Tips on Finding Money for College in a Tough Economy

By: Jennifer Dowling Email
By: Jennifer Dowling Email

A lot of parents statewide are out of work or have seen their wages cut. That's creating a barrier for young adults to head to college.
At Lansing Community College, many students say they've had a though time getting financial aid this year. Student Josh Bruwick says, "Oh, much harder, especially around here, that's why so many people are going to LCC as opposed to Michigan State or out of state."

Student Ashley Banks, an Eaton Rapids Sophomore says, "Nobody has a good job yet, or they can't afford a payment or nothing like that, so It's really, really hard to get financial aid and see if they can help, but I mean it's really hard for, especially MI and with our economy right now., it's just so hard and with the jobs, I think it's really hard for the schools too."

Banks blames the job market for some of the worries. She says, "I've been hurting from the economy for my work and so it's hard for me to pay for college."

The economy is a challenge this year. Some endowment money is not available as it has been in the past at many schools and donations are down. However, even though the financial aid climate is tough for students across the state, one expert says there is help available if students are creative and they do their homework.

Financial aid expert and Credit Union Student Choice VP of Business Development Melissa Hunt says, "One of the most important things young adults need to do is begin looking for scholarships and grants available to them. and also checking with local not-for-profit organizations and foundations for different types of scholarships that may be available to help them pay for higher education."

Hunt says the first step is to check with the financial aid office in the school you or your student is attending. They may have endowment or scholarship money available for academic or athletic achievement. She says, "The first place I would advise students to start would be checking with the financial aid office at the college which they're going to attend. Different colleges have different types of endowment money or scholarship money available. And, always check with that financial aid office. There are typically scholarships available for academics and scholarships available for athletics. It's important to check with the financial aid office at the school they are attending."

For unique scholarships, she recommends hitting the books. Hunt says, "One of the easiest ways that I have found to search for scholarships is literally the old-fashioned way--getting a hold of books that will help you find scholarships. There's a couple of them out there that I really enjoy looking through. One is called College Ed scholarships and the other one's called Kaplan scholarships, and those should be available at your local library or you can always purchase them for under $30.00. It's an investment well worth making."

You can also search online, however, Hunt says you may want to set up a separate e-mail account due to spam. She says, "There are websites that you can go to. I just caution you those websites are also going to ask for your email address, so be prepared to receive hundreds upon hundreds of emails a day after you visit these websites." She also advises you use caution when going on the Internet. She says, "Once you use these scholarship search engines, if you receive any emails saying 'congratulations, you've won a scholarship, just send in $9.95 to proceed', stay away from it. Typically a scholarship for a not-for-profit organization or scholarship, they're not going to charge you to process a scholarship application."

As for federal financial aid, she says it's imperative to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA before the deadline. That triggers loans or money to you from the government, the state and the school. She says, "Completing it behind the deadline could be missing out on thousands of dollars available."

She says if you receive an award amount in financial aid that is less than you need, you may be eligible for more if there have been changes to your income over the last few months. Hunt says, "When we receive our award letter, it's going to reflect what our family's income was from last year, so go talk to your financial aid office. If there's a problem with the award, or you think you should be awarded more money or if there was something drastic that changed in your financial situation, they can review your award letter and award you more funds."

LCC student Josh Bruwick says, "I prefer to pay for school on my own, just because it kind of leaves the $30,000 loans out of it." However, that's an option some don't have. That's why Hunt says early planning is crucial.

Hunt will be hosting two free seminars on "How to Prepare, Pay and Stay in College". The first will take place in Holt Monday, September 28th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Holt Junior High School at 1784 Aurelius Road in Holt. She will be in Lansing Tuesday, September 29th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm at the Delta Township District Library located at 5130 Davenport Drive in Lansing. Both seminars are open to the public and free. However, Hunt says you may want to register early at 517-267-7171 because seating may be limited. NuUnion Credit Union is helping to host Hunt.


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