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Too rich for FAFSA, too poor for college

Olivia Lee, staff writer

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FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is used to determine the financial aid status of current and prospective college students. By taking into consideration many different factors that dictate these students’ eligibility such as parents’ income, number of people in the household, etc., FAFSA has proved to be a successful system for providing the aid needed by families of low income. However, with the price of college rising at significant rates, many would argue that FASA does not provide the means for middle class families to afford the same secondary education as those of lower income statuses.

Typically, middle class families earn too much money to receive grants or generous financial aid. However, even with the small amount of financial aid offered by FAFSA, many of these families are finding themselves incapable of paying the ridiculously high price of college, especially as this price of education continues to grow more and more each year. So in short, the middle class is essentially too “rich” for FAFSA but too “poor” to afford college. Many students faced with this dilemma are forced to take different steps in order to continue their education and reach success.

There are several different ways a student can face this tricky situation: some more smart than others. Many students think that taking out student loans will be an easy fix to all of their problems. However, this means of paying for college comes with its risks. In terms of students loans, there are two different kinds: subsidized and unsubsidized. Now, many students in this position may have already received both of these loans from FAFSA. Subsidized loans offer no interest seeing as though the Federal Government is paying for that interest. So basically these are the good loans. You can pay them off as you go without having to worry about your debt growing due to interest. FAFSA tends to be a little more generous with the amount of unsubsidized loans it offers to its middle class families. However, these loans acquire interest over time, so it is not wise to utilize them unless you know you have the means of paying them off. Keep in mind these loans are equipped with interest. This means that if a student were to take out the full amount of this loan as early as freshmen year, he/she may find the debt doubling by graduation from undergrad. Typically, middle class families are only offered a really small amount of both types of loans; unsubsidized being more generously offered than subsidized, so this still is not a means of covering the entire price of a college education.  Student loans can be nice and offer a helping hand in the price of college, but if not careful, they can stab you in the back and next thing you know you’re back at home living with your parents and working constantly to pay them off. Is it really worth it?

Now don’t start freaking out, there are other options to help achieve further education. Many students in this situation find it is in their best interest to start off at a community or junior college rather than starting out at a four-year university. This alternative is a cheaper way to access the same general education that all freshmen are required to take for an extremely lower price. The cost of these two-year schools is found to be much more reasonable. Students are then able to transfer to a four-year school after one or two years at a community college.

If community college isn’t right for you, then maybe an ROTC program might interest you. ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps. ROTC allows for college students to obtain a college degree for little to no cost. These are college-based officer training programs which allow for students to have the full college experience while working toward becoming an offer in the military after graduating. There are several different types of ROTC scholarships that vary from school to school. Typically, colleges will offer  two, three, and four-year ROTC scholarships. Depending on the scholarship, a student interested in joining ROTC will have to serve a certain amount of time as an officer in the military but will receive a reduced cost on either tuition, room and board, or both (again, this depends on the school and type of scholarship). Not everyone can receive an ROTC scholarship. In order to participate in one of these programs and receive financial aid from the army, a prospective student must apply before a certain deadline. Usually, ROTC scholarships will require its students to maintain a high GPA and demand physical fitness. This can also be an excellent option if the idea of attending a professional school after undergrad such as med school is desired. The army will pay for any professional school and allow for its ROTC participants to continue their education by postponing their time to be served in the military. This option is not for everyone but definitely one to consider.

ROTC scholarships are not the only scholarships offered to prospective college students. As many already know, there are millions of different scholarships out there. There is no limit as to how many one student can apply for. However, this option of aid is very competitive as many other students are applying as well. Because scholarships can be extremely competitive, there is no definite way to determine if a student will or will not receive a scholarship. Therefore, this method of putting money towards college is not always definite and should not be the main source relied on for money towards college.

Sometimes going straight into college after high school graduation isn’t the best plan for some students. Many students find themselves in a tricky situation in terms of paying for college and decide that a gap year is the best route for them. This offers students to take a year off from school and maybe focus on working and saving up money or just taking time to think and determine what their next steps should be. Many kids do not know what they want to do or study, so why waste the money to attend college? Instead, it might be best to take some time to think out what a future plan might consist of and determine the best and most cost efficient route towards achieving that plan.

FAFSA can be a helpful tool for college students in need of financial aid in order to access and continue their education. However, its amenities don’t always make the cut for many families especially those of the middle class. Due to this, it is important for high schoolers to understand that FAFSA may not provide for all of their financial needs and consider exploring their options if a four-year institute may seem out of reach.

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The student news site of Jacksonville High School
Too rich for FAFSA, too poor for college