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ABC 7 Chicago: College Financial Aid Tips for Parents and Students

3/11/2013 11:00 AM

To watch the story, visit abclocal.go.com.

March is the month that Illinois MAP grant funding typically runs out, so it's important that parents and students fill out financial aid forms immediately in order to qualify for the most money possible.

Financial aid isn't the only thing that needs to be considered. The average graduate of a bachelor's degree program has to pay back $26,600 in student loan debt! But there are alternatives and parents/students should think carefully about what they can afford. 

Tips on filling out financial aid forms
  • Download a FAFSA form-it is free to fill out and can provide thousands of dollars in grants for qualified students.
  • You will need your tax return from last year, social security numbers, pay stubs, etc.
  • Do it now even if you're not sure what college you want to attend. Illinois MAP grants are first come first serve so you need to apply soon to get that funding.
 
How do you decide what you can afford? Private and even large state colleges can cost $20-35K each year. Some questions to ask
  • What other costs do I need to add to the cost of tuition? 
  • Will you need to pay for an apartment, books, fees, transportation to and from the college? Add that to the total cost.How much can you or your parent put towards college each month?
  • How much do you have saved for college?
  • How much financial aid will you receive (we discuss how you estimate this).
Student loans: when to use them and when to think about alternatives 
  • When savings and financial aid doesn't pay for college, many student turn to loans. Students are graduating with an average of $26,600 in student loan debt. But 53 percent of graduates with a bachelor's degree are unemployed or employed in a field that doesn't require a BA.
  • Student loans are not free money. You are responsible for paying back every penny of that debt so you must decide how much is too much. One good way to decide is by thinking about what you will do right after you graduate and how much money you would make in that job. Could you afford a $300, $400, $500 student loan bill every month and pay for living expenses?
  • There are ways to drive down costs including applying for scholarships, using Advanced Placement tests to get college credit, and attending a community college for a year or two before going to your dream school.
 
The community college option: students who go to a local community college for the first two years can save tens of thousands of dollars on the cost of bachelor's degree! 
  • City Colleges students save up to $40K on bachelor's degree by taking their first two years of classes with us. They take similar classes to those of their peers at four year institutions but for much less-about $289 per course.
  • The Illinois Articulation Initiative makes most general education classes fully transferable. This is true for all Illinois community colleges.
  • Most of our students pay for classes with grants or by working while in school-the majority of our students do not take out any loans. Community colleges make this possible wherever a student lives.
 

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