MCC advisor: Start early for best prospects to secure financial assistance
College, however, isn’t cheap. According to the College Board, students can expect to pay an average of $8,655 in tuition and fees for each year at a public four-year college and $29,056 for the same at a private school. The average community college comes in at about a third the cost of public schools at $3,131 annually for tuition and fees.
The good news is help is available. Emily Varney, financial aid director at Mott Community College, said about 80 percent of MCC’s students receive some sort of financial aid.
She noted that while most high school seniors began their quest for financial aid for the fall semester in October, it’s not too late to begin the process.
The first step, Varney said, is filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. She noted that when she was an undergraduate it was an intimidating collection of complicated forms that took hours to complete, but now it’s been trimmed down to an online application that takes about 15 minutes to complete.
The same FAFSA form can be used to apply to as many as 10 schools. Varney said financial aid counselors are available at every MCC campus to help students regardless of which institution they ultimately pick.
She said those same counselors will also help students find free websites to help them find scholarships they might be eligible for. Varney said there are literally thousands of scholarships available ranging from one the Lapeer County Bar Association offers for Lapeer County students interested in a career in law enforcement to one offered by the Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Postmasters to the children and grandchildren of current and retired postmasters.
Many scholarships go underused. Varney said every college has scholarships of their own. Mott, awarded $110,000 in scholarships, not including athletic scholarships from its foundation last year alone.
Varney said one important thing to keep in mind is that legitimate scholarship programs do not charge processing fees.
Another important thing to remember, Varney said, is that more people qualify for student aid than apply for it. “Almost everyone qualifies for something,” she said.
While some student aid programs are need based, many scholarships are not.
She said students and their parents need to “pay attention and start early.” While the FAFSA form can be filled out anytime, the deadlines for scholarships vary.
The earlier a student begins the process, the better shape they’re going to be in when they start school in the fall. These days, Varney said, the hunt for college cash begins in October for graduating seniors.
“Most of the area high schools are very good about getting information to students,” she said.
She noted that for some students, the Federal Pell Grant program could cover the cost of attending a community college. The need-based program awards students who have not earned a bachelors or professional degree up to $5,730 annually.
In Michigan, students who have been on Medicaid 24 of the last 36 months are eligible for the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP). Mott is one of the participating community colleges in TIP and it covers basic tuition for eligible students.
Copies of “Affording College in Michigan,” put out by the state Financial Services Bureau, and “Funding Your Education,” put out by the U.S. Dept. of Education, are available at all Mott campuses.