College is GREAT, but it can be expensive. Paying for college is a significant expense for many families. It can often feel overwhelming and cause family stress – BUT – it doesn’t have to. Here are some ways to lower the burden of the cost of college and take some of the pressure off.
AODFCU wants to make sure you know all of your options. Because with the correct financial planning and resources, you can manage the cost of higher education and take the stress out of paying for college.
Let’s discuss Financial Aid Resources, Navigating Student Loans, and Additional Assistance for Service Members and Their Families.
FINANCIAL AID RESOURCES
Financial aid is one of the most common ways to pay for college. Financial assistance can come in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans. Here are some resources you can use to find financial aid options:
- Federal Student Aid: The U.S. Department of Education provides financial aid through various programs, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA determines eligibility for federal student aid, including grants, work-study programs, and loans.
- State Student Aid: Many states offer financial aid programs for residents attending in-state colleges and universities. Check with your state’s higher education agency to see available financial aid programs.
- College or University Financial Aid: Many colleges and universities offer their own financial aid programs, including scholarships and grants. Check with the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend to see available options.
- Private Scholarships: Private organizations and businesses offer scholarships to students based on various criteria, such as academic performance, community service, or specific career interests. Check with your high school guidance counselor or online scholarship search engines to find private scholarship opportunities. And… definitely check the AODFCU scholarship program…
AODFCU Scholarship Program
AODFCU offers a graduating student member two separate categories of scholarships. The first scholarship is the AODFCU Star of Excellence Scholarship for academic excellence. The second is the Spirit of AODFCU Scholarship is based on the student’s request for financial assistance.
The Credit Union will award Eleven (11) AODFCU Star of Excellence Scholarships valued at $1,000 each, which includes one (1) Star of Excellence Scholarship based specifically on the pursuit of a degree in Engineering; and twenty (20) Spirit of AODFCU Scholarships valued at $500 each.
Student members can access scholarship applications starting November 15, 2023. AODFCU will accept scholarship application entries December 1, 2023 through February 15, 2024.
Both scholarships are for students wanting to further their education at universities, community colleges, trade schools, or educational certification programs. Any graduating student AODFCU member may apply for one or both scholarships. If a student is chosen in both categories, the student will be awarded both amounts.s.
Navigating Student Loans
If you need to finance your college expenses, you are not alone. The United States has around $1.75 trillion in total student loan debt (including federal and private loans). Student loans can also be an option to help pay for college, but they require careful consideration and planning. Getting a student loan is not the problem; the problem comes when you do not fully understand your student loan.
Here are some tips for navigating student loans:
- Understand the Different Types of Student Loans: There are two main types of student loans: federal and private. Federal loans typically have lower interest rates and more favorable repayment terms than private loans. Private loans may have higher interest rates and stricter repayment terms.
- Borrow Only What You Need: It can be tempting to borrow more than you need, but remember that student loans must be repaid with interest. Only borrow what you need to cover the cost of tuition, fees, and other essential expenses.
- Compare Interest Rates and Repayment Terms: If you are considering taking out a private student loan, be sure to compare interest rates and repayment terms from multiple lenders. Look for the loan with the lowest interest rate and most favorable repayment terms.
- Create a Repayment Plan: Create a repayment plan before taking out student loans. Consider how much you will owe after graduation, your monthly payments, and how long it will take to pay off the loans. Consider taking advantage of income-driven repayment plans, which adjust your monthly payments based on your income and family size.
For more information, here is another BLOG we wrote regarding loans and preparing for college.
Service Members and Veterans
For service members, their families, and veterans, attending college can be a unique and challenging experience. However, many college assistance programs are available to support these individuals in pursuing their educational goals.
Here are a few programs available to service members, their families, and veterans:
- GI Bill -The GI Bill is one of the most well-known college assistance programs available to veterans and their families. The bill provides financial assistance for education and training programs, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational and technical training, and apprenticeships.
- Yellow Ribbon Program – The Yellow Ribbon Program is a supplemental program to the GI Bill that provides additional financial assistance to veterans who attend private colleges and universities. Under the program, participating institutions agree to cover a portion of the tuition and fees that exceed the amount covered by the GI Bill.
- Tuition Assistance – Tuition assistance programs are available to active-duty servicemembers and, in some cases, their families. These programs provide financial assistance for education and training programs, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational and technical training, and apprenticeships.
- Scholarships and Grants – Many organizations offer scholarships and grants specifically for service members, their families, and veterans. These programs provide financial assistance for tuition, fees, and other educational expenses. Some scholarships and grants are awarded based on academic achievement, while others are awarded based on service or other factors. The Department of Defense offers a scholarship program for military dependents, and many veterans’ organizations offer scholarships and grants for veterans.
- Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts – The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program provides financial assistance to military spouses pursuing education or training programs to advance their careers. The program provides up to $4,000 in financial assistance for education and training expenses, including tuition, fees, and books.
Both the federal government and nonprofit organizations offer money for college to veterans, future military personnel, active duty personnel or those related to veterans or active duty personnel. Additionally, service members may be able to take advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Learn more about education-related resources for military families and veterans from the U.S. Department of Education.
YES, it takes money to go to college – like most things in life – but that does not mean all the responsibility of paying has to fall on you. With the right resources and planning, it is possible to manage the cost of higher education. Be sure to explore all financial aid options and carefully consider student loan options before making any decisions. Doing so can set you up for a successful financial future. And, of course, reach out to us with any questions.
For more information, visit MyCreditUnion.gov