Rhode Island Monthly College Guide 2012 : Page 6

inancing college is harder for more families today than ever before. While college costs have risen significantly over the last five years, many parents have faced job losses and pay cuts. According to the College Board, the average in-state tuition at a four-year public university rose to $8,244 in 2011, up 8.3 percent over 2010. Meanwhile, tuition at private colleges rose 4.3 percent to an average of $27,293 this year. At URI, the total cost for in-state students living on campus is ap-proximately $25,000 per year; many private colleges in the North-east exceed $50,000 a year. However, just 12 percent of private college students and 48 percent of public university students pay the full sticker price. Knowing about and finding sources of fund-ing is critical, but navigating the maze of college financial aid sources, deadlines and rules can be exhausting. Understanding the landscape is the first step. There are five primary sources of financial aid for college aside from your income and assets: colleges, the federal government, state government, private scholarship funds and private loans. F Student Aid) form and the CSS (College Schol-arship Service) profile. The amount you can expect to receive in need-based aid can be easily calculated on individual college websites, which are now required by law to post a net cost cal-culator. This allows families to enter their fi-nancial data and receive an estimate of what they will receive in need-based aid. Some cal-culators even include merit aid estimations. Merit aid is based on grades, SAT/ACT scores, leadership or special talents like sports or music; income and assets are irrelevant. However, not all colleges offer merit aid. The Ivy League does not have merit aid, and many highly competitive colleges like Georgetown, Duke, Bowdoin and Willams offer little or no merit aid. Students will usually see the most merit aid at their reasonable and backup col-leges, rather than their stretch schools, because colleges often seek higher GPAs and SATs to raise their average entering freshmen stats. Although most colleges use FAFSA or the CSS profile, the ap-plication process for college-based aid varies between schools, so check individual college websites for specific details. FAFSA forms are usually filed after January 1 of senior year in high school, but the CSS profile is usually required within a few weeks of submit-ting your application. Finally, many colleges offer payment plans which allow you to spread your college costs out over the year. Call the individual financial aid offices at the colleges where you plan to apply to find out more about their offerings. The Federal Government uncle sam provides both loans and grants , many of which are based on demonstrated financial need. To apply for a Stafford Loan, Pell Grant or other federally based money, you must fill out and submit a FAFSA form and it’s best to file by February of senior year in high school. (Parents, this means that you may need to do your taxes early if you have a senior.) Stafford Loans are the most common form of federal aid. The money does have to be paid back, but it is at a favorable interest rate with liberal terms. Students may borrow up to $31,000 over four years. These loans are open to all college students, but whether the loans are subsidized or unsubsidized depends on your need. In addition to completing a FAFSA, students applying for Stafford Loans are also required to complete a promissory note at student-loans.gov , usually after you receive an award letter from the school. Pell Grants, which can total up to $5,500 per year, do not have to be repaid and are targeted for students with financial need. Perkins Colleges many families incorrectly assume that their state university is the only financially viable route for college. Students with rea-sonably good grades can receive generous financial aid at private colleges. The aid can be based on need or merit. Need-based aid is calculated according to your household income and assets, and there are two different formulas used by colleges to determine eligibility: the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal 4 RHODE ISL AND MONTHLY I COLLEGE GUIDE 2012

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