Mary Elizabeth is bright. She didn’t get A’s in all of her classes, but she did get mostly B’s. Mary wants to be a nurse, but thinks that college is “just too expensive” for her to attend. She has opened a few college web sites and the sticker price scares her. $20,000 for tuition for one year! That’s it! Close the computer. She just cannot afford college.
Sadly, each year in Pike County and around the nation, that is where the story ends. Mary Elizabeth, and millions like her, will work most of their lives in underpaid jobs that are not satisfying or engaging their real talents and abilities. All because of a perception that, frankly, just isn’t true. Let’s dissect the sticker price a little and then offer an easy way to invest in a college education.
At private colleges (like UPIKE), nearly every student receives institutional aid. If Mary Elizabeth took the ACT and got a score of 24, she would receive $7,000 in immediate financial aid. If she is from Kentucky, she gets another $2,300 in KEES aid. If she is from a coal county, there is another $1,500 scholarship. If Mary comes from a family that is struggling to make ends meet, she might receive up to another $11,420 in federal financial aid. Add that up: $7,000+$2,300+$1,500+$11,420 = $22,220 in aid. Tuition is covered! Mary would owe around $5,000 in housing, and still has other aid out there to help with those costs, such as work-study or additional grants.
So how can you get all of that financial aid? It is not a secret and the process is not that difficult. Let us explain how it works.
Why should every high school senior and their parents be excited about October 1 this year? Changes have been made to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will make it easier to take the first step toward obtaining an affordable college education. The first major change is that students can now file on October 1, 2016, rather than on January 1, 2017. The second is that beginning with the 2017-2018 FAFSA, students will use previous income and tax information. For example, families will report their 2015 income and tax information rather than estimate their 2016 income and tax information. Regardless of your family situation, completing the FAFSA is highly encouraged. College costs are often a roadblock when thinking about higher education and the FAFSA is key to obtaining scholarships and loans.
When you begin applying for financial aid, it helps to be aware of the lingo and different types of funding. You will see words and a multitude of acronyms used repeatedly on college applications and admissions sites. Federal grants require you to complete the FAFSA because your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and other information will be used to determine your eligibility and award amount. Common federal grants include the Pell Grant, which is based on
need, and the TEACH Grant, which applies to students who want to be teachers. Even if you think you won’t qualify, be sure to complete your FAFSA and submit your financial aid package to your college or university. With so many grant options, you can’t afford to miss out!
The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program allows you to earn money for your educational expenses, usually in on-campus jobs or jobs related to your major. Work-study is awarded based on financial need, and because you earn your money, you don’t have to pay it back. How much you get paid will depend on your campus and the job you are given, but you’ll at least earn federal minimum wage. It is possible to borrow money for college, and there are various types of loans available to students and their families. Loans may be administered by the federal government, your college, or a private company. You will be required to pay back the loan with interest that will begin to accrue as the loans are repaid (subsidized loans) or while you’re still in school (unsubsidized loans).
Don’t throw away the opportunity to get the money you need to attend college. High school seniors, go online today and complete your FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov. We look forward to welcoming you on college campuses across Kentucky next year!
Let’s think about the investment for a moment. As a nurses’ aid (no college degree required), Mary Elizabeth will make around $28,000 per year. As a nurse, Mary’s starting salary will be around $42,000 per year with opportunities for advancement and significant salary increases. Over her 40-year work-lifetime as an aid she will make $1,120,000 dollars (assuming raises and inflation are roughly equal). As a nurse, that number jumps to $1,680,000 and that assumes she is never promoted or given a raise. Reality will be more like $2,200,000. So, is the investment worth the return? You decide.
Dr. Burton Webb (President) and Dr. Lori Werth (Provost)
University of Pikeville