Assignment Education: Paying for College

Planning for the cost of college

‘Tis the season for high school students and their parents to tour college campuses.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is currently accepting applications for the fall 2015 semester.

These prospective students are deciding where to invest their time and money.

“We do really push scholarships here at UW-L,” said Jennifer Weber, UW-La Crosse financial aid counselor.

The cost for in-state residents to attend four-year public schools grew 2.9 percent nationwide this academic year, to $9,139. At UW-La Crosse, the cost of tuition for in-state residents is $8,902, which is the same as last year.

According to Weber, it’s a good idea to find as much free money as possible.

“As a financial aid office, we actually post external scholarships on our Facebook page,” said Weber. “So, even if a student is not coming to UW-La Crosse, they can look at our Facebook page and see all of our external scholarships.”

UW-La Crosse sophomore Brittany McCrory offset the cost of college by applying for as much free money as possible.

“I went to my counseling center in high school and applied for scholarships,” said McCrory.

Brittany sent out almost 15 applications as a senior in high school, and her work paid off.

“It was, like, $9,375 for my freshman year,” said McCrory.

“But you have to remember that you have to keep doing that for the next four years,” said Weber. “So, we encourage our students to keep applying for scholarships.”

“I was going to plan on starting to apply over winter break because I’ll have free time,” said McCrory.

The federal government also offers free money and low-interest loans. To be eligible, you need to start by completing a very important document.

“After Jan. 1, the FAFSA is available online for people to fill out,” said Terry Micks, UW-La Crosse loan programs coordinator.

FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, determines what type of financial aid a student can receive.

“The federal government has a processing center that will use the information on the FAFSA to calculate what is called the estimated family contribution,” said Micks. “That gives an idea to the family what their share could be. It’s also to give schools information that will help determine if they’re grant-eligible.”

In 2012-13, the federal government gave away $32.3 billion in Pell Grants to 8.8 million students. But to be eligible, Micks said get your FAFSA filled out early and stay in contact with the financial aid office.

“We do run out of funds for some of the programs,” said Micks. “There is limited amount of money available. And so those students who apply late may not be able to get everything they could have if they would have applied early.”

So as students start applying for college for next fall, they also need to start applying for financial aid.