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Common Types of Financial Aid

 Common Types of Financial Aid

If you are planning to attend college or the parent of a child you hope will attend college, I'm sure you are concerned over how you are going to be able to afford the process. A college education in many cases is a significant investment. The good news is that there are many options for the average family when it comes to paying the high costs involved in higher education.

Types of Financial Assistance for Educational Expenses


Scholarships. You will find that scholarships come in many different shapes and sizes and have all kinds of strange requirements in order to qualify to receive them. Some are based on need while others are based on merit. You will also find that there are many community and faith based organizations that offer scholarships in addition to certain corporations that offer scholarships in a gesture of good will to employees and the children of their employees. These are an excellent source of educational funding, as they do not need to be repaid.


Federal Pell Grants. This is another financial aid source that doesn't require repayment. However, you must qualify based on need in order to receive this particular type of college assistance. You can only obtain a Pell grant if you are an undergraduate college student who has not yet earned a college degree. There is a formula that is used to determine the amount of award for which you are eligible. This depends greatly on your means as a family and how much you can realistically expect to contribute towards the cost of your education.


Loans. This should be used as a last resort when it comes to paying your college expenses, as this is money that must be repaid with interest. There are several types of loans that are available and you should consider carefully and weigh your options before taking out a loan. However, if this is the only method you have for covering the cost of your tuition it will be money well spent once you've managed to repay the debt. 

1) Student loans. There are three different types of student loans: subsidized, unsubsidized, and Perkins loans.  You must qualify in order to receive an unsubsidized loan, which will put off your interest accumulation until after graduation or you cease to be enrolled the minimum number of hours. You do not however, need to qualify in order to receive an unsubsidized student loan, which will begin accruing interest immediately. If you happen to be in exceptional financial need you can apply through your university for a Perkins loans. These are low interest loans that must be repaid to the university.

2) Parent Loans. These are commonly referred to as PLUS loans (parent loan for undergraduate students). These loans allow parents to borrow the money required to cover the costs of education that are not covered by other means of financial assistance. Repayment on these loans begins 60 days after the funds are transferred and can take up to 10 years.

3) Private loans. These loans are not guaranteed and are solely credit-based loans. They do not however, have the same limited scope that government loans have and in many cases can help bridge the gaps in actual educational expenses and the amount of money that you are allowed to borrow through traditional financial aid opportunities.


Before signing up for any particular sort of financial aid it is a good idea to see a financial aid counselor at the university you are planning to attend. They will have the best information about what steps you need to take in order to apply for financial aid at that specific universities and unique scholarship or grant opportunities that might be available to you through your state or the college. Higher education is a dream that is definitely worth having. Do not allow financial limitations to keep you from your goal if possible but enter into all financial arrangements with great caution and thought.

Community College Advantages


If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in a community that has a community college you should really make the time in your schedule to check and see what kind of classes they can offer that can help you advance your education and your career. You might be amazed at the different types of courses you can take even on the community college level. I know that I have found some of the courses that are offered and the degree of learning that takes place to be quite impressive. I think that many people who have in the past disregarded the important role that community colleges play in providing an affordable venue for learning will be quite amazed as well.


Community colleges have an undeserved reputation for inferiority when this could not be further from the truth. A good many of the nations nurses are products of community college educations. In many states, the associates degree nursing programs are quite rigorous and provide more clinical experience than most bachelor's degree nursing programs. This means that students graduating nursing school with an associates degree in nursing are often better prepared to deal with patient care than those who have the 'superior degree'. This by no means is meant to disparage B. S. Nursing students at all. In fact, most hospitals will not even consider you a candidate for an administrative nursing position unless you have the Bachelor's degree. This is only meant to point out that associates degree programs can be quite competitive and inclusive despite common misconceptions.


Of course there are other benefits to learning on the community college level, at least for the first two years of your education. One of those benefits that speaks volumes to me is the fact that teachers in community colleges are dedicated to teaching. They are not working on their own research or books. They are there for the purpose of helping you achieve your goals, which means you aren't an interruption in their pursuit of their own goals. 

