As many of you may know, Adult Financial Aid has been a hot topic in recent federal and state budget debates. These debates have left many of us wondering, “What is financial aid going to look like in the future?” I can’t speak for other schools, and I certainly do not profess to know exactly what is going to happen, but here are my thoughts and opinions on how Granite State College students may be affected.
With regard to State Financial aid, I believe we will see a cut to many of the grant and scholarship programs for New Hampshire. Governor Lynch proposed the elimination of the Post-Secondary Education Commission as a stand-alone agency. They are currently the ones administering the NH Incentive Grant. With the proposed elimination, it is unclear who, if anyone will be administering this program. There have been mentions of each state school receiving an allotment of funding to be used at the school level, but we have not received any official word as of yet.
We have been notified; however, that we will no longer have funding for the Unique Allocation Scholarship or the Unique Endowment fund. These funds will be re-directed to support public institutions of higher learning in New Hampshire.
In addition, Congress is still debating the proposed cuts to its budget as well. There have been talks of decreasing the annual Pell Grant allotment from $5550 (maximum annual award) to $4705 (maximum annual award). Senate is planning to vote on these proposed cuts this week, and if they are not passed, they will return to the drawing board until they can come to an agreement.
That being said, Granite State College is still able to fund the majority of our students using the Federal Aid Programs available to us. Because we are mainly an Adult and Continuing Education college and do not have the high costs of residential campuses, we will not be as heavily affected by these proposed cuts as some of the more traditional colleges in the area. We are confident that no matter what happens, we will have proper funding to assist our students.
There are, however, things students can do on their own to help supplement their educational expenses. Because we may have to use more Stafford loan money to cover the portion of charges typically covered by the State Grant Programs, Students should take a good, hard look at what they are borrowing. Students should keep a close eye on their outstanding loan debt by checking the National Student Loan Data System on a regular basis. This will allow them to track how much they have already borrowed and reconsider their borrowing habits. Another good tool to use is the financial aid loan payment calculator. This will give them an idea of what their monthly payment will look like once they have finished their program. These tools allow students to make informed choices as to how they want to spend their money and more importantly, what they can really afford.
Another option students should be aggressively pursuing is scholarships. It takes a little more leg work since most have an application and essay requirement, but with the cuts to many grant programs, this is another very feasible way to get free money for education.
Students can create a profile on a scholarship search engine which will then send them different scholarships that may be applicable to them. Another excellent scholarship resource for New Hampshire residents is the New Hampshire Charitable Fund. Specifically, the adult student aid program is designed for adults returning to school to upgrade skills for employment or career advancement. In addition, the statewide student aid program is designed for the traditional student in a four year baccalaureate program.
Keep in mind that not all scholarship opportunities are legit. Take a look at these Scholarship Tips to avoid being caught in the middle of a scam.
So as we move forward into the 2011-2012 financial aid award year, things are still very uncertain. Rest assured though, Granite State College will have aid to cover our students regardless of what happens with both the State and Federal governments.