The cost of education can be measured in dollars, but can it be measured in value? An education in today’s economy is practically essential to financial survival. Many people who never thought they would see the inside of a classroom again are standing in long lines to become a student once more. People who thought they would retire from a company where they worked for 30 years are now starting a new journey on a new career path. It is both a frightening and exciting time for millions of Americans.
The excitement comes from the prospect of learning something new and becoming someone they never dreamed they could. The fear comes from the unknown about how they will accomplish their goal. For many, the most challenging aspect is where they will get the money to pay for an education. This is where financial aid can help.
In August 2008, the U.S. Congress approved an overhaul of our country’s higher education law. This overhaul added provisions and programs to make it easier for people to fund their educational dreams.
But before we get the forms and paperwork, let’s make sure the human element is satisfied. First, establish a good relationship with the school’s financial aid administrator. This person is the expert in the field and the best source of information. From A to Z, they can assist in every aspect of the process.
Next comes the first financial aid form that needs to be completed: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing this form is the first step to applying for financial aid, federal loans, state grants and college scholarships. This form, like many others, is long, tedious and asks questions about financial status. The key thing to remember is to apply early. Financial aid is partially given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Depending on when the form work is completed, income statistics may need to be estimated.
Another key element in the process is to apply for everything. Finding financial aid, grants or scholarships is like fishing – the more lines in the water, the more fish will be caught. Do your homework and apply for anything that applies to you. Organization is the key. As process progresses, it is important to keep accurate records of what is available and has been applied for.
Whether a person is 18 or 58, funding a college education is possible. It just takes finding the right people for advice and doing the research and lots and lots of paperwork.