As college costs rise across the country and here in South Dakota, it's becoming increasingly difficult for students to pay for higher education.
But there are resources to help students realize their dreams. College-bound students should always start by talking to their parents, but school guidance counselors have some of the best information on scholarships, grants and loans, we even went to a financial aid forum hosted by a local college, where we found out more about the many sources of money for school.
Roosevelt Senior Rachel Thornton is planning to go to college this fall, so she is already applying for scholarships. She says, "my mom finds a lot of them for me, so that's really helpful, she'll probably give me one every weekend to try to do."
Rachel's school counselor Kelly Jones says the senior has the right idea. Jones says, "now is the time to start working on financial aid."
Jones says there are plenty of free resources out there for students dealing with financial aid questions and she says now is the perfect time to take advantage of them.
Brenda Murtha is the Financial Aid Director for Augustana College. She says, "if they wanna go to college, we wanna give them information to help make that possible."
Murtha has hosted 12 free financial aid meetings for local students and parents. She says the most important thing they can do right now is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA uses parents' and students' tax returns to give need-based grants for college and Murtha says the sooner you fill it out, the better. She says, "there are some federal funds that do run out."
And even if you don't qualify for grants, there are federal loans you could qualify for. Murtha and Jones recommend students discuss public and private loans with their parents. Jones says, "just like any loan, being financially responsible, don't take out any they're not going to use."
Then Jones says students can look at work-study programs to help pay and, like Rachel, apply for all the scholarships you can find both locally and nationally. Jones says, "you may spend several hours filling out these scholarship applications, but if you get 100 dollars, 500 dollars, every little bit helps."
Rachel says, "it's been a lot of time, a lot of essays, but I think it'll be worth it," worth the extra work for some extra cash.
If you dig deep you can find scholarships from all sorts of places: local businesses, churches and of course, the colleges themselves.
But students and parents need to be aware, there are scammers out there. If someone asks you to pay for financial aid information, do not give them money.
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