If you’re seeking financial aid opportunities for college, you may already know about FastWeb, FAFSA and FinAid. But, you may not know about other “secrets” to reducing that college bill. The following 15 financial aid opportunities include ideas, tips and some little-known government grants that can save literally thousands of dollars for your college education.
- Cooperative Education: Cooperative education is not a new concept. Herman Schneider developed this program in 1901. Now, about 900 colleges and universities across the county offer programs where students can alternate between full-time study, and a full-time job. As a result, the student can make enough money to pay for a good portion of tuition, and that student may have a better chance of landing a good job after he or she graduates.
- Reserve Officer Training Corps: This option is available at many colleges. ROTC produces officers in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces except the U.S. Coast Guard. To qualify for an ROTC Scholarship, which usually covers full or partial tuition plus $100 a month allowance, you must apply in your senior year of high school. You also should have good grades and 1800 or above SAT scores. ROTC, being part of the military, implemented the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. An Act to repeal the policy was signed by President Barack Obama on December 22, 2010, but implementation is expected to take up to a year.
- Military Service: Students and their parents may question whether or not military service still pays when it comes to college tuition. According to this MSN Money article, it does. “A high-school grad with few prospects and no way to pay for college can find unmatched benefits, marketable skills and bonuses for enlisting and then re-enlisting, even as much as $38,000 for later schooling.” Therefore, this option is not for everyone. But, if you are headed to college and you’ve no other way to pay, the GI Bill may provide one reason to suit up.
- Military Service Academies: The United States Military (or, Service) Academies are federal academies for the undergraduate education and training of commissioned officers for all branches of the United States armed forces. Some academies have a rigorous acceptance policy; but, if you can get into the United States Military Academy (West Point), the United States Air Force Academy, the United States Naval Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, you can enjoy free tuition, rooms, books and meals.
- Home Equity Loan: Before you think about taking out a commercial loan to pay for an education, adult students or parents might look into a home equity loan, since all of your interest payments will be tax deductible. While the interest rate on a home equity line of credit is usually higher than the rates on federal education loans, but still lower than the rates on most private education loans. Use the link to read a discussion about the options.
- Learn About Your Expected Family Contribution: Your EFC is the amount a family can be expected to contribute toward a student’s college costs. All data used to calculate a student’s EFC comes from the information the student provides on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Typically, the lower your EFC, the more financial aid you will receive. Factors such as family size, number of family members in college, family savings, and current earnings are used to calculate this figure.
- Don’t Include Your Home Equity on FAFSA: You do not need to include your home equity on the FAFSA as personal net worth. Otherwise, you may see your EFC go through the roof. Also, if the student is applying to private schools, make sure you use the Federal Housing Index Multiplier in order to get your home equity calculated based on a national average, not based on your local real estate prices. In addition to a primary home, you also shouldn’t mention vehicles, boats, furniture, and other household possessions as assets (assets that can accrue as you eliminate cash).
- Get Rid of as Much Cash as Possible Before Filing the FAFSA: Even FAFSA recommends this strategy! Liquid assets on hand (cash, savings, checking accounts, etc.) means that you qualify for less aid. You can eliminate that cash by purchasing school supplies, try to pay off upcoming bills or shift assets into investments or into your mortgage.
- Don’t Save Money Under the Student’s Name: Assets under the student’s name are assessed 50 cents on the dollar and, as a result, will translate into lost funds available through financial aid forms. Students can even save under another relative’s name to render those funds virtually invisible. Don’t move the funds just before you apply for financial aid — set the account up in another name from the get-go.
- Pick the Right School at the Right Time: A state school may cost less than a private school, but unless you carry stellar grades, a transfer to a private school after you’ve completed your electives may not work. Additionally, some schools carry more financial aid programs than others — the choice would be to go to the school that offers more aid. Finally, you may want to take a “gap year” to help the parents…if you have a sibling close in age that isn’t in college yet, but who wants to attend, you can save your parents ab bundle by attending at the same time.
- Academic Competitiveness Grant: An Academic Competitiveness Grant provides $750 for the first year of study and $1,300 for the second year. The amount of the ACG, when combined with a Pell Grant, may not exceed the student’s cost of attendance. In addition, if the number of eligible students is large enough that payment of the full grant amounts would exceed the program appropriation in any fiscal year, then the amount of the grant to each eligible student may be reduced.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program is for undergraduates with exceptional financial need. You can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year, depending on when you apply, your financial need, the funding at the school you’re attending, and the policies of the financial aid office at your school.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: A student whose parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died as a result of service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 may be eligible to receive the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. The grant award is equal to the amount of a maximum Pell Grant for the award year, not to exceed the cost of attendance for that award year.
- TEACH: The TEACH grant program provides grants of up to $4,000 per year to students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. As a recipient of a TEACH Grant, you must teach for at least four academic years within eight calendar years of completing the program of study for which you received a TEACH Grant.
- The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant: This National SMART Grant is available during the third and fourth years of undergraduate study (or fifth year of a five-year program) to at least half-time students who are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant and who are majoring in physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, engineering or a critical foreign language; or non-major single liberal arts programs. A National SMART Grant will provide up to $4,000 for each of the third and fourth years of undergraduate study.