College and financial aid. They go together, sort of like mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly … Well, you get the idea.
Attending college comes with costs — including tuition, fees, housing, meals, books, supplies, gas, and other personal expenses. Your education is an investment, so you’ll want to do your research, plan ahead, and understand the price tag.
Here’s the good news: Very few students pay the “sticker price,” or the full cost of tuition. That gap between what you can afford and how much college costs: That’s where financial aid kicks into play.
When it comes to financing your college education, think net price, not list price.
At Crown College, 98 percent of students receive some form of aid (averaging over $21,000), which significantly lowers the cost out of pocket (i.e. net price). Yet, no matter which college or university you choose to attend, plan on exploring all avenues for financial assistance.
Understanding and applying for financial aid is well worth your time and effort. Admittedly, it’s a topic that sparks many questions, some mild confusion, and maybe even a twinge of fear. But don’t worry!
Financial aid, fully explained
This article will help demystify financial aid by explaining what it is and how it works. In addition to online resources, there are plenty of people — such as admissions counselors and financial aid specialists — who would be happy to take your hand and guide you through the process.
So go ahead and release a big sigh of relief. Whew. Bet you feel better already.
What is financial aid?
Simply put, financial aid is an umbrella term that covers all the funding sources available to help you pay for college and earn your degree. These sources include grants, scholarships, loans, and Work-Study programs.
Financial aid can come from the federal government, state agencies, colleges and universities, as well as private organizations. To determine your eligibility for state and federal aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
At Crown, we strongly suggest that all students file a FAFSA as part of the financial aid process.
How do I qualify for financial aid?
Most financial aid is awarded on the basis of need or merit.
- Need-based aid is awarded based on your financial need as determined by your FAFSA data and results. This category includes grants, Work-Study, and some scholarships.
- Merit-based aid is awarded most often through scholarships based on special abilities and skills, such as academics, athletics, or artistic endeavors.
Student loans belong in a different category because they accrue interest and require repayment. In other words, loans are borrowed money that you will be responsible to repay.
Loan options are vast, come with terms and conditions, and may require specific qualifications, such as a credit check. Federal student loans often offer lower or fixed interest rates when compared to private loans from a lender such as a bank or other agency.
Learn more about the difference between federal and private loans.
What are all the forms of financial aid?
Financial aid comes in many forms. You may or may not qualify for all types of aid, but it’s important to understand all your options.
Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify, it’s still smart to complete the FAFSA and apply for scholarships. Many schools require the FAFSA to consider merit-based institutional scholarships, even if you don’t qualify for federal aid.
Scholarships are an award of money that covers a certain percentage of your tuition. They are typically merit-based or require you meet qualifications, such as a certain GPA, a specific college major, future career, or organizational affiliation.
Some scholarships are one-time awards, while others are renewable every semester or academic year. Scholarships don’t require repayment, so it’s wise to apply for as many scholarships as you are eligible. You never know until you apply!
Be sure to apply for scholarships at your institution as well as find general scholarships that will contribute no matter where you attend college. Scholarships.com is a great place to start.
Grants are similar to scholarships in that they don’t require repayment in most cases. Grants are typically awarded based on financial need and can come from the federal government, state government, your college, a nonprofit, or other organization.
Some grants include requirements to remain eligible, so be sure to understand the terms before you accept your financial aid package. Learn more about grant types and repayment requirements.
Work-Study is a federal program that allows you to earn a paycheck and apply your earrings toward educational expenses. On-campus jobs are the most common, although some off-campus jobs are also available.
This financial aid opportunity is need-based as determined by your FAFSA results. Students may apply for a variety of jobs. At Crown College, most students work an average of 10 hours per week. Hours worked cannot exceed your Work-Study award amount.
Even if you don’t qualify for Work-Study, or if you’re an international student, you can still consider part-time employment as a means to pay for some of your education. Most colleges and universities offer a variety of student worker positions, which provide a convenient way to earn money while building your resume.
Loans include money you must pay back with interest after your academic career. Basically, you’re borrowing money now for your degree that will pay off at a later date. Remember, college is a long-term investment.
There are two primary loan types:
- Federal loans are typically lower interest. The lender is the U.S. Department of Education.
- Private loans are an option for students and parents, but they’re typically more expensive in the long run. Lenders include banks, credit unions, state agencies, or schools.
It’s best to consider federal loan options first before private alternative loans. There are four main forms of federal loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans are for undergraduate students with financial need. The federal government pays the interest while you’re in school and for the first six months after you graduate.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans are for undergraduate and graduate students without regard for financial need. Interest benefits aren’t included.
- Direct PLUS Loans are available for graduate students or parents of undergraduate students. Eligibility isn’t based on financial need, but a credit check is required.
- Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine various federal loans into a single loan with one fixed interest rate and one simple monthly payment.
Your school’s financial aid office will help walk you through the process, especially understanding your loan options.
Wondering how much it will cost you to attend Crown after scholarships and grants? Try the Net Price Calculator for first-time and transfer students.
Thank you for serving! Many colleges and universities offer education benefits for veterans provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more about veteran and service member benefits and military scholarships available at Crown College.
Can graduate students qualify for financial aid?
Yes. Graduate students are eligible for some forms of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, Direct PLUS Loans, private loans, and federal Work-Study at participating schools.
Some colleges and universities also offer graduate assistantships that allow students to work on campus or in the classroom while earning a stipend and receiving tuition remission.
Graduate students should file a FAFSA as an independent student, meaning you don’t need to provide parent information.
Does financial aid automatically pay for tuition?
Most forms of financial aid are disbursed toward the beginning of the semester. Funds are applied directly to your student account. Any amount left over will be billed directly to you.
Monthly payment plans are typically available. If there’s an overage after the disbursement of all funds, you’ll receive a refund.
What’s the FAFSA process like?
Filing a FAFSA is simple, but a little planning goes a long way. You can also save your progress, so you don’t need to finish the form in one sitting.
- Create your FSA ID.
- Gather important information such as social security number, tax information, income records, bank account balances, and investment information.
- Check with your college’s financial aid office for application deadlines and to get assistance.
- Submit the FAFSA form online.
- Check your email for status updates.
- Review your aid offer.
- Receive your aid.
View this handy infographic for more details on the FAFSA process. For a more detailed list of common financial aid questions and answers, visit the link below.
What’s my next step?
After applying to colleges, the FAFSA is your best first step in the financial aid process. This form will determine how much you’ll receive in grants and scholarships and how much, if any, you’ll need in loans.
You may complete the FAFSA any time after October 1 to determine financial aid eligibility for the following school year.
For incoming freshmen students, if you haven’t decided which college you’re attending yet, no worries! You’ll be able to list multiple schools on your FAFSA. We recommend filing earlier rather than later. After submitting the form, you’ll receive a Financial Aid Offer with all the details.
Start planning today
Financial aid is an important component of college. Now that you know how financial aid works, it’s time to start planning and saving. Remember, it only takes one small step at a time.
After going through the application process, you might be surprised by how affordable it can be to earn your bachelor’s or graduate degree.
When in doubt, go to studentaid.gov for the most up-to-date information and answers to all of your questions.
You can also reach out to one of Crown’s financial aid professionals at 952-446-4177.
We’re here to help you leap into your faith and chart your college and career path. Financial aid is part of the journey.