Cornerstones

cop-affordable

In the City of New Haven, students are fortunate to have the opportunity to access the New Haven Promise, which in some instances, is worth more than $50,000 over four years.

But that doesn’t mean that non-residents or non-qualifiers have no options. Below are the “Cornerstones of College Affordability,” which provide dollars for scholars through the maximization of pre-existing sources as well as ways to keep that bill as close to debt-free as possible.

1. Federal aid — There is a lot of unclaimed money for low-income students through the Pell Grant program. Students who qualify for Pell can get close to $6,000 annually to cover expenses and many scholarship programs use that as part of the equation in determining a scholarship award. Every program should encourage and assist students and families to complete their FAFSA applications in both accurate and timely fashions. Doing so is extremely important and here are some of the common mistakes to avoid.

2. Financial literacy — Those who are first-generation students can find unhappy surprises — not just the hidden costs of college, but also the deadlines for payment. Choosing the right college from the start can make all the difference in getting that diploma. Having access to those who can explain the process and its expectations, even before the selection a school, can help families steer clear of the roughest waters. One great online resource is the College Scorecard produced by the U.S. Department of Education. Take a look at that here.

3. Institutional aid — Those programs who are forking over checks to colleges have some leverage to create universal benefits for its Promise scholars, particularly if they can demonstrate patterns of increased success in comparison to the broader student body. But you don’t have to wait to begin that conversation. Without question, the earlier students complete applications to college, the stronger the chance they can tap into existing university scholarship pools. There comes a warning with institutional aid as explained by this New York Times’ story. Make sure to ask about the four-year aid expectation at the school, not just the first year!

4. Scholarships — Most places in the U.S. have existing scholarships intended for local students and there are also regional and national award programs as well. The problem is that most students are unaware what is out there. If someone associated with a program can provide resources, the affordability puzzle becomes more complete. There are students who are making college debt-free by taking advantage of multiple opportunities. The link to the New Haven Promise Scholarship is available on the menu to the right and on the footer of this page are links to additional scholarships to explore.

5. Finish in four — While taking a 12-credit course load is considered full-time, sticking to that as an registration plan will cost students an additional year and thousands of dollars. At most schools, the cost of a 12-credit semester and a semester of 15 or more credits is the same. Students who don’t finish in four years will run out of federal aid and most tuition scholarships, meaning that fifth year will be their most expensive… by far. Additionally, that fifth year will mean that students will not be in the full-time workforce, which is an additional loss of funds. It might be wise for a student to start with a 12-credit load as a freshman, but ramping up from there is important.

6. Pre-college coursework — What helps many college students graduate on time — or even early — is a collection of pre-college credits. Some students get college credit for testing successfully from Advanced Placement course. Others use school-based benefits by taking college or dual-credit course while a senior in high school. However it works, taking a bank of credits with you to college can save students from needing to invest in a costly fifth year.

7. Paid internships — Not only are students much more likely to find full-time work after college after taking advantage of paid internships while in college, they can also make use of summer work to defray the costs associated with college. Any program that works with the local business community to create such opportunities will produce better results and retain more students after graduation.

8. Borrow for need only — Best advice is to borrow only what you need and avoid private loans if you can. After college, income-driven repayment plans and student loan refinancing are two options that can help you manage your student loans. The former can lower your monthly payments, and the latter can save you money in interest (sometimes lowering your monthly payments), and potentially decrease the time it takes to become debt-free. Both can be good choices for borrowers, but each has some downsides too. Here’s a look at when to choose each strategy.

Each of the cornerstones helps improve outcomes for students. A promise can mean a lot of things, including the promise to help young people blaze that trail both to and through college. Below are also 10 ways to save.