Many states offer programs that encourage their students to stay in their home state to attend college in the hopes that they’ll also stay there after graduation and contribute to the state’s economy.
For students in Louisiana, the cost of a college education is a real concern; even though the average in-state tuition is only $6,292, the median household income in the state is only $45,652. Thankfully, there are many options to fund their higher education for Louisiana students looking to stay close to home.
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Getting Financial Aid for School
A wide variety of financial aid possibilities exist; in order to take advantage of them, you’ll first need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as a FAFSA. The FAFSA is a very detailed online application that helps give the federal government—as well as the colleges you’re looking at attending—what you and your family’s financial picture is, and how much aid you’ll need to pay for school.
In order to fill out the FAFSA successfully, you’ll need to compile some documentation, including your last tax return and that of your parents, proof of citizenship or legal residency in the United States, and a list of the colleges you’re considering. You’ll also need information on your bank accounts, cash on hand, and financial obligations such as your parents’ mortgage, any rent you may be paying, and other loans or bills you’re currently responsible for.
Your FAFSA information will be calculated, and you’ll be provided with a Student Aid Report, which is also forwarded to your prospective colleges. In it, you’ll see a number called the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. While it’s not a set-in-stone number of how much you have to pay in order to go to school, it’s an expectation of the level of contribution you and your family are considered able to fund.
Each school publishes their Cost of Attendance, or COA, each academic year, and the total includes everything from tuition to room and board, books and fees for attending. That COA, minus your expected family contribution, serves as the total of your financial need, and the school’s financial aid administrator will compile a package of student loans and grants in an effort to make up that amount of need. Anything left over, however, is your responsibility, and there are ways to cover that difference.
Louisiana Student Loans
LELA, or the Louisiana Education Loan Authority, was a state-based agency providing student loans to Louisiana students. In 2010, however, the president signed into law a new initiative that reorganized state-based loans under the federal government, effectively ending many types of student loans previously offered by specific states. LELA is now a clearinghouse for information on federal loans and those looking to get help understanding the federal student loan process.
There are, however, still lenders in Louisiana that offer funds for education in the form of personal loans. While they come with fewer perks and benefits than their federal counterparts, for Louisiana students who need to cover an educational cost shortfall, they’re a potential option.
Louisiana Federal Credit Union
LFCU doesn’t offer specific student loans, but it does offer personal loans that can be used to pay for tuition. While interest rates on its tuition loans vary based on creditworthiness, term, and payment schedule, the starting interest rate is 7.25% APR. If you’re a college freshman or have limited credit history, you’ll need a qualified cosigner in order to be approved.
Louisiana USA Federal Credit Union
LAUSA also offers personal loans which can be applied to educational costs. Rates for a LAUSA education loan start at 7.5% APR for a term up to 2 years and are based on credit and payment history. This kind of loan can be expensive, and unlike federal loans, there is no grace period before repayment; you’ll need to start making payments on the loan immediately—even if you’re still in school.
La Capitol Federal Credit Union
La Cap, as it’s called, offers a wide variety of terms and limits in their personal loan products. All facets of the loan are determined by creditworthiness and balance of any accounts with the credit union. For a $10,000 loan, the minimum interest rate is 6.99% APR, with a term up to 4 years.
Louisiana College Scholarships
If the idea of owing money after graduation doesn’t appeal to you, you could consider applying for scholarships. Scholarships are basically free money—you don’t need to pay them back, and you can often be awarded several of them. There’s one caveat, however; you’ll need to compete for them.
The two most important things to remember when applying for scholarships are to pay attention to deadlines and ensure that you’ve followed all of the application instructions to the letter. No matter how deserving you may be, if your application is late or incorrectly submitted, you can be sure that it’ll be set aside.
The Taylor Opportunity Award for Students
The Taylor Opportunity Award is Louisiana’s main state-based scholarship. It offers four tiers of award based on academic performance. There is no application needed; if you’re eligible, you’ll be notified by your school.
The Rockefeller State Wildlife Scholarship
This scholarship gives $2,000 per year to an undergrad or $3,000 to graduate students studying marine biology, wildlife, or forestry. You must be an in-state resident, attending a Louisiana college, and maintain a GPA of 2.5 or better as an undergraduate. The deadline to apply is July 1 preceding the academic year you wish to be considered, or December 1 for the spring semester.
Horatio Alger State Scholarship
For students in Louisiana who have demonstrated the ability to overcome adversity, the Horatio Alger State Scholarship offers $10,000 to undergraduate students with a GPA of 2.0 or better. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2019.
Chafee Educational and Training Voucher
The Chafee scholarship awards up to $5,000 to students who have been in the Louisiana foster care system who are pursuing technical or skill training at a vocational or community college. They can be majoring in any field and there is no minimum GPA. Deadlines vary based on the school and program.
Louisiana Grants for College
Grants are like scholarships in that they don’t need to be paid back after graduation; they differ, however, in that they are generally given based on financial need as opposed to academic scores, achievement, or membership in a specific demographic. There are several grants for Louisiana students in a variety of situations.
Louisiana GEAR UP
This scholarship is federally funded for Louisiana students coming from a high-poverty high school. There is no essay required and no minimum GPA. The deadlines vary by school, and the award amount is based on financial need.
This grant is often offered as part of a financial aid package after successful FAFSA completion, so there is no specific application needed.
The GO Grant is part of the state’s financial aid plan to help financially needy students reach their educational goals. There is no minimum GPA or test score, and no essay required. Any major or field of study is eligible. Students must file a FAFSA and receive a Pell Grant.