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COOL AID: Paying for college in the US is expensive, grants and scholarships students need

 Ann Carrns
Ann Carrns
Posted on 13 Feb 2024
10:34 AM


Q Why is college so expensive in the United States?

Higher education is costly for a lot of reasons. For starters, professors are highly educated and colleges must pay competitive salaries to attract good ones. Colleges also employ administrators to run career offices and other student services, and to make sure the school complies with laws — such as Title IX, a federal civil rights law that requires colleges to provide equal opportunity to women and men in sports, among other things.


At the same time, colleges compete for prospective students with perks like well-appointed gyms, cafeterias and comfortable dorms. State financial support for public colleges tends to shrink when the economy suffers, so many have had to increase tuition and fees to cover costs (although state support is rebounding).

Q What types of assistance are available to students?

The federal government offers three types of financial help to college students: grants, which are gifts that you don’t have to pay back; student loans, which you must repay; and work-study money, which you earn from part-time jobs while you attend school. Many states also offer their own loans, grants and scholarships, and colleges and private groups offer financial help as well.

Q What factors determine how much aid I receive?

Estimating how much aid you qualify for can be complex, but the two most important factors are your academic track record and the amount you can afford to pay, which is based on your family’s income and other financial resources. Some private colleges also increasingly weigh not only how much families are able to pay, but also how much they are willing to pay.

Federal college aid is largely based on financial need, as calculated by a form called the Fafsa, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Colleges and private groups may also help based on need, and they may give out merit aid or financial assistance based on your grades or your talent in sports or other activities. Many nonprofit groups also offer scholarships, and typically set their own rules for choosing recipients.

Q Is Fafsa given to international students?

Under non-US citizens, there are a few criteria deemed fit for Indian-
origin students, like if they applied for citizenship recently or their parents are working in the US or have employment authorisation. Only under these cases can Indian students apply for Fafsa.

Q What is the CSS Profile? Do I need to fill that out?

Maybe. The CSS Profile is a lengthy form that students complete to seek financial help for college, but it’s different from the Fafsa, and whether you have to fill it out depends on where you apply. Not all colleges use the CSS Profile, but several hundred — mostly private colleges and universities — require it to assess whether you qualify for institutional aid, meaning the school’s own money, rather than government help.

The College Board, the private group that oversees the SAT, administers the form. Be prepared: it asks even more detailed questions than the Fafsa and it’s not free. It costs $25 (about Rs 2,000), plus fees for each additional school you select to receive your form, although you may be able to have the cost waived based on your income.

Many colleges provide institutional financial aid to international students. Check out participating institutions of College Board to see if your college accepts CSS Profile for international students.

Q What is a grant, and what kinds of grants are available?

A grant is financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid and is often given based on a student’s financial need. The US government offers several types of grants, including Pell Grants, which are only for US citizens. There are international grants — such as those offered by the Aga Khan Foundation — for Indian students. Some colleges also have their own grant or scholarship for international students.

Q What is the difference between a grant and a scholarship?

Like grants, scholarships are also a type of gift aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. But scholarships are often given for classroom achievements; some states, for instance, may make them available based on your high school grades or your scores on the SAT or ACT. Companies and nonprofit groups may give scholarships based on your success in various activities, your interest in a certain career or your background.

q Where can I find information about scholarships?

Start by checking with the financial aid offices of colleges to which you apply. There
are also many online scholarship search sites, such as from the US Labor Department and BigFuture.collegeboard. org from the College Board. Just be sure you are looking at a legitimate site. Be sceptical if an application has a fee; you shouldn’t have to pay to apply for a scholarship.


Last updated on 13 Feb 2024
10:43 AM
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