When students in Maine are exploring how they’ll pay for college, they’ll find plenty of options available including federal and state aid, as well as scholarships, grants, and student loan options.
Applying for scholarships and grants can take some time and research as they are typically competitive. That time is often well worth it, though, since students can graduate with less debt if they receive them.
After all, the average student loan debt for the Class of 2017 at colleges and universities in Maine was $30,321 with 59% of graduates having some amount of debt.
Getting Financial Aid for College
When a student in Maine begins to apply for financial aid, the first step is typically to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s a good idea to complete the FAFSA even if you aren’t sure if you’ll be seeking federal student aid because it’s often used for other loan programs, scholarships, grants, and for institutional financial aid.
The sooner you complete and file the FAFSA, the better, although it can’t be filed until October 1st.
The FAFSA can help a lender determine how much financial need a student has. First, the Cost of Attendance (COA) is determined at the school you want to attend. Then, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) can be calculated. This is the amount that students and their families are expected to contribute to the cost of education. This is based on the income and assets of the family, as well as the number of people in the family, and whether or not someone else from the family is also in college.
Financial need is then calculated as the difference between the Cost of Attendance and the Expected Family Contribution.
Maine Student Loans
In addition to federal loans, there are also state-based student loans available in Maine. State-based student loans are similar to federal loans, but may not have as many flexible repayment options.
Though the interest rates may be higher, state loans offer a good opportunity to students who have exhausted other forms of aid and still need help paying for college.
One option is the Maine Loan. The Maine Loan is designed as a way to fill the funding gap when other forms of aid don’t cover the full cost of education. The Finance Authority of Maine backs the loans. There are no guarantee fees and these loans are relatively affordable. Loan rates are very competitive and start as low as 4.99%. The Maine Loan ranges from $1,000 up to the cost of education minus other financial aid. Approval is based on credit and other eligibility criteria.
There are private student loans offered by Maine organizations as well, such from Maine Savings Federal Credit Union and Maine State Credit Union.
Maine college scholarships can be one of the best ways to cover the cost of education. Scholarships don’t have to be paid back, although credentials for getting a scholarship can be rigorous. To search for scholarships, students can look online, speak to a financial aid representative at the school they plan to attend, or contact any organizations they or their family members may be affiliated with.
A few of the many Maine scholarships available to students in the state include:
- The Maureen D. Keller Undergraduate Scholarship is available to students who are studying biological sciences or physical sciences. The scholarship amount is $1,000 and the application deadline date is May 20th. Students are required to be a legal resident of Maine and have a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
- The James and Marilyn Rockefeller Scholarship Fund is for Maine residents who are over 18 years old and who have completed the MaineCollege Transitions program.
- The Lou Fontana Scholarship Fund is open to undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Maine System working toward a teaching degree in Special Education. The scholarship amount is $750, and the deadline is March 3rd.
- The Maine Business & Professional Women’s Club Career Advancement Scholarship is for women who are at least 30 years old and who are enrolled in or returning to school. The scholarship amount is $1,200. The deadline is April 13th.
- The Main Legislative Memorial Scholarship Fund is from the Main Legislature. It is for Maine resident high school seniors, or postsecondary students accepted or enrolled in accredited Maine colleges. The 16 awards are for $1,000, and the deadline is May 1st.
Maine Grants for College
Grants and scholarships are very similar because neither have to be repaid. However, scholarships are typically need- or merit-based, while grants are generally only need-based. There are federal and state grants, as well as private grant programs open to Maine students.
The following are examples of Maine grants for college:
- The Educators for Maine Program is a state grant/loan that is merit-based and very competitive. It’s specifically an opportunity for students who are studying for a career in childcare or education and plan to work in Maine following graduation. Students must be Maine residents, have at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and they have to complete a full application including an essay. The maximum loan for undergraduate students is $3,000 annually for a total of $12,000. If you work at an eligible Maine school or child care facility, you will not have to repay the loan. If you do not, you will be charged a fixed 5% interest rate on the loan until it is repaid.
- State of Maine Grant Program is a need-based grant with a maximum award amount of $1,500. The FAFSA has to be filed by May 1st, and Maine students are automatically considered. The maximum EFC for an academic year is currently $4,500.
- The Alfond Leaders Program is a grant program that seeks to reduce student loan debt with loan repayment assistance to students who live and work in Maine and are in a STEM occupation.
- The Tuition Waiver Program for public servants is available to children or spouses of Maine law enforcement officers, firefighters, or emergency medical services providers killed in the line of duty. There is a specific application, and there also needs to be verification as to the relationship with the deceased person. There is no deadline to apply and the amount of the award is based on the tuition at the college or university attended.
There are many programs in Maine to help students cover the cost of their education. First, it’s important to complete the FAFSA. Beyond that, students in Maine should take the time to research the many state options available including state-based loans, grants and scholarships. Grants and scholarships are excellent ways to reduce student loan debt and cover the gaps in what’s needed for tuition versus what your family can pay.
Author: Ashley Sutphin
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