Paying for College and Keeping Debt Low

Paying for college is very expensive. Upon graduation from Western, a good majority of students will be in serious debt.

74% of WCU students receive some form of financial aid, which comes in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study. Nationally, only 69% of students attending public four- year institutions receive financial aid.

Both athletes and academics receive financial aid. Of the 5819 full time undergraduate students at WCU, 2967 receive financial aid. The majority of which comes in the form of loans. WCU students borrow an average of $8167 per year to finance their tuition, fees and the cost of living as a student. That figure is about $1500 higher than the national average.

Since grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, they are the primary form of financial aid one would want to search for when you wish to keep your debt low. A common misconception is that scholarships are only awarded for merit and to students who graduated top in their class. In actuality, there are scholarships available to students for anything, ranging from being too tall, left handed or being a vegetarian. Even companies like Tylenol and Discover Card are extending scholarships to students, and most corporate scholarships simply involve writing a good essay.

Another good way to keep post-college debt low is to borrow any loans one takes out directly from the federal government. Federal student loans are primarily need based, however they come at a lower interest rate than loans from banks. An added benefit is that they are long term and can be deferred until after college, so students need to make sure to fill out a FAFSA early this year.

Trina Orr, the Director of Financial Aid at WCU, recommends that students “apply early every year. Mar. 31st is the priority filing date.”

Also, to keep debt low, it is usually recommended to = only borrow what is needed.

“Borrow what you need to cover institutional charges. Monitor the cumulative amount borrowed in order to insure that you can handle loan repayments after you leave WCU,” says Orr.