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How To Pay For Nursing School

A record number of students are attending nursing schools today, many of them trying to figure out how they are going to pay for that college degree. The cost of tuition, books, room and board, and a computer can quickly add up, and most need help covering the costs. Regardless of how much you earn if you understand how to make the system work for you, paying for college can be easier than you ever thought possible.

Financial aid to meet a student’s educational expenses is available in four basic categories: scholarships, grants, work study and education loans. Most students finance their education through a package combining aid from several categories.

1) Scholarships are awarded based on special ability, academic achievement (in traditional or online high school diploma programs--or post-secondary education), religious affiliation, ethnic background or special interest and they don’t have to be repaid. Scholarships come from many sources, but you may have to do some detective work to uncover them. Most states and many colleges offer scholarships, so don’t forget to inquire about them. College financial aid officers and high school guidance counselors can help direct you to resources outlining programs and requirements. Web sites are great places to look. This information should always be free. Fastweb, for example, offers a free scholarship search engine.

2) Grants are awarded based on need and, like scholarships, they don’t have to be repaid. In addition to state and institutional grants, there are two federal grants for which students can apply:

* Federal Pell Grants are awarded to part-time and full-time undergraduate students who show financial need.

* Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are a supplement to Pell Grants.

3) Work study is a federal program offering part-time jobs both on and off campus. The amount that can be earned is based on several factors, including need, other aid received and availability of school funds. Work study funds don’t have to be repaid because work is traded for hourly wages.

4) Education loans are funds borrowed from a financial institution or federal or state government. Education loans must be repaid. There are at least three types of education loans:

* Federal Perkins Loan is a federal loan program administered by colleges. It is available to both undergraduate and graduate students and based on need and the availability of government funds. The annual interest rate is 5 percent and repayment begins nine months after the student leaves school or drops below half-time.

* Federal Stafford (student) Loans and Federal PLUS (parent) Loans. They are available through financial institutions such as U.S. Bank that participate in the FFEL program or through the federal government in the direct loan program. Currently rates are as low as 2.82 percent for Stafford loans and 4.22 percent for PLUS loans, with maximum annual interest rates of 8.25 percent and 9 percent respectively.

* Financial institution (or “supplemental”) loans are for students (or their parents) who attend participating colleges and graduate schools. They are not based on need.

So how can you obtain financial aid for nursing school? Adults planning on attending college need to be extra careful or you’ll pay through the nose! In order to receive financial aid, you must apply each year that you are in college. Scholarships and grants are the best types of financial aid, because the money never has to be repaid, so you should try to get them first. Check with a high school guidance counselor or online to find out about organizations offering scholarships.

Next, complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It determines how much money you and your family must contribute each year toward college costs, as well as the types and amounts of financial aid for which you are eligible. The financial aid package awarded will include one or some combination of federal, state or institutional grants, scholarships, work study, or education loans.

**Many families incorrectly assume if they own a home or have a six-figure income they won't qualify for financial aid. Everyone including you is eligible to receive some form of financial aid. However if you fail to complete the FAFSA correctly the first time you could lose your financial aid and you'll jeopardize receiving free college scholarships. If you do complete your FAFSA but make mistakes the consequences can literally be devastating to your financial aid package. Don't Let FAFSA Mistakes Happen To You!

Finally, if grants, scholarships, work study, and government loans don’t cover expenses, you may apply for a low-interest private education loan.

Luckily, virtually anyone who wants to go to college can go, regardless of family income. The key is to apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible and apply for financial aid as early as possible, since most financial aid is awarded on a first-come first-serve basis. One last thing -- even if you think you won’t qualify for financial aid, try anyway. There may be more options than you think.

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