While the focus for many students right now is planning for and paying for the next year of college, some students are still struggling with bills from the current or previous semester. An e-mail survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reports a perceived increase in unpaid tuition bills in the 2008-2009 academic year. While being caught short on one semester's tuition can seem stressful enough, it can carry serious consequences for college students.
For students with the funds to easily cover tuition, either through family income, college savings plans, or financial aid awards, the figure on their bursar bill may be unpleasant, but it is soon forgotten. However, carrying a bursar balance--in some cases, even a small one--can cut off your ability to register for classes, request transcripts, and even graduate, among other consequences. Students who are unable to pay for a semester by the school's deadline may even find themselves dropped from their classes and kicked off campus. These consequences can essentially derail your education, and many students who take a semester off from college to save money and pay off bills never go back to finish.
Luckily, as Kim Clark stresses in an article on the subject in U.S. News and World Report, universities are willing to work with students to keep them enrolled and get their bills paid, especially in the current economic climate. Many schools are establishing or adding to emergency loan and grant funds to help students stay in school. Federal student financial aid is also still available mid-term. You can still complete the FAFSA for 2008-2009 anytime before June 30. Even if you've already applied for the current year, talking to the financial aid office could still come through big time, especially if your circumstances have changed. Federal grants, as well as some campus-based programs may be available to students whose family contributions have significantly dipped. While Clark's article emphasizes the surprising success networking and asking family for donations can bring, conducting a scholarship search may be a safer bet. Most importantly, be sure to stay in communication with your school. You may have to deal with three different offices on campus, but don't get discouraged. The process may be more streamlined than you'd expect. It is possible to stay enrolled regardless of the financial troubles you're facing.
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