While obtaining funding for college in New Mexico can be difficult, with a little creativity and hard work, paying for college is possible. By submitting your FAFSA and searching for alternative sources of funding, you can make sure that you can get your degree — while minimizing your debt.
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Without a doubt, college is expensive — and it has only become more so in recent years. That makes it difficult for most students to obtain a degree without taking out student loans.
There are a number of reasons why New Mexico has lower student loan debt than other states, from lower tuition costs to better funding options, including a state-sanctioned student loan foundation, and state-specific scholarships and grants. Keep reading to learn more about how you can pay for your New Mexico college education.
Getting Financial Aid for College
The process of getting financial aid for college can seem daunting, particularly if you are a first-time applicant. However, with a streamlined online application process and the ability to use one form for most types of financial aid, applying for financial aid is easier than ever.
The first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. As its name implies, this is a free application provided by the federal government for financial aid. Every student should prepare and submit a FAFSA, which is available starting on Oct. 1 for the current academic school year.
The FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for federal student loans and grants, and is also utilized by many colleges, universities, and private organizations for assessing need-based aid. The Department of Education will assess your FAFSA and make a determination based on your financial need. You will then receive a notice of eligibility that will list awards of grants and loans, including subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans.
The FAFSA is also used by many colleges and universities in determining financial aid. Once you have decided on a school, you should contact its financial aid department directly to determine if you need to fill out a different application to be eligible for financial aid. If so, complete those forms, being sure to follow all instructions and file the application by the deadline. The earlier that you submit this application, the better chance you will have of receiving financial aid, as many colleges have a limited amount of aid available
Finally, search for scholarships and grants from private organizations. Use online tools to find scholarships and grants that you are eligible for, and apply to them — even if they are only for a small amount. Because you will not have to repay these funds, they will help to reduce your overall student debt.
To determine how much financial aid you might receive from the federal government, you can use the FAFSA4caster, which is available on the Department of Education’s website. This tool can be used prior to submitting your FAFSA. While it will not be 100 percent accurate, it will give you a good picture of the amount of financial aid you can expect to receive.
You can also use the net price calculator that will likely be available on your school’s website. These calculators allow you to factor in scholarships, grants, and other financial aid to the cost of tuition and fees so that you can determine the true cost of attendance. This will allow you to estimate how much money you will need to pay for your college education.
New Mexico Student Loans
New Mexico does not offer student loans through the state. However, there is a student loan program that is designed specifically for students attending college in New Mexico, with benefits for students that may outweigh those offered by other private lenders.
The New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation (NMEAF) is a nonprofit organization that services federal student loans and offers private student loans to students enrolled in a college in New Mexico at least half-time. To qualify for the loan, applicants must submit to a credit check, and may require a cosigner to be eligible.
These loans are available in amounts from $1,000 to $20,000 per year, up to a total of $100,000. All loans have fixed interest rates, with three different repayment options. Interest rates for these loans range from 5.95% to 7.45% APR, which is higher than most federal student loans — but lower than many other private student loans.
NMEAF offers several discounts to borrowers, including rate discounts of 0.25% for making 24 consecutive on-time payments, for graduating, and for enrolling in automatic payments. There are three repayment plans: immediate repayment, which starts within 30 to 60 days after loan disbursement; interest-only repayment, with interest payments made within 30 to 60 days after disbursement; and deferred repayment, where students start payments six months after graduation.
To qualify, students must be a New Mexico resident or enrolled in a college or university in New Mexico. Applicants must also have a credit score of at least 680 and an annual income of at least $30,000, or have a cosigner who meets these qualifications.
New Mexico College Scholarships
Unlike student loans, college scholarships do not have to be repaid, making them a great way to pay for your education. Typically awarded based on merit, scholarships can be difficult to find, particularly if you are not a star athlete or at the top of your class.
However, there are a number of online search tools designed to help students find scholarships. Using these tools, you can enter criteria and determine if you are eligible for a particular scholarship — such as the following New Mexico Scholarship awards:
Bilingual Education Student Organization Scholarship: Amount Varies
This scholarship is available to full-time bilingual students who are pursuing a teaching career at Eastern New Mexico University. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and have graduated from a New Mexico high school. They must also be an active member of the Bilingual Education Student Organization, and must not be eligible for financial aid. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2019.
New Mexico Manufactured Housing Association Scholarship: Amount Varies
This scholarship is available to New Mexico graduating high school seniors residing in a mobile or manufactured home with a minimum GPA of 3.0. To qualify, students must be attending a non-profit educational institution full-time and write an essay describing their career goals. The deadline to apply is March 16, 2019.
New Mexico Scholars Program: Amount Varies
The New Mexico Scholars Program is available to students who graduate in the top 5 percent of their New Mexico high schools, or who score 25 on their ACT and are also a New Mexico resident. This award is based partially on financial need and is meant to encourage attendance at public New Mexico universities and select private colleges. The deadline to apply varies by school.
Apprentice Ecologist Open Space Initiative: $500
This scholarship is available to students between the ages of 13 and 21 who participate in or lead an environmental stewardship program for the benefit of any lands managed or co-managed by the Open Space Division. To apply, students must submit an essay about their project and submit it along with digital photos of the project. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31, 2018.
Julia D. Sweeney Scholarship: $500
The Julia D. Sweeney Scholarship is available for U.S. college sophomores or graduate students who are residents of New Mexico and attending a school in New Mexico. The scholarship is only available to students who are pursuing a career in occupational therapy, and who are members of the New Mexico Occupational Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association. The deadline to apply is Oct. 31, 2018.
New Mexico Grants for College
Grants are another form of free money for college. Although they are often confused for scholarships, they differ in that grants are usually based on need. Most grants are provided by the federal and state government, or directly from colleges and universities. However, there are a number of private organizations that offer grants.
Students can locate these grants by using online grant search tools. They include the following New Mexico-specific grants:
Sussman-Miller Educational Assistance Award Program: Amount Varies
This grant program offers funds for college for New Mexico residents. It is available for graduating high school seniors or undergraduate students who plan on attending university full time and have shown financial need. The deadline for this award varies.
New Mexico Student Incentive Grants: $200 to $2,500
The New Mexico Student Incentive Grant is available to New Mexico residents with significant financial need attending an accredited college or university as an undergraduate. These grants can be renewed annually. Each student must submit a FAFSA to apply. The deadline to apply varies.
College Affordability Grant: $1,000 per Semester
The College Affordability Grant is offered by the New Mexico Higher Education Department. It is available to New Mexico residents enrolled at least half-time as undergraduate students in a New Mexico school, with demonstrated financial need. Applicants must complete the FAFSA. The deadline to apply will vary based on the college or university the applicant is attending.
Author: Jeff Gitlen