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Cost Of College

February 15, 2009, 9:55 PM by Don Jorgensen

There may be some good news for college bound students next fall. Experts say because of the economy, a lot of students may qualify for more financial aid than in past years.

As we all know the cost of college is on the rise. Many families wonder how they're going to afford to pay for it, especially during a recession. 

"There's a lot of doom and gloom out there in higher education, as well as everywhere else, but I guess I wouldn't paint that bad of a picture for higher education," Brenda Murtha financial aid director at Augustana College said. 

Brenda Murtha is the financial aid director at Augustana College. She says despite what you might here, all federal loan programs and grants are still available to college students.

Plus the stimulus package could help those students who qualify for federal Pell Grants. 

"They're talking about adding $400 to $500 hundred dollars to this maximum pell grant as a possibility, so that could help some of those lower income families, but on the other hand you're going to have more families that are needier I believe," Murtha said. 

That's because many parents have lost their jobs this past year and won't have the same income, so they might qualify for a pell grant this year. 

Murtha says if you did lose your job, you should document that on your FAFSA or Free Application for federal student aid application and estimate what you think you'll make in '09.

She says financial aid directors will take that into consideration when awarding financial aid packages for your student. 

"I expect we're going to be seeing a fair number of those as all schools will," Murtha said. 

There are also private loans available to college students too. But sometimes they aren't always the best deals. 

"They can be variable rates and because there's no guarantee from the government they actually are something the bank is loaning on their own so they can have their own credit criteria," Murtha said. 

Private loans usually require a co-signer and if mom and dad's credit is a little shaky, you might not get the loan.
Murtha encourages students to apply for as many scholarships as possible. There are literally thousands of dollars awarded to students every year. There's usually a list of which ones are available posted on the school's web site. 

And although getting a college degree can be expensive and put a student in thousands of dollars in debt and sometimes drain bank accounts, Murtha believes it's all worth it. 

"Education is still the best investment you can make so I would not be screaming panic as far as I can't go to school or continue in school. Definitely check out higher education because that's the key to the child's future." 

To apply for aid online, visit the FAFSA Web site.

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