With the college applications process nearing completion, high school seniors across the country are eagerly waiting to hear the results of their hard work and evaluate their options for pursuing higher education. While some students have already secured binding early admission to the college of their choice, most still face an array of educational opportunities to choose from in the spring.
Although the typical student generally knows what they are looking for in a college or university — a specific major or course of instruction, a certain size, a particular location, religious affiliation, or countless other factors — many students have not given as much thought to a question central to their experience both in college and after they graduate: how they will finance their education?
Keeping track of all of the different programs designed to make college more affordable can be a confounding process. For example, did you know that the interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2013? Are you aware that the maximum Pell Grant could be subjected to a $310 cut in 2013-2014 and up to a $400 cut in 2014-2015? Do you know the main differences between federal student loans and private student loans? How about the difference between campus-based aid and federal direct lending?
With so many different names, facts, and figures being thrown around it’s easy to understand why so many students find themselves overwhelmed by the financial aid process. However, finding the right mix of direct aid, loans, work-study, and other financial aid options is an absolutely essential part of making the right higher education decision for students and their families.
Most students make financial decisions with their parents, and families must ensure they are taking advantage of all the assistance available to make college affordable.
To that end, later this month we are hosting a Financial Aid Information Seminar in partnership with the Long Island Regional Advisory Council on Higher Education (LIRACHE) — a consortium of 19 colleges and universities — to provide families with the information and guidance they need to make the right financial aid decisions. The free seminar will be held in the McGann Conference Center at O’Connor Hall on the St. Joseph’s College Long Island Campus in Patchogue starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24.
The program will include a panel discussion by financial aid experts, followed by a resource expo and reception. Attendees will have an opportunity to learn more about the types of student loans that may be available to them, federal and state grant programs for low-income students, how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, common errors made in the process, and how to begin planning early in a child's educational career.
Education is the greatest single driver of economic mobility, and college graduates — young and old, male and female — with a bachelor's degree or higher have twice the annual median income than someone with only a high school degree. While the benefits of higher education are clear, the cost involved demands careful planning. We encourage you to attend the free seminar on Jan. 24 to ensure your family has the information and guidance you need to access an affordable higher education and secure a rewarding future.
For more information, visit www.lirache.org.
The writer is the U.S. Representative for New York's 1st congressional district.