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Wednesday, January 6, 1999

Financial Aid Workshops Presenting Financial Aid Information and Resources to Students and Their Parents of All Income Levels

SALISBURY, MD--High school seniors and their parents are deeply involved in preparing for college this winter, but many of them will not spend enough time investigating ways to pay for a college education. The Financial Aid Office at Salisbury State University, a participant in the national campaign "College is Possible," wants to emphasize the affordability of higher education for families who take advantage of all available avenues for financial aid.

Financial aid includes scholarships, grants, loans and employment, all of which help cover the cost of tuition and other college expenses. Some $60 billion is available annually from federal, state, local and institutional resources, and seven out of 10 students qualify for financial aid. "College is possible, if you take advantage of all of the people out there who understand the process and can guide you through it," said Beverly N. Horner, financial aid director for SSU.

"Dr. Holloway's breadth of experience in higher education, his wisdom and caring, and his wonderful optimism and sense of humor have endeared him to all of us at Salisbury State University," said President William C. Merwin. "He has been a true friend and supporter and Bowie State University is indeed privileged to have him as its interim president."

More than 1,200 institutions in the Coalition of America's Colleges and Universities are partnering with the U.S. Department of Education in the College is Possible Campaign, building awareness nationwide of the financial resources that make higher education affordable. The campaign kicked off in Washington last fall, and will continue until the year 2000.

The American Council on Education (ACE), located in Washington, is spearheading the effort.

An American Council on Education survey last year found that parents tended to overestimate the cost of college -- sometimes by as much as 200 percent -- and to underestimate the grants, scholarships and loans available to cover the cost. The danger is that many young people may miss out on the opportunity for a college education because they simply don't know how to pay for it. Children whose parents didn't attend college, who come from low-income families or are minorities are considered particularly at-risk for not having adequate information about the range of options and sources for help.

In fact, Marylanders have access to a vast array of financing tools, including the underutilized Guaranteed Access Grant, which awards up to $8,300 a year for four years to students from very low income families who graduate high school with a GPA of 2.5 and maintain a 2.0 GPA in college.

While many scholarships and grants are based on need, others take into account a student's academic and extracurricular achievements, or target students studying a particular discipline like nursing or teaching.

Financial planning for college should begin early, of course -- even as soon as a child is born. A financial planner can work with parents to determine how much they should save or invest, and for how long, in order to prepare for the cost of a college education. Plans should take into account the educational future of every child in the family. By the senior year of high school, they should know how much money they'll have, and discuss with their child which colleges are affordable and what additional financial aid the student will need to pursue. Throughout the ninth- to 12th-grade years, students should take the most challenging courseload at which they can succeed, and be involved in the school and community in leadership roles, Horner says. A lot of colleges use those to determine which of the qualified students is best suited for ascholarship.

During the junior year, fill out a few scholarship forms for practice so you'll know the information that is needed and can work on your essays. Search the Internet for scholarships by visiting sites established by colleges and universities, or resources like www.FinAid.com and the coalition's special Web site, www.CollegeIsPossible.org. The U.S. Department of Education offers a toll-free information number, 1-800-433-3243.

Between January 1 and February 1 of their senior year, students and their families must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, used to determine eligibility for federal, state, local and institutional financial aid. Students should meet with their high school guidance counselors to learn about local scholarships and contact the financial aid office at the college they plan to attend to find out about scholarships and Work-Study opportunities


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