In honor of Financial Literacy Month, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is dispelling commons myths about financial aid award packages. April is also the month when most higher education institutions send their award letters for fall enrollment, so test your college-cost savvy with these myths and facts:
Myth or Fact? It’s all free money.
Myth. Any money that helps you pay for college – whether grants, loans, or work-study – is considered part of your financial aid award. While some financial aid like Pell Grants only requires students to maintain certain attendance and academic standards, other programs carry additional requirements. Work-study awards must be earned through employment (usually 20 hours per week or less), and loans will need to repaid after students leave college.
Myth or Fact? If I borrow $20,000 in student loans, I’ll have to repay $20,000.
Myth. Loans generally will cost a borrower more in the long run than he or she receives up front. Some student loans accrue interest while borrowers are completing their degrees, increasing the total owed after college. After a student leaves school, interest will continue to accrue until the loan debt is paid in full or forgiven.
Myth or Fact? Students must take the loan amounts offered in their awards.
Myth. Students are not required to take all of the loans offered them. Calculate your true cost of college, rather than the school estimate in your aid award, and then work backwards to find the minimum amount you’ll need to borrow to get an education. Work with your institution’s financial aid administrators to determine what the right loan amount is for you.
Myth or Fact? Financial aid awards contain all the money available to help pay for college.
Myth. Students can continue to search and apply for outside scholarships after they receive their financial aid awards. In fact, they can apply for scholarships throughout their entire college careers! Families can also look to credit unions and private lenders to borrow private student loans, though private loans are only recommended after eligibility for federal student loans is exhausted.
Myth or Fact? Financial aid professionals are available to answer questions about paying for college.
Fact! Students and parents should feel comfortable asking questions of an institution’s financial aid administrators, even if they’re not sure whether they will ultimately enroll at that institution. Financial aid administrators want to help any prospective, current, and former students and their parents better understand college costs and make well-informed decisions for their college careers and futures.
The original NASFAA post can be found online at www.NASFAA.org.