Demystifying college financial aid

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For many, paying for college can be a challenge. However, there are many types of loans, grants and scholarships available to students on a college and federal level.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Students must apply for a FAFSA before applying for any type of federal college financial aid. Many states and colleges also use FAFSA for determining aid.

  • 2017-18 FAFSA Deadlines: There are college, state and federal deadlines for FAFSA, and all are at different times spanning two years. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible to have the greatest chance of receiving a loan because they are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • College deadline: Varies according to college
  • Federal deadline: June 30, 2018. Although the federal aid deadline for the 2017-18 year is not until June 2018, students are encouraged to submit applications as early in the school year as possible.

Loan forgiveness Program

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program forgives the remaining loan balance after a graduate makes 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer.

How do I calculate what I  will owe on student loans?

Online calculators can be used to calculate loan balance using a student’s loan amount, interest rate and income. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Student Aid offers one such calculator.

  • Visit www.studentloans.gov
  • Click the “Repayment & consolidation” tab
  • Click the “Use the repayment estimator” link to find the estimator tool

Glossary of financial aid types

  • Private loan: nonfederal loan made by private lender, including a bank or credit union; terms and conditions are set by the lender
  • Federal student loan: allows students and their parents to borrow money to pay for college or career school; this money must be paid back with interest
  • Grant: financial aid that does not need to be repaid
  • Scholarship: financial aid awarded for academic or other achievements; does not need to be repaid
  • Qualified tuition plans (529 plan): tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for college

Prepaid tuition plans allow students to purchase credits at participating colleges and universities for future tuition and sometimes room and board; locks in tuition cost; most plans have residency requirements and age or grade limit.
College savings plans do not lock in tuition; cover all qualified higher education expenses such as tuition, room and board, books, computers, mandatory fees; there is no residency requirement.

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Cassidy Ritter
Cassidy graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in Journalism and a double minor in business and global studies. She has worked as a reporter and editor for publications in Kansas, Colorado and Australia. She was hired as senior reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Plano edition in August 2016. Less than a year later, she took the role of editor for the McKinney edition.
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