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Students in Arizona have various funding options for attending college, including scholarships, grants, student loans, and state-specific programs. Of course, federal student loans are also available to Arizona students.
It’s important for students in Arizona to be strategic in how they pay for their education. In Arizona, an estimated 885,000 people owe more than $22.6 billion in federal student loans, according to White House statistics. And, 54% of Arizona college students borrow by graduation with an average balance of $23,913.
In recent years there have also been moves in the state to cut university funding by 13 percent, which means that students may be borrowing even more.
Getting Financial Aid for College
When you’re preparing to apply for financial aid in Arizona, the first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s important to complete it as soon after Jan. 1 as possible. The FAFSA is used by colleges to determine not only eligibility for both federal and state aid, but also to determine your Expected Family Contribution. Colleges also use the FAFSA when they’re determining eligibility for aid that will come from their institution.
Once a student completes and files their FAFSA, they can start looking for scholarships and grants and applying for those as well.
When a student completes the FAFSA, a formula is used to determine how much the student or their family can pay out of pocket. Then, the college subtracts the Expected Family Contribution from the annual cost of attendance, which includes tuition, books, supplies, and living expenses. Then, financial need is determined.
Beyond income, considerations that go into calculating the Expected Family Contribution also include family size and how many other people in the family might be in college at the same time.
Arizona Student Loans
State-based student loans are provided by organizations based in Arizona. They are usually available from non-profit lenders that are related to the state, and they’re similar in most ways to federal loans, especially with regard to rates and terms. Arizona student loans tend to have higher borrowing limits than federal loans, however.
One option is Arizona Student Financial Aid Programs. Within these programs, there are options like Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (AzLEAP), a state-based program that includes partnerships with institutions. AzLEAP provides need-based grants to low-income Arizona resident students who have “substantial financial need.” The maximum award is $2,500 per academic year.
Arizona Student Financial Aid Programs also include the Arizona Teacher Student Loan Program. This is a need-based forgivable student loan intended to encourage students in Arizona to teach in public schools in the state. The maximum for this state-based forgivable loan is $7,000 per academic year. To be eligible, students must enter into an agreement with the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education. Under that agreement, students will have to teach in a public school in Arizona equal the number of years they received the loan, plus an additional year.
In our research, we found that private student loans are not available at nearly all of the banks and credit unions based in Arizona. To be specific, private student loans are not available at National Bank of Arizona, Bank of Arizona, Arizona Bank & Trust, Commerce Bank of Arizona, Arizona Federal Credit Union, OneAZ Credit Union, Arizona Central Credit Union, or Republic Bank of Arizona.
That said, there are a number of national private student loan companies, including Sallie Mae and Discover, who offer financing to Arizona residents and non-Arizona residents who are attending school in the state.
College Scholarships in Arizona
Every student should take the time to apply for scholarships because they don’t have to be repaid. There are a wide variety of scholarships available to Arizona students, from those for high academic achievers to those related to specific groups and organizations. Some students feel that if they’re not a star athlete or the top of their class, they aren’t eligible for a scholarship, but isn’t the case.
Students can search scholarship databases, and speak with the financial aid office at the school they plan to attend. It’s important to follow all scholarship application instructions carefully and to adhere to deadlines because the application process is often very competitive.
A few Arizona scholarships include:
- The Arizona Community Foundation, with more than 100 college available scholarships, is the largest provider of private scholarships in the state. While specific requirements vary, students start by completing a general application, and then they can browse what’s available.
- College Success Arizona is an organization that partners with non-profits as well as businesses to help provide financial support to students in the state. Again, scholarship opportunities vary, but some of the specific scholarship partners include the Helios Education Foundation, the Salt River Project, and Arizona Public Service.
- The American Legion Auxiliary Department of Arizona Nurses Scholarship provides $600 in funding. It’s available to applicants enrolled at accredited Arizona colleges and universities.
- For students who are pursuing a degree in social services, health science or education, the Anne Lindeman Memorial Scholarship by Northern Arizona University, with three $1000 awards given each year. Please contact Northern Arizona University directly for more information.
- There are also scholarship programs specific to Arizona campuses. For example, the University of Arizona has the Scholarship Universe that connects students with aid. There’s also the Arizona Excellence award for non-resident students.
- The Arizona Department of Education offers financial assistance to students who are high-achievers through their Arizona Board of Regents High Honors Tuition Scholarship (AIMS). Students must graduate from an Arizona high school and take certain courses while in high school. Students should have a GPA of at least a 3.5 or graduate in the top five percent of their class. They have to score at least a 1300 on the SAT or 28 on the ACT. If students can meet the requirements, they may be eligible for a 25 percent scholarship covering the costs of in-state tuition at a public school.
Arizona Grants for College
Along with federal and state financial aid and scholarships, Arizona students have several grant options. Grants don’t have to be paid back, much like scholarships. However, a grant is a type of financial aid often administered by the government. In comparison, scholarships are usually given by individuals, non-profits, and businesses.
The following are some Arizona state-funded grants:
- The Postsecondary Education Grant (PEG) is not a need-based grant. It’s for students who are attending a private baccalaureate degree-granting institution in Arizona. Students should complete the FAFSA, and the maximum grant is up to $2,000 per year for four years. The grant has to be repaid if the student doesn’t receive a bachelor’s degree in five years. At the time of publishing, this program is currently suspended, but may be available again in the future.
- Mesa Community College’s American Indian Institute offers a variety of options to pay for education that don’t have to be paid back.
- The AzLEAP Grant provides up to $2,500 per year to low-income students and is need-based. It’s only for undergraduate students, although half- and full-time students can apply.
- The Arizona College Access Aid Program (ACAAP). This is for low-income Arizona students who are pursuing their undergraduate education. It’s need-based and grants up to $2,000 are available annually. Students are eligible if they’re pursuing their associate’s or bachelor’s degree, but it’s not open to first-year students. At the time of publishing, this program is currently suspended, but may be available again in the future.
Arizona students have access to a wide variety of financial aid, scholarship and grant options. They should still be proactive and start searching as early as possible because many of these funding opportunities are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis and are very competitive.
Author: Ashley Sutphin