Financial Aid 101
One of the first questions people ask when considering going or returning to school is, “How much will it cost?” Many students worry that tuition and other costs make higher education or a career change out of reach. But don’t let the potential costs stop you! Cost is only one part of the picture. Most students receive some kind of financial aid, and schools have entire departments dedicated to helping students afford a brighter future.
While many schools offer financial aid, navigating this landscape can be very difficult for those unfamiliar with the territory. Any school worth its salt will have a financial aid department and/or representative ready to help students answer questions about cost and government aid, but what kinds of questions should you be asking? In this article, we’ll ask and answer some of the most common- and difficult- questions regarding financial aid.
Does your school offer financial aid?
This should be the first question you ask of a potential school. Will you be able to apply for financial aid or will you be paying for your education out of pocket? Most schools, including Galaxy Medical College, offer financial aid through Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. This aid is obtained by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. You can do this online at fafsa.gov.
For students at Galaxy, our financial aid team is available to assist in completing the necessary applications and paperwork and we participate in the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Loans (both subsidized and unsubsidized), and the Federal PLUS Loan. More about these and all financial aid options offered by Federal Student Aid can be found on their website here.
What are the requirements for financial aid?
The eligibility criteria for financial aid can differ depending on the source, but the basic criteria for federal aid requires that the student must:
- demonstrate financial need (for most programs);
- be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen;
- have a valid Social Security number;
- be registered with Selective Service, if you’re a male (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25);
- be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program;
- be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds;
- maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school;
- sign the certification statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) stating that
- you are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money on a federal student grant and
- you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes; and
- show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career school education by
- having a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate;
- completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law (or—if state law does not require a homeschooled student to obtain a completion credential—completing a high school education in a homeschool setting that qualifies as an exemption from compulsory attendance requirements under state law); or
- enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting one of the “ability-to-benefit” alternatives described below.
How much money will I get?
This is a dangerous question. Students applying for financial aid should remember they aren’t “getting” any money. They are borrowing money. With the exception of some grants and scholarships, financial aid money must be paid back. Although interest rates are low on this type of loan, the money is not yours to keep.
How much money do I need?
A critical element of research before selecting a school and accepting financial aid is learning your earning potential. You should ensure the cost of school is reasonable compared to your earning potential in your future career. Essentially, you want to make sure your future salary will cover any student loan payments and living expenses after graduation.
An easy way to do this is to shop around! Research schools and tuition costs, and learn your future earning potential depending on your chosen career path. You can find average salaries and job outlooks for many positions with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook here.
As you search for the right school and the help paying for it, please also remember:
- Don’t Pay for Help to Find Money for College: Commercial financial aid advice services can cost well over $1,000. You can find all the information you need for free online. Start with the Federal Student Aid website here.
- Don’t Pay for the FAFSA: Several websites offer help filing the FAFSA for a fee. These sites are not affiliated with or endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and many of them are actually scams or identity theft operations.
Have a question not answered here? Let us help! You can always call Galaxy and ask to speak with a financial aid representative at 818-509-9970 or fill out our contact form here and we’ll reach out to you.