October 14, 2008
Financial Aid Myths
Fact: College is expensive. At Case, however, we consider education to be an investment that everyone should be able to afford. In fact, with our comprehensive financial award packages, Case ranks 25th among best value schools in U.S.News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges 2009.
Here are some financial aid myths to avoid when applying and choosing your best college fit:
Financial Aid = Loans
False. We offer 50 percent of our admitted students merit scholarships, which are available to all applicants, regardless of income. The majority of awards range from 40 to 80 percent of tuition. Nearly all enrolled students receive some aid that doesn’t need to be repaid, such as a federal or state grant, a scholarship or a Case grant.
Going to a state school is cheaper
Not necessarily. It’s best to keep your options open until after you apply, visit schools and receive financial aid offers. Your cost will depend on your EFC, which is the same for all schools, public and private.
Learn more about financial aid, including some other myths here.
September 20, 2006
Keep your options open
Right about now you may be considering that long list of colleges you might apply to with an eye toward editing it down. You may decide to cut the ones that are too close, or too far away. Or too small, or too big. Whatevery you do, don't cut a school just because it's expensive. You may decide not to go there. You may decide you can't afford it. But you won't really know how much it will cost you until you get admitted, learn if you are eligible for scholarships, and see what the financial aid packages looks like.
I feel very passionately about this because I went to a private college. Not only was I the first person in my family to attend a private college, but I was part of the first generation of my family to go to college at all. My older siblings went to public colleges (not that there's anything wrong with that). Most people we knew were pretty sure that my mom and I wouldn't be able to afford a private education, but my sister convinced me to keep an open mind and see how the financial aid panned out.
In the end, it was going to cost just as much for me to go to a public college as a private one. Of the places I visited, the private college I attended was the college where I felt most at home.
I was reminded of all of this today when a colleague forwarded me the article A Little Learning Is an Expensive Thing. It makes some really excellent points. Like your family won't be paying for it yourselves, and you wouldn't like college if it was scrimping on facilities, and your future income will more than make up for educational expenses.
And then there is the acknowledgement that many students begin their adult lives in serious debt. Recently, my husband and I have been looking at houses to buy, so borrowing and affording have been hot topics of conversation. My mother in law brought up that favorite point of realtors: in a few years, your payment won't seem big anymore. You income will go up, inflation will go up, it'll start looking like a cute little sum next to, say, your gas bill. Student loans are the same way.
The other bit of wisdom we've been getting from my mother in law is to not be afraid to spend a bit more on something we will really be at home with.
That's definitely the case with education. Sure, the student loans seem eternal (their not), but at the end of it all, will you still be happy with your decision? I know I was because I went with the one that fit instead of the one with the lowest sticker price.
April 06, 2006
UGH! Its Thursday - Class > Work > Dinner > Study > Sleep
I used that "away message" just about every Thursday last year. Working was my favorite part of Thursday, so I thought I would take a moment to talk about one of my favorite things about financial aid- the Federal Work-Study Program.
Work-Study is an opportunity for students to work with a sponsoring department on-campus (there are a few programs off-campus) while going to class and participating in all of the other aspects of campus life. You get paid twice a month- by check, payment card, or direct deposit, and the money you earn goes directly to you NOT towards your student tuition account. Some families decide that the money earned should be used for personal expenses and books for the next semester while others feel that the student should put that money towards their directly billed expenses like tuition, housing, board, etc.
I am often asked what kind of jobs are available for students on-campus. The Office of University Financial Aid also supports the Office of Student Employment so I checked with my fellow counselor and Director of Student Employment, Susan Alexander. Susan told me that while many of the jobs are office-type jobs there are also jobs in research areas, campus life areas (like the Veale Center), and educational areas (like grading and tutoring). Currently, students may work up to 20 hours a week during school (the average is between 10-15), and the minimum wage on campus is $8.75.
I spent all four of my undergrad years at Case as a work-study student in the Office of University Financial Aid. Most of that time was spent as a receptionist, but I also spent a couple of summers here helping to write the online financial aid application and helping to map our office practices. During the last two years of undergrad I worked as a grader in the mathematics department. You may have already run into students with work-study in the form of our tour guides and other Case ambassadors. So as you can see, the opportunities are wide-ranging.
In the fall we offer a work-study job fair ("Earn While You Learn") in the Thwing Center that offers departments looking to hire work-study students the opportunity to get their job descriptions out to a large audience. Some departments interview and hire on the spot, and others create a mailing list of sorts that allows them to begin the selection process. In the past, there have been raffles and even entertainment during the fair. The work-study job fair is open to only students with work-study on their financial aid awards. The Office of Student Employment also maintains a book of job postings that students are welcome to explore.
It really is a worthwhile experience. Not only did I end up getting a full-time job at the place where I worked, but I learned important new skills, made new friends, and I always had the best financial aid award (Ok, no we don't do that!).
March 27, 2006
Financial Aid Award Status
So... the first big bunch of financial aid awards have gone out to admitted students, and we continue to work on awards on a rolling basis. If you haven't heard anything yet, don't worry- it shouldn't be much longer!
