Myth Buster: College is More Affordable Than You May Think
One of the myths that might discourage students from attending college is that tuition costs are out of reach.
The reality is students can receive a combination of federal and local grants, loans, work-study programs and scholarships to make the investment of a college education affordable. Some 89% of UOG students take advantage of financial aid, receiving an average of $4,600 in Pell Grants, $6,100 in federal loans, and $10,100 in local financial assistance.
Federal Student Aid, authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, is a program that offers financial assistance to students attending college. At the University of Guam, federal student aid available to students includes the Pell Grant, Federal Direct Loans, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, the TEACH Grant, and the Federal Work Study Program.
The Pell Grant is awarded to undergraduate students by the U.S. federal government and pays up to $5,920 (2017-18 award year). Over 1,800 UOG students were awarded the Pell grant in 2016-17.
Another grant that is available is the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. This grant is available to students pursuing a degree in teaching in a field designated as high-needs by the Guam Department of Education, including science, math, foreign language and special education.
The University of Guam also offers a number of locally funded programs under the Student Financial Assistance Program. These programs are funded through a separate appropriation by the Guam Legislature.
Mark Duarte, director of UOG Financial Aid Office, explained that the programs help produce professionals in areas of expertise that benefit the island, such as nursing, teaching and social work.
“Some of the local financial assistance programs are offered for students who are seeking graduate or professional degrees in areas beneficial to Guam, such as medicine or engineering. Other programs, such as the Health Professional Training Scholarship and the Yamashita Teacher Corps program, cover the entire costs for tuition and fees and provide students with a monthly stipend. Students pay back these programs through their service by working on Guam,” Duarte said.
The Merit Scholarship Program is another program under the Student Financial Assistance Program that offers a full-ride scholarship to the University of Guam. These awards are determined at the high school level and are granted to the top graduates of each high school graduating class on Guam. Recipients can expect to have all tuition and fees paid for a total of four years at UOG and they will also receive a monthly stipend and a book stipend every semester.
“The University of Guam also offers many private scholarships sponsored by organizations, and individual donors. These scholarships are usually small scholarships ranging from $250 to $1,000 and are generally open to all students attending UOG. This month alone, there are nine scholarships opportunities available for students. These small scholarships can help you pay your tuition or pay for supplies,” Duarte said.
Many factors are taken into consideration for eligibility. For the Pell Grant (money that students don’t pay back) income plays a major factor into eligibility. For student loans, while income plays a part in the calculation, the income threshold is set higher. In general, most students who do not qualify for the Pell Grant should qualify for the federal student loans. Federal financial aid is non-competitive, which means every eligible student can receive federal financial aid.
The application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is free and available as early as October of the prior year before a student starts
school. For example, if the student will start school in Fall 2019, the FAFSA will
be available to fill out as early as October 1, 2018. Duarte recommends high school seniors apply by the end of the year before they graduate.
The application process is easy, and there are detailed instructions for each step, as well as online help. Before beginning the application, students must create an FSA ID (go to https://fsaid.ed.gov) and will need their previous year’s tax return, W-2 forms, and current bank statements. A parent FSA ID is only required if the student is a dependent. A dependent student will need their parent’s tax return and W-2 forms.
“For everyone else, the earlier the FAFSA is filed, the more time we will have to review and notify students should additional documents be required or if any errors need to be corrected. The Financial Aid Office is responsible for reviewing and verifying information that is submitted by the student and in most cases, that will take time. So if a student is starting school in the fall semester and they are only filing their FAFSA around the same time, they will not be able to get their financial aid until much later in the semester,” Duarte said.