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Empowering students to fulfill their dreams through education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

College Success – Money by Kelli Turpin

College Success – Money

College is expensive.  You know that.  You’re here because you’ve decided that you want it and you’re willing to make the time to do it well.  Now we need to talk about how to finance it.
I’ve got good news and bad news about money.  The good news:  Just like time, you have full control over how you spend your money.  You can choose to spend it on the things that matter to you, the things that are important to your family’s survival, or you can choose to waste it.  Unlike time, money is infinite – there’s no limit to how much you can make.  The bad news: Unlike time, no one is allotted a certain amount at the beginning of each day.  You have to use your time to earn money.  There are several ways to do this.
The most obvious way to earn money is to work.  You trade your time to your employer for cash.  Because you use that cash to pay for everything in your life, finding enough extra to pay for college can be tough.  In addition, you need to balance all the pieces of your life – we talked about how much time  you need to do well in a given class – and you need to be able to pay your bills.  It’s a catch-22: you need to work to pay for college, but the more you work, the less time you have to do well.
So what other alternatives do you have to pay for college?
Financial Aid
There are several types of financial aid available from both the state and federal governments.  Your first step to figure out if you’re eligible is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. 
The US Department of Education takes the information you give them via the FAFSA and, after applying some kind of mathematical formula, sends out a Student Aid Report (SAR) to the college you listed.  On that SAR is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  That number is the dollar amount that they’ve determined you and your family should be able to afford to contribute to your college education.
Most government Financial Aid is “need-based.”  Each college or university calculates a Cost of Attendance (COA), which is how much it costs to attend the college as a full-time student.  The COA includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, room & board, transportation, and personal expenses.  Essentially, COA minus EFC equals Need.  Once our Financial Aid Office receives your SAR, they use our COA and your EFC to put together a Financial Aid Award Package which may include any of the following:
  • California Board of Governors Waiver (BOGW) (waives course fees)
  • Pell Grant (money from the Federal government that you don’t have to pay back)
  • CalGrant (money from the State government that you don’t have to pay back)
  • Work-Study (money you earn from working a grant-funded job, usually on campus)
  • Student Loans (money you borrow and have to pay back after graduation). 
If your income has changed drastically since last year (because you got laid off or divorced, etc.), go to the Financial Aid office and talk to one of the staff.  They may be able to adjust your award to reflect your current need.
NOTE: The priority deadline in California is always March 2 for the following academic year (Fall through Summer), but if you missed the deadline, apply anyway.  You may not receive all of the aid you’re eligible for, but if there are any funds left, you’ll be in the pool.  More importantly, you’ll receive a renewal form for next year, so you won’t forget to reapply.
Beyond the government sponsored options, individual colleges, universities, private companies and foundations also offer scholarships for people who meet certain criteria.  What criteria you ask?  There are several broad categories:
  • academic achievement (grades)
  • academic major/career emphasis

  • physical characteristics (ethnic background, disability, hair color, handedness, age)
  • employment (your employer, your parents’ employer, your union)
  • activities (sports, community service, volunteer service). 
Pretty much everyone has something that qualifies them for at least one scholarship.  You just need to do the work to a) find them and b) apply for them.

City’s Scholarship webpage shares information about both college-specific and general scholarships as well as application tips.  The Counseling Department offers three scholarships to City students, all funded by our annual City College Talent Show (which is organized tirelessly by counselor Tandy Ward).  Details are on the main scholarship page.


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