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Column: Tackling college affordability takes diligence

September 25, 2018

Fall classes began at Texas A&M University-San Antonio on Aug. 23, and we welcomed nearly 600 freshmen from all walks of life to campus. Before any of those students arrived, each had taken a unique path to become an A&M-S.A. Jaguar. Yet many of them faced the same major hurdle along the way — affordability.

For many families, the cost of college can be overwhelming, as it includes everything from tuition and fees to books, room and board, and transportation. High school students and their families, transfer students and even working professionals who are considering returning to college worry about covering the costs. Many do not know where to begin to address this issue.

At A&M-S.A., we recommend that incoming students take several steps:

Complete the FAFSA or TASFA. We strongly encourage students to complete a Federal Application for Student Financial Aid, or FAFSA, or Texas Application for Student Financial Aid, or TASFA. The federal government’s Pell Grant Program provides nearly $30 billion in aid each year to about 8 million students from lower-income families (mainly households with incomes below $50,000 a year). Financial aid applications, which typically consider a family’s prior-year income, help determine a student’s eligibility for other aid, such as scholarships, on-campus jobs and state grants. At A&M-S.A., incoming freshman who rank in the top 10 percent of their high school class are automatically eligible for the Top 10 Percent Scholarship, which awards the student $2,000 per semester and is renewable.

Deadlines matter, so do not be late. Financial aid deadlines are designed to help students get financial aid information before the start of the academic year. Generally, financial aid offices offer additional financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, and aid officers use the deadline to make the final determination for awarding money.

Keep searching. Some students make the mistake of stopping their search for financial aid after they are admitted to college. We encourage students to apply for scholarships before and after admission because scholarships are available continuously.

Tuition assistance programs. Many companies offer tuition assistance programs or scholarship grants to employees and their spouses or dependent children. We encourage parents to explore these opportunities.

Thousands of funding sources for college exist. Whether you’re a high school student, a college transfer student or a working professional, you must be willing to work with universities’ financial aid offices to understand and access those resources. Visit becomeajaguar.com to sign up for a campus tour or learn more about our admissions and financial aid.

Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Ed.D., is president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

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