As the costs of higher education continue to climb, high school students, current college students, and their families often struggle to pay for school or wonder if, financially, college is even an option.
There are ways to help keep costs down, such as attending college within your home state to reduce tuition or commuting to reduce room and board costs. But even then, you can end up with a gap between what you need to pay and what you can afford.
While most students apply for and receive financial aid, they often have financial aid that is either federal or private. But there is usually state-level aid available as well, and students in North Dakota have several options available to them. In fact, according to the University of North Dakota, financial aid makes it possible for over half of their students to attend school.
Getting Financial Aid for College
About the FAFSA
The process of getting financial aid can seem confusing, but it’s fairly straightforward if you take it step by step. The first step to getting any kind of aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, even if you don’t plan to get federal aid. Most programs, including many scholarship programs, expect you to fill out a FAFSA.
The form, which is completed online, offers an accurate picture of your finances and your family’s finances. The information you put into the FAFSA helps the federal government — and any other entity you may be asking for aid from —determine your level of financial need for federal loans and other student aid.
Completing the FAFSA
To complete it, you’ll need copies of your last federal and state tax returns. And if you’re a dependent student, you’ll need your parents’ returns as well. Proof of citizenship or legal residency is also required, and you’ll need to provide a valid Social Security Number. Lastly, if you have any previous student loans you cannot be in default on them.
What Comes Next
Once you’ve completed the FAFSA, you’ll be sent a Student Aid Report that outlines your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The federal government views your education as something you’re primarily responsible to pay for, and so based upon the financial situation you outline on the FAFSA, you and your family will be expected to contribute to that cost as well.
A form of the SAR is also sent to the colleges you choose, and their respective financial aid offices design a financial aid package for you. Each school publishes a Cost of Attendance, or COA, that includes what it will cost to attend that particular college, including tuition, books, fees, room and board, and other costs. Generally, your financial need amount is that COA number, minus your expected family contribution.
What if Aid From the FAFSA Isn’t Enough?
Some students and their families, however, can’t afford the EFC amount, whether or not the federal government says they should be able to. To help fill those gaps, there are other programs that are non-need-based. The school will subtract the amount of your financial aid from the cost of attendance, and that will give you an idea of how much more money you’ll need.
Once you’ve exhausted your federal aid options, you can start looking at programs within your state. For North Dakota students, that includes a wide variety of options.
State-Based Student Loans in North Dakota
Any student loans that aren’t administered or offered by the federal government are considered private loans, including state-based programs. They don’t come with the same benefits of a federal student loan, such as flexible repayment plans or other perks, but they can help you reach the cost of attendance amount for your in-state college costs.
Here are three state-based student loan options for North Dakota residents:
Student Loans of North Dakota
Student Loans of North Dakota doesn’t offer loans since the federal government took over the student loan industry, but they advise students in North Dakota who already have loans, and work with them to find the best repayment options. They can also help you find the best loan for your situation.
Bank of North Dakota
Bank of North Dakota offers the DEAL Student Loan, which is open to North Dakota residents regardless of whether they attend in-state or not. It’s also available to out-of-state residents who are attending a North Dakota college. The loan limit is $50,000, and you’ll need to have solid credit or a cosigner with good credit history.
Gabriel J. Brown Trust
The Gabriel J. Brown Trust is an estate left is a perpetual trust that offers student loans to North Dakota residents attending in-state, at an interest rate of 5% APR. You must maintain a 2.5 GPA or better to qualify and have financial need.
North Dakota College Scholarships
Scholarships, unlike student loans, don’t have to be paid back. They’re also generally competitive and have individual criteria for application and eligibility. North Dakota has several scholarships available to in-state resident students, and many of them are specific to the school sponsoring them.
Cultural Diversity Tuition Waiver
The Cultural Diversity Tuition Waiver is available to North Dakota resident minority students at the North Dakota State College of Science. To qualify, you must write a personal statement outlining your parentage and family background, demonstrate financial need, and discuss how you will play a positive role in further developing an appreciation for cultural diversity on the campus.
North Dakota Indian Scholarship Program
If you’re a member of a federally-recognized Native American tribe, you may be eligible for the North Dakota Indian Scholarship Program, which offers Native American students from North Dakota the chance to attend any school in the North Dakota University System if they have a GPA above 2.0. There is no deadline to apply.
Treacy Foundation Scholarships
The Treacy Foundation Scholarships are open to students in North Dakota, Idaho, and Montana if they are attending their freshman or sophomore year in North Dakota. The scholarships are $2,000 each and are renewable each year if the student requests it. The deadline to apply is May 1 of each year for the following academic period.
Tractor Supply Company Scholarship
The Tractor Supply Company Scholarship is open to residents of any state where the Tractor Supply Company has retail stores, including North Dakota. The scholarship is $3,000, and you must be studying an agriculture-related field and agree to have photos of yourself and your family used in promotional materials. The deadline is Feb. 1.
John J. Windish Jr. Memorial Scholarship
The John J. Windish Jr. Memorial Scholarship offers $1,000 to an upper-class state student who has both financial need and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Preference is given to applicants from Barnes County, North Dakota. The deadlines for this scholarship vary.
North Dakota Grants for College
Grant programs are like scholarships in that they don’t have to be paid back. Where they differ is that in most cases, scholarships are given for achievement, membership in a demographic, or other criteria. For a grant, typically the only criteria are that you live in North Dakota and demonstrate financial need.
The North Dakota State Grant is offered to first-time undergraduate students who attend public, private, or tribal colleges in the state. You may receive up to $1,648 per academic year, and you can reapply each year by completing a new FAFSA, which serves as the application. Your college will award this grant automatically as part of your initial financial aid package. If you qualify, you’ll see the grant listed on your award letter from your chosen school.