College-bound students and their families are confronted with the high cost of a post high-school education. Many want to find the so-called “free money”. In this article, I want to briefly point out the “cost” to obtaining free money for college students.
Grants are a common type of free money for college students. To be considered for grants, either at the Federal or the Institutional level, a household must demonstrate financial need. This de facto means that the family has a relatively low Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with regards to the projected Cost of Attendance (COA). The price for receiving grants is the relatively low income (and assessable assets) that a household must demonstrate, and thus live with.
Scholarships are awarded primarily on the bases of meritocracy. The most important value that a student can bring is academic excellence combined with career enthusiasm – unless he/she is a star athlete. To achieve and demonstrate this degree of academic excellence, either a student has a natural disposition towards academic excellence or the student has to be an over-achiever. When the second is the case, sacrifices will be made: extra classes are paid for, time is required to study; other activities are left by the wayside. The cost here is truly minimal if the aptitude of the student corresponds to the academic achievement aimed for.
Scholarships, typically of the smaller dollar amounts, are based on a variety of reasons. A few are based on membership. For example, an organization like 4-H or the FFA will only offer scholarships to their members. The cost to these scholarships is the time and effort in involvement – which may be minimal considering the benefits from participating in organizations that one likes. A few companies offer scholarships to children of their employees. Some companies offer scholarships to students entering a certain career field. The cost to these is minimal but unfortunately these scholarships rarely exceed a few thousand dollars – most are less than a thousand dollars and are only one year scholarships.
Some students are fortunate to have grandparents, uncles and aunts or other friends contribute financially towards their post high school education expenses. This sounds “free enough”. Yet, the FAFSA requires the student to report this type of aid; the student’s EFC will increase in the following year. This often results in the student becoming less financial aid eligible.
Obtaining free money for college students requires time, effort, often the willingness to engage is some politics, and a clear understanding of the college aid funding dynamics. Scholarships tend to strengthen a student’s self-worth: I have skills/abilities and there is a ‘reward’ of this talent and often hard work. The financial gifts are nice to have – and they often show the love and concern that the giver has to the student. By way of necessity , a grant is often the most needed – and for those who have limited financial means, could be the opportunity to obtain a desired degree or skills at the start of their lives.
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