Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fear Factor #3: Cost

“Honey we just can’t afford it right now.”

No student ever wants to hear these words, especially if it involves the crushing of a dream that they have had since childhood; the dream of going to college and getting an education.  This week, we’ll look at the cost of college and how to work around it so that you can pursue your dreams. 

Every year, students across the country do not get the opportunity to attend college because it’s just too expensive.  However, there are many ways to overcome these financial hardships. 

“I think that anytime someone doesn’t come to college because of finances, it’s because of a lack of knowledge of what is there and what the options are,” said University of Oklahoma Bursar Max Hawkins. 

Hawkins said that too many students look at their financial status and immediately get worried or scared about the prospect of paying for college and don’t fully research the options that are available. 

“I think sometimes they get scared; they get scared of finances,” Hawkins said.  “They are uninformed about finances and probably received some bad advice from people.”

These options that Hawkins speaks of stem from the all-important Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

“The first thing anyone should do when coming to college is fill out a FAFSA,” Hawkins said.  “That is the number one starting spot.  It doesn’t matter what your family income is, whether you think you’re going to be eligible for something or not, you should still fill it out.  It’s free and it doesn’t obligate you to anything.”

Pam McConahay, Associate Director for Financial Aid at the University of Oklahoma said that federal financial aid has only been around since the 1950’s.

“They [the government] established the National Defense Student Loan in 1958,” McConahay said.  “It was a result of the Russians launching Sputnik.  The United States thought that we weren’t training our students well enough and having enough students going into engineering so they created that loan program to get more students going to school.  Before that the only thing that they had was the GI Bill.”

McConahay said that scholarships are another great way to offset to expenses of college.  There are a lot of them out there and many that apply to very specific groups of people. 

“There are over 900 individual scholarship programs at the University of Oklahoma, some need based and some merit based,” McConahay said.

Students say that scholarships are definitely a huge help when it comes to offsetting the costs of college.

The majority of the cost of college is covered by a scholarship I received,” said Tom Pedersen University of Oklahoma accounting sophomore.  “My out-of-state tuition is waived, which makes coming to The University of Oklahoma much cheaper. What's not covered by scholarship, my parents pay for. I don't really have to worry too much about paying for college because my parents have been saving up for me to go to college for years. I'm mindful and grateful for their provision and try to keep my spending while I'm here down out of respect for them.”

Family saving is also a huge key as many parents anticipate this huge financial investment many years in advance. 

“I get money from an account that my grandfather set up for me when I was younger,” said Lauren Jackson, University of Oklahoma social studies education sophomore.  “It runs off stocks and bonds.”

The goal of the government is to have everyone in college who wants to be there.  The funding is available; it’s just a matter of finding it and applying for it. 

“It is never too late to apply for financial aid,” McConahay said.  “There is always some funding left.  It’s about making sure that people get an opportunity.”

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