is plenty of money available to pay a significant part, and often, all
college expenses. I went to college 22 years and paid for one semester. If you
add up all the money received by my wife (a Harvard student), we have received
more than we have paid. The money is available. You just need to be willing to
do what it takes to get it.
There are five types of money available for college:
- Your Own
Let’s look at each one.
is what we think of as traditional “scholarships.” This is money
awarded by the institution based on student ability and achievement. These
- Academic. Traditional “scholarships,” usually awarded for grades, class
rank, extracurricular activities, and often most important, SAT and ACT score.
Indeed, many colleges award scholarships on SAT/ACT scores alone!
- Athletic. Not really a “scholarship.” Technically, this is a
“grant-in-aid” that waives all or part of tuition, fees, housing, meal, and book
charges. You don’t have to be “All-Pro” to be a candidate. There are several
levels of NCAA (major colleges), NAIA (small colleges), NJCAA (junior colleges),
and NCCAA (Christian colleges) that offer some form of athletic funding.
- Artistic. Scholarships for music, band, dance, voice, orchestra, painting,
pottery, sculpting, ballet, photography, theater, and even those people who wave
those flags with college bands.
- Activity. Scholarships for cheerleading, journalism, speech, debate,
student government, and virtually any activity the particular college deems it
important to fund.
In most cases, no actual “money” changes hands, though some colleges actually
provide direct cash payments to students for expenses. These are awarded as
institutional “grants-in-aid,” essentially a “discount” the college doesn’t
charge the student for all or part of the regular cost of attendance.
In my own experience, my oldest daughter received both a music and volleyball
scholarship from a small college. The music covered half tuition, the
volleyball covered the other half and room and board. We eventually found other
funding, so she would not have to play volleyball, and after all the funding
cleared and books were bought, they sent me a check for $1,500!
is sources of funding where the student may be required to
participate in activities, perform services, or complete specific tasks, or
obligate themselves to do so, in return for assistance in paying for college.
- Work-Study. The largest is the Federal Work-Study (FWS) which provides
part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need,
allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program
encourages community service work and work related to the recipient’s course of
- ROTC. The military is the largest single source of college funding in the
US. ROTC provides a wide range of funding opportunities, from a monthly stipend
to a full ROTC scholarship.
- Internships. Many businesses and government organizations offer internships
where students can earn money toward college expenses. Most are in the summer,
but several offer work during the school year, and some even pay college
- Working for the College. Employees at a college usually receive free
tuition for themselves and often their immediate family. I worked with one
family where the mom got a job as a secretary at an expensive private college so
three of her sons were able to attend for no tuition! Other opportunities
include becoming a Resident Assistant (RA) in the dorms. Most receive free room
and board, and often a break on tuition. I had a student get a partial academic
scholarship and get hired as an RA. They waived the balance of her tuition,
gave her free room and board, and a check every two weeks!
- FREE Colleges. Several colleges are absolutely FREE, while also offering a
high quality of education. Colleges include Berea College (rated the top small
liberal-arts college a few years back), College of the Ozarks (Hard Work U.,
where you work at the college dairy—rated one of the top regional colleges), and
Cooper Union (arguably the best engineering and architectural college in the
country). Military academies (e.g., West Point) also offer free tuition, room,
and board, plus a monthly stipend.
- Private Funding Sources. There are BILLIONS in private scholarships. It
takes some work to research and apply to them. Many require an essay,
portfolio, or resume to qualify. Some are tied to particular institutions.
WARNING!!! This is one of the largest areas of scholarship scams. Some shady
organizations offer (and often “guarantee”) to find scholarships, and after a
hefty fee, send you a list you could have pulled from the Internet for free.
Need to Know
is probably the most common method of meeting college costs.
Need-Based Money is determined by calculating the family’s ability to pay
against the cost of attendance of the college, producing a figure known as
“need.” The primary method is through the Federal government, which provides a
range of grants and loans. Federal aid requires the student submit the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The major Federal programs are:
- Pell Grant. Grants up to $5,550 a year that don’t have to be paid back.
- Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Grants between $100 and
$4,000 for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.
- Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. formerly Stafford loans, up to $7,500 a
- The Federal Perkins Loan. Money for college students with exceptional
- PLUS Loans. For graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate
Some institutions use an additional method through the College Scholarship
Service (CSS) to determine “need” for their particular institution. There is a
lot of detail in navigating the Need-Based maze that I don’t have time to cover
in this column.
Who and Where Are You?
is available for students who may be eligible for funding,
discounts, or exemptions for college by virtue of who they are or where they
live, or both. All US citizens and legal residents are “entitled” to some
amount of Federal aid, mostly in the form of low interest student loans.
Entitlement money includes:
- In-state or in-district reduced tuition
- Subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans (discussed above)
- Tuition waivers for student with disabilities
- GI Bill and state-based military benefits
- Reciprocity among states so students from one state can receive reduced
tuition to attend a state college in another state.
Ponying Up Your Own Money
Your Own Money. Parents will have to spend “something,” even if it is just
filling the gas tank to send the student off to school. The key is to develop
strategies to minimize the out-of-pocket expenses. There are many.
Space won’t let us discuss these in detail. More information is available in
my publication “M.O.N.E.Y. for College.” A preview version is available free
from my website (BeasleyCollegePrep.com