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Financial Aid Resources

By Mary P. Ivy, DegreeMatch.com
Staff Writer

The world of financial aid can seem confusing. We're here to simplify things.




When students begin navigating the world of financial aid, it's good to have reliable guides. It's also good if students can be a bit creative and adapt their financial plans as situations change from one year to the next.

FAFSA

FAFSA is an important part of financial planning. "FAFSA" stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the beginning point for searching and applying for financial aid. The programs listed at the site, Student Aid, "provide more than $150 billion a year in grants, loans, and work-study assistance." Students can fill in one form, one time, and save the information. Not only is this a free service, it's also a time-saver!

Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants have long been available to students with limited income. Individual amounts are based on need, student's status and cost of the school attended. The annual limit is currently $5,550 and is adjusted annually. Pell Grants are administered by the U. S. Department of Education, which reminds students that these grants do not have to be repaid. Applications are part of the FAFSA process (above).

Military benefits

Military personnel should begin by looking into the tuition assistance available to them. With generous terms, this may be all the financial aid required: up to 100% of tuition is covered (some limits apply). Visit the site Military.com for full details. Military.com reminds members that this programs is "not a loan; it should be viewed as money you have earned."

Scholarships

Begin by searching out local sources. High school students especially should check for these-ask your guidance counselor. The amounts may be small, but there's less competition. And a few small scholarships can go a long way when combined with other financial aid. These may be found in civic organizations, alumni associations or local businesses. Next, try city or county sources.

Do a general search using particular details that apply to you: religion, physical traits such as left-handedness, field of interests, or family background. It's no guarantee, but people do uncover some wacky scholarships this way. Or just check the off-the-wall scholarships at FinAid.

Minority students should check the links at FinAid for big name schools, large corporations and famous entrepreneurs. FinAid also recommends minorities search the United Negro College Fund, the American Indian College Fund or the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Those entering a field of high need, such as rural medical workers, may find other programs. Your college financial aid person can advise you on what is available.

FinAid reminds students that these free searches yield the same information they would likely get from paying a commercial service. The site also debunks the myth of unclaimed scholarship money, cautioning that it "simply isn't true."

Loans

Going through the FAFSA website also take students to the Department of Education site for student loans. Interest rates vary and repayment plans can be calculated at this site.

Don't overlook tax credits

While not technically considered financial aid, tax breaks do provide some relief for those paying the bills.

· The American Opportunity Credit may reduce the tax bill by $2,500.

· The lifetime learning credit allows up to $2,000 in tax credit. The IRS web site further explains the credits and restrictions.

Because every student's situation is slightly different, there is no one best plan. But by tapping all the financial aid resources, it is possible to put together a successful plan.



Last edited: April 20, 2012, 5:26 pm EST
   
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