News reports have been scaring the public into thinking that parents and students searching for financial aid will find the loan and grant pickings slim at best. But families should NOT disqualify themselves before investigating all options. In particular, I urge prospective first-generation college students and their families to explore financial aid options rather than concluding that higher education is out of reach in today’s economy. I recommend:
- Having a frank discussion as a family about what you can afford.
- Calculating what you can afford on www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov and searching for scholarships, grants, and loans on the following free web sites:
- Investigating federal and state grants and loans before going to private loans, and checking alternative lenders thoroughly before applying for a loan. Student Lending Analytics, an independent research firm, has developed an Alternative Loan Guide to assist students and parents.
- Not disqualifying yourself on perceived cost without investigating all financial aid options.
- Meeting financial aid deadlines colleges have, and filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA, federal form) as soon as possible beginning January 1.