Community colleges also offer an excellent buffer for students who may not have been on top of their game academically in high school or those who are returning to college after a long absence from academia. You won't find the large auditorium classes on the community college level that major universities are famous for offering. You also won't find that teachers do not have time for their students. There is a lower teacher to student ratio in community colleges so that professors will have time to address the needs of students.


Another benefit is that even if you do not go on to get your four year degree after completing your community college education you will find that your earning potential is significantly improved over those who do not have at least a two-year college education. Research also indicates that students who complete a two-year degree program at a community college are more likely to finish and get a four-year degree than those students who begin their educational experience at a four-year university.


There are a few problems that can be associated with a community college education and you should take note of these so that they do not become a problem for you. First of all, some universities do not accept many of the courses that are offered on the community college level as transfer credits. Make sure that you know what courses are required for the university that you are planning to transfer to in order to avoid this. You also may find that you are limited on the courses you can take and the times in which they will be available. Make sure that you have all the limited courses well ahead of time so that you aren't taking another year of classes in order to graduate.


All in all, a community college education can be just as enlightening as a university education if you enter into the process with an open mind and a willingness to learn. I hope you take advantage of this much less expensive option before moving on to university courses if possible.


Community College Disadvantages


While there are many distinct advantages that can be associated with attending a community college there are a few disadvantages that I would be remiss in not mentioning. We all like to look at the positive side of things and the good in my opinion of community colleges, at least as a springboard for university learning far outweigh the bad. However, if you are considering community college as an option whether for your associate's degree alone or have plans to move along to the university level upon completion you should see the big picture and not just the sunshine and flowers.


The first thing you should be aware of, and this applies primarily to those students with plans to transfer, is that you should always consult the college you intend to attend next in order to make sure that the courses you are taking on the community college level are compatible with the core requirements for the university. In many cases they are similar enough to be considered compatible but there are exceptions and it is better to find this out sooner rather than later. If you plan to attend a University that is located near the community college you are attending you should check and see if they have some sort of articulation agreement that will allow associate's degree graduates to transfer seamlessly. 


Many states are stepping in and passing laws that require colleges in their specific states to accept community college credits as transfer credits in an effort to keep qualified workers in the state. Some universities are even offering distance learning programs to associates degree graduates in order to allow access to students who live a greater distance from campus to have access to educational opportunities that would have been denied to them in the past. Of course if you live in one of these states, a former disadvantage may now work in your favor.


Many community colleges do not offer housing opportunities and most of those that do are still largely commuter campuses rather than residence campuses. Rather than spending funds on housing these colleges tend to reserve their spending to assist in academic pursuits. Community colleges in rural areas are much more likely than those in larger cities to offer housing on campus. The lack of on-campus housing makes participation in sports and other activities a little more difficult than colleges that are largely residential in nature. 


If you decide to make a community college your last stop when it comes to your personal educational experience you will be denying yourself a great deal of earning potential over the course of your lifetime. For this reason you should seriously consider the benefits that transferring to a university will present for your educational goals. 


My largest complaint when it comes to community colleges when compared to larger universities was the fact that there are such limited opportunities to take specific classes than when compared to those classes on a university level. You will find that you must remain within your sequence of courses on the community college level or you risk needing an extra semester or year in order to complete the requirements for your associate's degree. Universities tend to offer greater flexibility, especially in lower level courses that are required by all in order to graduate.

My other major complaint when it comes to community college is the fact that they often have much smaller libraries than universities. This seriously limits the ability that students have to do extensive research with the exception of rare cases. Universities simply have deeper pockets than the average community college.  For this reason they will have bigger libraries and far more bells and whistles than the average community college. Hopefully we'll see this change over time as well. Despite the disadvantages that can be associated with community college educations, I feel that they are very much outweighed by the benefits that the community college learning environment offers.