A College Education - - -

The American Way!

From “THE BOOK OF Powerful Secrets”


SO! How to realize that dream.

Most of us want our children to enjoy the benefits of a degree. Many of us who did not have the opportunity to get a degree when we were younger are yearning for it now . Some of us just see it as a personal need to satisfy within ourselves. Some of us see it as a way out of a rut or a dead-end job.

Do you or your children want to pursue that dream? You can ----nearly anyone in this country who wants a college education can get one. --- So what’s stopping you?

You don’t think your child’s (or your own) high-school grades are good enough? Well, that might pose a problem at some schools, but not all of them. Check out state colleges and community colleges. Some of these schools will accept anyone who has earned a high school diploma or a GED .

These schools may not be as prestigious as others are, but they do offer a perfectly good college education. Often, these schools offer personal attention and more assistance that you may not find in larger, more prestigious schools. They want you to do well and will help you achieve success if you are serious about it. And if you buckle down and prove you can earn decent grades, you can transfer to another institution - probably even that prestigious one.

So grades don’t have to be a problem.

  But your age is? No way!

You can return to school at any age.

           In fact, some schools offer discounted tuition for senior citizens!

Worried you’ll feel uncomfortable because you are so much older than the traditional student?

Surprise! In many college classrooms, 40 to 50 percent of the students are non-traditionals (a real nice term that simply means older students).

OK So now what’s stopping you or your child from attending college?

Oh, money? You think college is expensive? Right, it is. But don’t let that stop you. You’d be amazed at how much you don’t have to pay. That’s right. You don’t have to foot the entire bill yourself -- in fact, you could get that education free or nearly free! But, most likely, no one will come knocking at your door to offer you a free college education ----- you will have to go looking for it. The first place to look is at the Federal Aid Programs.

The U. S. Department of Education sponsors several financial aid

programs for students including:

                    (1)     Federal Pell Grants

                    (2)     Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

                    (3)     Federal Work-Study

                    (4)     Federal Perkins Loans

                    (5)     Federal Stafford Loans

                    (6)     Federal Plus Loans

                    (7)     Federal Direct Student Loans

Programs (1), (2), and (3) are grants - money to help you get an education and that you do not have to pay back. The remaining programs provide loans that must be paid back with interest. However, you use the money interest-free while you are in school (except for Federal Plus Loans). When you are no longer a student, the interest begins, but it is at a reasonable rate. The rate changes depending on the year that you are awarded the grant.

With the exception of the Federal Plus Loan, all of the aid from these programs (both grant and loan programs) is based on need. How do they determine your need and the amount of your financial aid? First, you do have to fill out an application. The applications are free and should be available at high school. The college you plan to attend will have the application forms. You only need to fill out one application to be considered for all of these federal programs. Checking at your college for the form is a good idea because they have trained people who can help you with any questions you may have. They can give you advice on how to properly fill out the form.

Once you have filled out the application, the information you have given them is pumped into a formula and your expected family contribution is cranked out. This figure is used to determine your financial need. Basically, what they have done is determine how much they think you or your family can afford to pay based on your application. Then they subtract this amount from what they think your education will cost at the college you have chosen - including an allowance for housing, food, books, supplies, transportation, and child care. The cost of your education less the amount they think you can pay is your need.

How do they determine what you can pay? Well, it’s a complicated procedure based on your income, your assets, how many students you have in your family, and other variables. It’s about impossible to predict what the outcome of a particular application will be.

A couple of suggestions: (1) Don’t try to second-guess the system. Even if you think your income is too high to qualify - APPLY. Very likely, you will be pleasantly surprised. (2) When the determination of your need has been made, you can appeal it. If the amount that they say you can pay is out of reach, go to the financial aid office at your school. Tell them it is out of reach and explain the very circumstances that make it so. It’s possible that an adjustment will be made. Don’t demand an adjustment ---- they don’t have to adjust it.     Be honest about the circumstances and be polite and courteous.

Do you have to pay the amount that they determine you can contribute to your college expenses? Probably not. We’ll discuss alternatives to that later.

OK. Now that they have decided what your financial need is, what happens? Well, based on your financial need your grant and loan eligibility is determined. Each of the programs is a little different.

Pell Grant:

The amount you get depends on your determined contribution, on what the average costs are at your school, on whether you are a full-time or part-time student, and other variables.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant:

The amount you get depends on your financial need and the availability of funds at your school. Your school is granted only a certain amount, and when that runs out, that’s it for that academic term. You must apply early if you expect to take any advantage of this program.

Federal Work-Study:

Like the grants, you don’t have to pay this money back. Also like the grants you have to meet need qualifications before you can get work-study funds. But you do have to work for this money. You will be paid by the hour - graduate students may receive a salary. Your work hours will be assigned taking your class schedule into consideration - you won’t have to worry about a conflict between class time and work hours . The hours you may work are limited.

How this program is handled may vary from school to school. But you will most probably have to ask about what kinds of jobs are available and then apply for any you want. The jobs probably won’t seek you out even if you’re determined to be eligible for the work-study program. 

The Perkins, Stafford, Plus, and Direct Student Loans are very different types of loans. Since they are loans, you will have to pay the money back if you take advantage of these programs. And you will have to also pay interest on them. All but the Plus Loan defer the interest while you are in school. This means that you don’t have interest accumulating while you are a student. All but the Plus Loan also defer payments while you are in school. This means you don’t have to begin making payments until after you are through with school.

You will be notified of your loan eligibility at the same time that you are notified of your grant determination. You do NOT have to take the loans even if you do take the grants , Should you take advantage of the loans? Only if you need to - there are other sources of free money that we will look at later. But the loans are there to use if you need them so let’s take a look at the Federal Loan Programs.

