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Fear removed for college aid

If you need financial aid to help meet college costs, you are very likely to receive it. Many colleges also offer merit scholarships where financial need is not a factor. Always apply for aid and meet the deadlines.

Choosing where to go to college is a big decision — perhaps one of the most important of your life. Don’t let “sticker price” stop you from considering colleges that may be right for you.

The majority of students receive aid to help with college costs. Find out about financial aid. New York’s private colleges and universities annually provide $1.7 billion in financial assistance from their own funds. In addition, students at these private campuses received more than $518 million in federal and state grants last year.

Seven out of every 10 full-time students receive financial assistance. Each year, New York’s Independent Sector devotes nearly $1.9 billion to scholarship grants for students.

Check with each college’s financial aid office to determine which forms you need to file. Don’t wait to be accepted to a college before filing an application for financial aid.

File early to ensure that you’re considered for all available funding. The most important forms are:

• FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – Everyone applying for federal and most other financial aid must complete this form. File on-line at www.fafsa.ed.gov or by mail.

• NYS Express TAP Grant and Scholarship Application (ETA) – NYS residents attending a college in NYS use this free form with the FAFSA to apply for a NYS TAP grant and to request payment for NYS scholarship awards. If you list a NYS college on your FAFSA, you will receive a TAP ETA (by mail if you use the paper FAFSA, or you will be prompted to complete the TAP ETA on-line if you complete the on-line FAFSA).

• PROFILE – Some colleges may ask you to file this form to be considered for college-funded aid (the college’s own grants and scholarships). There is a fee for filing this form.

• College-specific financial aid application – Some colleges may ask you to complete their own financial aid application to be considered for their own college-funded grants, scholarships and loans. The FAFSA and the PROFILE forms are available in your guidance office or on the Internet. Request the college’s own financial aid application, if required.

Complete and mail the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of your high school senior year. If your family hasn’t yet completed your current year income tax returns, estimate your family’s income as accurately as possible. You’ll have the opportunity to make corrections later in the process. If you’re a NYS resident applying to colleges in the state, make sure you include a New York college on your FAFSA to begin application for a NYS TAP grant.

Complete any other financial aid forms required by the colleges. Meet all deadlines. Keep a copy of all the forms you file. By filing the FAFSA, you will be considered for:

• Grants and scholarships from private colleges and universities (some colleges may require an additional form)

• Federal Pell Grant

• Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

• Federal Work-Study (FWS)

• Job programs from private colleges and universities

• Federal Perkins Loan

• Federal Stafford Loan or Federal Direct Loan

• Loan programs from private colleges and universities

You’ll receive your Federal Student Aid Report (SAR) approximately 30 days after submitting your FAFSA. The SAR will be sent in the mail if you file the paper FAFSA. If you file electronically and provide a valid email, the SAR will be sent via email. A paper SAR acknowledgement will be sent if a valid email address is not provided. Review your SAR’s information carefully. Follow the directions to correct any errors.

In the spring (usually March or April), you’ll receive financial aid “awards” or “packages” from the colleges that have offered you admission, each with a different combination of grants, scholarships, work-study and loans to help you meet college expenses. Determine your “net cost” by subtracting from tuition and fees and room and board (if you’re living on campus) all grants and scholarships plus the total amount of your loans.

Review your financial aid award letters and compare your net costs. Follow the colleges’ instructions to accept or reject the offers of admission and financial aid, usually by May 1.

Then, review your financial aid with your chosen college. In particular:

• Follow up on your loans. Check with your college financial aid office for their student and parent loan application procedures. Know what you are borrowing and the repayment terms.

• NYS students attending college in the state: Follow up on your NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grant. Review, and if necessary, correct the data on your Express TAP Application (ETA) sent to you by NYSHESC.

You must apply to renew your financial aid each year — on time — or risk losing it! Check your college’s deadlines.

• In its 35-year history, HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program), in collaboration with private colleges and universities, has helped more than 27,000 eligible students graduate from college.

The information you supply on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is analyzed using a federal formula to assess your family’s financial situation. The analysis will estimate how much you (Student Contribution) and your parent(s) (Parent Contribution) can reasonably contribute toward college costs for the year. This is known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The colleges you list on your FAFSA will receive your EFC analysis and will put together a “financial aid package” to help you meet your financial need. Financial need is the difference between a college’s annual cost (tuition, fees, room, board, books and supplies, plus an allowance for personal expenses and transportation) and your expected family contribution.

Your packages might include a combination of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study.

Facts about the Expected Family

Contribution (EFC)

• For federal financial aid, your EFC is calculated in the same way at each college and will not change regardless of the price of the education you choose.

• The Parent Contribution for federal financial aid is calculated using a national formula that considers income, taxes paid, family size, savings, certain assets, certain debts, number of children in college and the age of parent(s).

• In most cases, the majority of the EFC comes from your income rather than assets; approximately 2% to 6% of a family’s net worth is considered in the calculation.

• The Parent Contribution is roughly divided by the number of children attending college at least half time.

• Colleges may consider special financial hardships. Document extraordinary circumstances that affect your family’s ability to contribute and submit a written request directly to the financial aid office.

You should always apply for aid. Even if you think you’re not eligible or did not receive aid for a previous year, apply. Financial aid programs and family situations can change. Don’t limit your choices now or in the future.

When you apply for financial aid each college will put together a financial aid “package” or “award” to help you cover all or part of the cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room and board, books, transportation, personal expenses). What your financial aid packages look like will depend primarily on your calculated financial need. Your academic profile and other achievements may influence the size and composition of your package. Most private colleges begin mailing financial aid awards in the spring. Every package will be different.

Evaluate your awards, choose the college you will attend, and accept its offer by the stated deadline. Notify all the colleges to which you applied of your final decision. The sample financial aid packages below show different college costs and family income ranges. While these sample packages cover all of the student’s financial need, this does not always occur and will vary from college to college. If a financial aid package does not meet all of your need, your family may wish to consider alternatives.

The New York State Higher Education Services Corp. (HESC) helps hundreds of thousands of students attend colleges and universities in the state each year by offering a wide range of scholarships, grants and loans. For more information, go to www.hesc.org.

--NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is the largest need-based state grant program in the nation.

--NYS Aid for Part-Time Study (APTS) is a state scholarship for students attending two or four-year schools part-time.

--NYS Scholarships for Academic Excellence reward high school students with the highest grades.

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