Paying for college can be stressful, and quite frankly, difficult. There are a few means available to help students with this requirement of their educational experience.
One of the first places students should consider looking is scholarships, although WCU’s deadline to apply was Feb. 1. Scholarship applications open annually on Oct. 1 when the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is available.
WCU students have access to many merit-based and need-based foundation scholarships and academic scholarships through the university’s scholarship portal, available on your MyWCU page. Just navigate to the bottom and click “My Financial Aid Status”, then the “Scholarships” tab.
Non-WCU scholarships, including scholarships.com and weirdscholarships.net, are available and listed online at https://www.wcu.edu/apply/scholarships/non-wcu-scholarships/index.aspx. Additional ones may be found as well. If you receive a non-WCU scholarship, you must fill out the appropriate form for WCU’s Financial Aid so it can be applied.
If scholarships are unavailable, students may need to resort to student loans for their education. Maggie Brostic, senior assistant director of Financial Aid, said students should first turn to federal loans if they need to borrow money.
Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans are offered through the U.S. Department of Education.
Subsidized loans are only available to undergraduate students and are based on financial aid as determined by the FAFSA form. While enrolled and during the six-month grace period following graduation, the Department of Education pays the interest. The responsibility then falls to students after that grace period.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans begin building interest after they are dispersed, but they are available to both undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need. The borrower is responsible for the interest. The FAFSA form is required to apply for direct loans and the school determines the amount a student may borrow for both subsidized and unsubsidized.
Brostic said there are yearly limits on the amount students may borrow, which are determined by grade year.
First-time borrowers must complete the Loan Entrance Counseling, where students learn about the terms and conditions of their loan and their rights and responsibilities. “You’ll learn what a loan is, how interest works, your options for repayment, and how to avoid delinquency and default,” Brostic told The Carolinian.
If you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment, you’ll need to do your Loan Exit Counseling, which will help you learn about your loan obligations and prepare for repayment. As you learn about payment after graduation, the Department of Education will recommend a repayment strategy based on your future plans and goals.
Direct loan repayment also begins when you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. The Department of Education will stop paying the interest on the subsidized loans and you will be responsible for paying that interest.
You can begin repaying unsubsidized loans while in school. Brostic explained this will lessen the borrower’s obligation post-graduation. To do this, contact your loan servicer.
One way to offset debt is to obtain a work-study position. This is a job for undergrad and grad students demonstrating financial need supported by the federal government. Contact WCU’s Financial Aid office for more information on work-study.
Parents and grad students needing additional loan support can apply for a federal PLUS loan or borrowers can apply for private loans. Private loans tend to have much higher interest rates, meaning more debt you are responsible for after the grace of graduation. Rates vary depending on the lender.
You can find your loan history, including the amount taken out so far, at www.studentaid.gov. Log in and navigate to your dashboard. Private loans will not be shown. Consider keeping track of your private lenders, and respective login information, somewhere safe.
For additional loan or student aid questions, visit www.studentaid.gov/help-center.
Brostic said the Financial Aid Office offers financial wellness and literacy to help assist students “in borrowing, budgeting, and loan repayment education.” Contact Financial Aid at (828) 227-7290 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Financial Aid Office is located in the Cordelia Camp building at the entrance on the right side near the bridge to Exxon.
The Western Carolinian would like to thank Maggie Brostic and the Financial Aid Office for helping with our story and providing students with this important information.