All Students Want for Christmas is More Finanical Aid

"Dear Santa, Please send money!" created by K. Mudgett using Adobe InDesign.

For some students a letter to Santa won't be enough this Christmas.

With tuition on the rise, the amount of scholarships declining, and the difficulty for students to find jobs higher than it has ever been, Students are searching for ways to keep their heads above water.

And for many students, writing a letter to Santa will just not cover the amount of help they need.

It doesn’t help that in October the state of Michigan cut from the budget funding for the Michigan Promise Scholarship.  Which left an estimated 69,000 students looking to supplement that lost aid for this year.

Michigan State University’s Office of Financial Aid has seen an increase in the number of aid applicants.  “We usually see the aid applications grow 1 to 2 percent per year and as costs grow up that is normal.  This year we had about a 16 percent increase in just the number of applicants,” said MSU’s Office of Financial Aid Associate Director Val Meyers.

Meyers said that the Office of Financial has also seen an increase in the number of people asking for special conditions (where MSU re-evaluates their income for the current year rather than the previous).  This is typically used for when someone loses their job.  This year Meyers said that there were 3 to 4 times more people asking for special conditions.

“We spent $2 million to $3 million more in grant funds for those people.  We usually have some scholarship and grant funds we hold for emergencies but we spent all of it this year, every dime we could come up with,” said Meyers.  “We do get new funding every year.  We may run out again and because we can’t run on a deficit when it is gone it’s gone.”

So, what can students do to find funding no mid-year?  Well, Meyers is offering students some advice:

1- Talk to Financial Aid. – While they may not have all the answers for every student, Meyers says that they can help you evaluate your options.  Financial aid has numerous resources for information on loans and government programs.

2- Look for Private Scholarships – Look for scholarships given through your local community groups.  As well as any groups where you or your family are members.   There are many national Web sites, like FastWeb or Scholarships.com that offer a directory of scholarships.  These are great resources, but remember you should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship.  Be careful!

3- Look for Departmental Scholarships – These are usually saved for upperclassmen that have declared their major.  However, it is a place that students forget about.  Once you have declared a major, go to the department and ask about scholarships they may offer to their students.

4- Look for Loans – There are federal loans that offer students low-interest rates or deferment (don’t pay interest until you leave school) while students are in school.  To see if you are eligible for federal assistance students must file a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Also national banks and local credit unions may offer student loans with good interest rates.

Hopefully, these tips are helpful to students as they scramble to find aid.  Meyers also understands that many students are re-evaluating their future plans.  “I would hate to lose Spartans but for some students MSU is just not a fit for them,” said Meyer.

But she reminds students that loans that are deferred while students are in school will become due if the student drops out.

Whatever your situation the solution is unique to you.  Take the time over winter break to contact the Office of Financial Aid (they have to still be here), and to create a plan.

-K. Mudgett

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