Now more than ever, cost is dictating where students will attend college as many families are choosing schools that offer the best value and not the most prestigious name. But how exactly do you figure out that cost?
The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA), a nonprofit agency that helps students and families make their way through the financial aid process, suggests asking colleges these six questions:
1. What is the total cost of attendance?
2. What financial aid forms are required and when are they due?
3. Are there merit-based scholarships available and what is the application process?
4. Are the grants/scholarships renewable each year and are there conditions?
5. What does the college estimate the total student debt will be upon graduation?
6. What is the average percentage of financial need that is met by the college?
It also helps to understand the many types of financial aid that are available. This is how MEFA describes them:
Grants and scholarships:
Grants and scholarships are gift aid that does not have to be repaid, and are available through colleges, universities, and federal, state and private agencies. Public colleges and universities in Massachusetts also offer tuition and fee vouchers to residents that waive or reduce costs.
These programs allow students to work part-time on or near campus while in college. Earnings may be used for living expenses, books, supplies and other education-related expenses but is not automatically deducted from the college bill.
Loans are available to help families cover the cost of college. Some offer features such as subsidized interest, deferred repayment and low rates.
Outside scholarships from private, local and national sources:
These may be awarded based on a variety of factors including financial need, academic merit, artistic or musical talent or interest in a major.
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.