they're not passionate about due to the pressure to pay off their student loans.  

Source: Yahoo News

    That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.