2012 A Difficult Year For Financial Support

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Financial aid may be harder to obtain this year as college costs soar and some families need help more than ever.

"University endowments are suffering huge losses, and states like California are seeing federal aid dry up," said Allen Grove, author of the About.com admissions guide and a professor at Alfred University in western New York. talk. "It's like a train wreck."

Grove said there are several steps parents can take to increase their chances of receiving financial assistance.

What's the biggest? Please don't wait. Do it now. Please do it early.

Families often confuse federal and state deadlines for applying for financial aid. But worse than that, we forget that the scholarship period often begins even earlier.

State deadlines are almost always earlier. Some can be submitted as early as March, but the federal government's deadline is the end of June. One of the most common misconceptions is that scholarship applications are submitted at the same time as financial aid applications, but this is not true. In fact, starting before the regular fundraising season actually increases your chances of receiving scholarship support.

Places to look for scholarships include Cappex.com, FastWeb.com, Scholarships.com, and CollegeBoard.com, which have a list of all merit scholarships.

We would also like to seek financial support as soon as possible. This is because much financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If a university is truly interested in a student, they will try to put together a good aid package early on. If we had waited until May, the dollar might have fallen.

Federal Stafford Loans for students and PLUS Loans for parents are no longer made by private lenders. Instead, they are awarded directly by the Department of Education to cut out the middleman. This is now a simpler and smoother process. Students often receive grants and loans directly through their university's financial aid office. Don't forget, there are subsidized federal Stafford loans that can give you up to $20,500 per year if you need them. Depending on your degree level and years of study, you may also be eligible for unsubsidized Stafford loans to supplement work-study, grants, and scholarships. . Generally, subsidized fixed-rate loans, currently at just 3.4%, are available to people with incomes below $50,000 and phase out up to around $100,000. Subsidized loans only accrue interest after the student graduates from college. An unsubsidized loan with an interest rate of 6.8% starts accruing interest immediately. Both types of loans require payments only after you graduate from college.

Be a smart consumer, be prepared first, and get the right support.

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