Federal Perkins Loan:

Perkins loans are for students with exceptional needs - those who have the lowest determined expected family contributions - those with the greatest need. Depending on your determined need, you can borrow up to $3000 for each year as an under-graduate and up to $5000 for each year as a graduate student. You may be able to even borrow more ---- the limits depend somewhat on your school. This is a loan and must be paid back after you are through with school.

Federal Stafford Loan:

Stafford loans are available to qualifying students who are enrolled at least half-time ---- you don’t have to be full-time. The loan limits vary based on whether you are a dependent or independent student, whether you are a full-time or a part-time student, and on how much of your education you have completed. Independent students can borrow more than dependent students, and your loan limits raise for each year you have completed --- you can borrow more when you are a junior than you could when you were a freshman. In general, the Stafford loan limits are all greater than the Perkins loan limits . This is a loan and must be paid back after you

are through with school.

Federal Plus Loans:

Plus loans are for parents of dependent students. The loan limit is the determined cost of your education less any federal grants you get. Pius loans are not deferred - that is, the parents must begin making payments while the child is still in school. Deferments are available for special circumstances ---- like loss of job or similar


Federal Direct Student Loan:

Direct student loans are basically the same as the Stafford and Plus Loans except that you will have a different lender --- when it comes to payback time, you will pay the U.S. Department of Education instead of paying a bank.

If you decide to use the loan money, under certain circumstances the Department of Defense will repay a portion of your federal educational loans as an enlistment incentive. Check with your recruiter.

Other circumstances in your life can be an advantage in applying for federal aid. For instance, income and asset information are important in determining your eligibility for financial aid:

If your child is dependent, then you must report your income and assets as well as your child’s income and assets. If your child is independent, however, then your income and assets are not considered. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that a determination of independence, would be a definite advantage to most of

the parents.

How is independence determined?

You must be one of the following:

                    (1)     Born before January 1, 1971 (for the 1994-95 academic year)

                    (2)     Married

                    (3)     A graduate or professional student

                    (4)     Someone with legal dependents

                    (5)     Orphan or ward of the court

                    (6)     Veteran

If your child has been self-supporting, has not lived in your household for over a year, and has not been claimed on your last income tax filed, the student should ask the college financial aid officer for an independent status determination. It is good possible that it will be granted.

Another important factor in determining financial aid eligibility is the number of students from your household. Perhaps you (or your spouse) have been planning to go back to school to get that degree. Now your child is about to enter college . If you both go at the same time, your eligibility for aid will increase. If you plan to go someday, now may be the time to do it . Some married couple decide to return to school together for the same reason.

OK. You’ve been awarded Federal Grant money and have been notified of you Federa l Loan eligibility. Should you take advantage of it? By all means, if you need it. However, there is other free money available out there. Where?

Check your state grant and scholarship programs. Check for veteran’s grants, if you are a veteran. Check for grants that apply to your field of study.

Check out private grants and scholarships. How? Check at the company you work for . Ask at your local high school. Ask at your college. Check with all community clubs and organizations (especially if they have national affiliation). Look for minority programs that apply to you. Check out professional associations pertinent to your field of study. You might try a computerized scholarship search but before you shell out money for a search, check out your high school, college, employment agency, charitable organizations that deal with crises, or your bank, or library to see if they have a free or minimum rate computerized search you can use.

Scholarships and private grants have less money over-all than state and federal grant programs. Some do, though, give much larger individual awards. Most do also require extensive applications.

Start a scholarship file and keep copies of every scholarship application you fill out. You will be able to use some of the information on them over and over. Soon filling out the applications will be much easier and faster because you have most of the information on file . Do be very neat and very accurate on the applications. Believe it. Even neatness is taken into consideration when the applications are judged. Answer each question honestly and directly. You can apply for as many scholarships as you want to apply for ---- there are literally thousands of them out there.

Some scholarships are very large and virtually provide you with a free ride through college. Others are small --- one or two hundred d9llars . Apply for any you feel you have chance at. The small ones can add up to a free ride. If you are awarded one or more small scholarships, don’t stop looking. You can apply for and be awarded scholarships while you are attending college, too. In fact, some of the scholarships will only be awarded when you are a junior or have reached some other level of accomplishment. Be sure to read the guidelines for each scholarship before you apply. Don’t waste your time and money applying for a nursing scholarship if you are not pursuing a nursing degree. The guidelines will be followed --- the scholarship awards committee will throw out applications that don’t meet the guidelines . But do apply if the guidelines fit. The competition is often stiff for some of the more popular scholarships, but many receive very few new applications. Sometimes the ones you think would get a lot of applicants, get few. Go for it!

There are some very good sources for free education ---- -totally free.

Check with your employer. Many companies will pick up the tab for evening classes. They want their people educated. Often they like to promote within the company, and if they provide you with free classes, they feel it benefits their own company as well as benefitting you.

Evening or daytime part-time education is just as good as full-time education and certainly better than not going at all. Eventually these classes can add up to a degree. It takes a lot longer, but if you are not going to school at all, you aren’t progressing toward that degree at all. If you can do it for free, why not do it?

Also, check with your government job service office. They usually have some very good educational programs that will pay you to go to school. The circumstances that will qualify you for these programs vary, so check them out. If you are now a displaced worker or otherwise unemployed, if you are on public assistance, if you are disabled, or if you are a single parent, chances are that there is some kind of educational assistance program available for you. If you are none of these, check it out anyway. WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE? You might find that there is some kind of program for you, too.

Yes, college is the American dream -

let it become the American reality for you.

 You can do it and probably for a lot less money than you thought.

 All it takes is to start checking and start applying.

With a little effort, time, and planning you can

 get that degree free or nearly free.

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