The Department of Education Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance recently released a report entitled Early and Often showing the financial aid community what can be done to help students and families better prepare to pay for school. The report provided recommendations on what information students needed to know before deciding whether to attend college, when the students needed to know it, and how it could best be disseminated to students and their families, stressing four categories of knowledge that students need to make informed decisions about attending college.
Students need to understand:
- The benefits of higher education: Why go to college?
- The costs of college: What can you expect?
- How to pay for college: What's involved in funding your education?
- How to navigate the forms and processes involved: What exactly is a FAFSA?
The Early and Oftenreport states that this process needs to begin as early as the sixth grade to ensure that students and families have enough time to devise a strategy for getting into and paying for college.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, "Possessing timely and accurate information at each juncture of a student's college preparation timeline can dispel the hyperbole in the media and alleviate complexity, inform students of financing options, and ensure they make sound decisions."
The report asserts that "early information on the availability, eligibility, and variety of financial aid is essential to promote access and persistence. Every student should learn that funding an education requires a reliance on many sources: federal and state governments, institutions, private resources, and personal financial resources. Each of these sources can provide financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study opportunities.
Delivering information on the differences between need-based aid and merit-based aid will help students better predict which aid options will be available for them. Understanding the intricacies among such options is vital to successfully financing higher education."
Working with the strategies suggested by the Department of Education, websites such as Scholarships.com already provide the public with a wealth of free resources regarding a variety of financial aid.
By browsing our website's Resources section, students can find information in all four of the Department of Education's vital categories, especially paying for college and applying for financial aid. Additionally, our scholarship search can fill an important role, even early in the college planning process. Students can fill out a profile and conduct a free search, gaining valuable information on which scholarships may be available to them. This will help students get a better idea of how they will be able to afford college.
The full Early and Often report is available on the Department of Education website.
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