Now would be the time to get your tax documents in to our office. As a general rule, we need signed copies of your 2005 federal income tax return (1040, Schedules, W-2 forms) and your parents' 2005 federal income tax return (1040, Schedules, W-2 forms). If you did not work or did not file a tax return for 2005, we have a form that we call the Student/Spouse Affidavit of 2005 Income that should be completed and submitted in lieu of a tax return. Remember, your financial aid awards is considered "pending" until we receive and review these required documents.
As we complete the financial aid awards, they will be posted in your briefCase. We are also sending paper copies of the awards as well. briefCase is your online financial aid office. You probably already know briefCase as the site where you can complete our online financial aid form and receive a provisional financial aid award. Other features include: a section devoted to your application status, a work-study earnings report, and a place where you can check-out your tuition account balance.
Of course, for as much information as briefCase gives, you are always welcome to contact our office with any questions that you have.
February 17, 2006
FAFSA... when do you need it by?
Oh, you mean you haven't submitted your FAFSA yet?
Just kidding. You would be amazed at how many calls we get from high school students and their parents about this. We're now in what I would call the "sweet spot" of FAFSA filing. Many families are just completing their 2005 income tax returns and turning their attentions to the FAFSA, and we are getting ready to start our financial aid awarding. At Case, we do not have a filing deadline for the FAFSA. Now that's not to say that we will accept your application indefinitely, but we don't cut them off on, say, the 15th of February. So, those who haven't quite finished the FAFSA don't worry, but now would be the time to get out there and get it done! We can only award you need-based financial aid if we have a vaild FAFSA on file from the Department of Education.
Related Web Sites:
February 06, 2006
Super Bowl FA Live from Cleveland, Ohio
With the Steelers winning Super Bowl XL on Sunday, I couldn't resist the opportunity to draw the parallels between the big game and applying for financial aid at Case.
I really thought that coming to Cleveland as a Steelers fan would be tough. Growing up in Pittsburgh, you were taught to dislike Cleveland and especially the Browns. Believe it or not though, being in Cleveland for football season is actually one of my favorite things about Case. There are plenty of Steeler fans here, and, on Sundays, you get to boast about your team while some of your friends keep hope alive for next season (and that's just after week 1). I'm sorry, I couldn't help it. Now onto the financial aid...
Lately I have been receiving calls from parents and students asking me about the process of obtaining financial aid at Case. I like to think of the process as a scoring drive in football. I apologize ahead of time to those not familiar/interested in football.
Imagine being a quarterback with only minutes left in one of the biggest and most exciting games of your life. You know that if you score a touchdown the game will be yours.
1st Down & 10 on your opponent's 10: You have some room on first down. It's up to you. You really want to pass the ball, but if you want to you can handoff for some yardage. (Complete your FAFSA.)
2nd Down & 5 on the 5: You are almost there. Try for the touchdown. (Admitted students should complete the online Case Financial Aid Form/Financial Questionnaire... you will instantly receive a Provisional Financial Aid Award if you do.)
3rd Down & 2 on the 2: Since you made great progress on the first and second downs, try to sneak the ball in. (You have done the FAFSA and Case Financial Aid Form. You can expect an initial financial aid award mailed to you sometime beginning in March.)
4th Down & 1 on the 1: You have a good feeling about this one... Go for it! (Go for it!!! Confirm your enrollment and join us for Fall 2006!)
So there it is... a plug for the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers and an explanation of the financial aid application process at Case all in one!
January 25, 2006
Introduction to Financial Aid
One of the most mystifying aspects of the whole college admission process is trying to figure out how to pay for it all. Financial aid is complicated, detailed, and, at times, downright confusing.
I'm Casey and as a financial aid counselor at Case it is my job to help students and their families work though complicated financial issues, explain detailed account invoices, and complete the confusing forms.
Over the next few months I hope to keep you in the loop about the happenings in the financial aid office. If you have any questions (nothing too specific- remember anyone can read this!) about financial aid, the process, or Case in general (I am a recent Case grad), I'll answer them here for the benefit of all. And don't be afraid to ask 'cause I'll bet someone else has the same question that you do! My colleagues and I are excited to see what we can help clear up for you.
If you have questions that involve specifics that you don't wish to post, feel free to contact me via email.
August 31, 2005
Making Financial Aid Exciting
I've been working on a Financial Aid brochure and it's turning out to be a more exciting project than I though it could be.
On one level, it's just always exciting to be starting with a blank page and working on a challenging topic.
And then there is the topic: Financial aid is all about opening up educational possibilities to people who might not think they can afford it and creating the opportunity for upward mobility.
The people who most need financial aid are often the least savvy about the process -- parents who didn't go to college themselves, students who really don't know what's out there.
Sure, the process of getting financial aid isn't fun. In fact, it's about as close to a tax audit as you can get, and we all know that's worse than a root canal. But the outcome can really be awesome--getting an education to last a lifetime.