Monday, January 2, 2012

Importance of Financial Aid in Funding College Education

The last few years have been a real test for those who have unshakable faith in the higher education system. With the state of the economy touching new lows and rendering millions of Americans jobless, serious questions were raised over the wisdom of investing money in a fancy college degree.
However, there are statistics to support those who believe that college education opens the door to high paying careers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2005-2007 American Community Survey, the average yearly income of a high school graduate was $26,712, while those with some college or associate's degree earned $32,793 per annum. The earnings of those with a bachelor's and graduate or professional degree were $46,277 and $61,014 per year respectively.
Clearly, the numbers speak for themselves and the argument is won in favor of a college education. But not everyone has the financial resources to fund higher education. For such people, college financial aid comes as a ray of hope. Many colleges offer financial counseling to students and educate them about the various federal aids available to them to fund their education.
Federal financial aid for students includes scholarships, grants, and subsidized loans given on the basis of financial need as opposed to academic accomplishment. Besides, some state agencies also offer grants to deserving students. Some of the prominent federal financial aid programs are:
Pell Grant: It is a need-based grant that is usually given to undergraduate students. Unlike a loan, a student doesn't have to repay a Pell Grant. The amount of grant can vary from year to year and will depend on factors such as financial need, cost to attend college, whether you are a full time or part time student, and whether you plan to attend college for a full academic year or less.
Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG): This is also a need based grant and can be a part of a student's overall aid package subject to availability of funds. Priority is given to students who have already received a Pell Grant. A student can get up to $4000 as part of this grant.
Federal Stafford Loan: This is one more source of college financial aid offered by the federal government. These are fixed rate student loans offered to undergraduate and graduate students provided they are enrolled in at least a part time program. Students can apply for both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. Subsidized Stafford loans are only given to students who demonstrate a financial need. Students who take this loan need to start making payments six months after they graduate.
Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students: This is yet another federal financial aid for college students. It is a low interest loan that parents of a dependent undergraduate student can take to fund the cost of entire education. This loan is not available to parents of independent students.
The U.S. Congress passed a bill in 2008 that proposed sweeping changes to the country's higher education law. The bill sought to improve the college financial aid programs and its highlights included simplification of the federal financial aid form and availability of Pell grant throughout the year. Rebuilding the education system is evidently one of the top most priorities of the government and if they are successful in their endeavor, it'll be a huge bonus for the future of post-secondary education.

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