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Paying for college is an issue every student has to confront at some point. Indeed, the total cost of attending college at an in-state public institution — including room and board — added up to $25,290 for the 2017-18 school year.
In fact, if you’re like 56% of Virginia college students, you’ll probably have to borrow to pay for at least a portion of your degree. But before you turn to student loans, you should first explore your scholarship and grant options to pay for college.
Getting Financial Aid for School
Because you’re likely to need help paying for school, it’s a good idea to get started as soon as possible. Your first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). With the FAFSA, you complete one application, and your information is sent to all the schools you’re to which you are applying.
After reviewing your FAFSA and determining your financial needs, colleges and universities will offer you a financial aid package. Your family will be assigned what’s called an expected family contribution (EFC), which is the amount you’re expected to pay out of pocket.
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State-Based Student Loans in Virginia
It’s possible to get low-interest federal loans, including subsidized loans where the government covers your interest while you’re in school, to help cover the cost of higher education.
If federal loans aren’t enough, you can turn to private student loans or state-based student loans to close the funding gap. Unlike federal loans, private loans have credit and income requirements that can make it difficult for some students to qualify without a cosigner.
It is possible to get some short-term loans from individual institutions in Virginia, too. For example, Virginia Tech will loan students up to $600 per academic term to use toward supplies and other living expenses like food, rent, and books.
If you have an emergency need, check with your university to see if it offers short-term loans to help you make ends meet until you get more student aid or can secure income from a part-time job.
Here are a couple of additional resources to consider for student loans in Virginia:
ABNB Federal Credit Union
Student loans offered through ABNB Federal Credit Union offer no origination or application fees, although late fees apply. Flexible repayment options and competitive variable rates are also available. Visit the ABNB FCU website for more information.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to fund some of your expenses, Virginia State University offers access to FASTChoice, a service that can help you find and apply for private student loans from various nationwide providers. For some students, this can be a quick and easy way to find student loans that are likely to work for them.
Virginia College Scholarships
If you want money you don’t have to repay, scholarships are a great place to start. In addition to getting scholarships from individual schools, it’s also possible to find them from outside organizations. Here are some scholarships aimed at students attending school in Virginia.
Reginald F. Lewis Scholarship
- Scholarship amount: $500 to $5,000
- Eligibility requirements: The Reginald F. Lewis Scholarship is an endowed scholarship at Virginia State University meant to be given to “deserving” students. Application information is available at VSU, but students are required to have a GPA of at least 3.0.
- Deadline to apply: Contact VSU for more information
Jefferson Scholars Foundation
- Scholarship amount: Full tuition for four years
- Eligibility requirements: Must be nominated by an eligible school, as there is no application process. Instead, nominated students are placed in regional competitions and those who advance go to Charlottesville to compete for final selection.
- Deadline to apply: Contact the Jefferson Scholars Foundation for more information
- Scholarship amount: $21,000 per year
- Eligibility requirements: The Beckman Scholars program is available to students at the University of Virginia. It’s meant for research-oriented students who are in their second or third years, have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and be willing to work with an approved faculty member.
- Deadline to apply: February 23
Many departments at various colleges in Virginia offer scholarships based on your course of study. Check with your school to see which scholarships are available.
Virginia College Grants
While scholarships tend to focus on merit and other criteria, grants are almost always need-based. Like scholarships, grants are “free money” you don’t have to repay.
In many cases, turning in your FAFSA and contacting your Virginia college or the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) can help you identify grants for which you might qualify.
SCHEV offers a number of grants aimed at helping students in need cover the cost of attending school in Virginia. Here are the primary SCHEV grants offered:
- Virginia Commonwealth Award: Amounts vary based on need and the cost of attendance. Only available to Virginia residents at public institutions.
- Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program: The Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP) has both merit and financial need requirements. However, successful applicants can receive up to the full cost of tuition, fees, and books at public institutions.
- Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program: The VirginiaTuition Assistance Grant Program (VTAP) is aimed at Virginia residents attending private institutions. The maximum annual award is $3,270.
Two-Year College Transfer Grant
- Grant amount: Up to $2,000
- Eligibility requirements: Students transferring from a two-year college to certain four-year universities are eligible for this award. You must receive an associate’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher before transferring. You should also have an EFC of $12,000 or less per your completed FAFSA.
- Deadline to apply: Contact your school for more information
New Economy Workforce Credential Grant
- Grant amount: Up to two-thirds the cost of a non-credit training program
- Eligibility requirements: You must apply to a non-degree-granting training program meant to prepare you for an occupation in a high-demand career.
- Deadline to apply: Contact the program for more information
Optometry Grant Loan Program
- Grant amount: Up to $5,000
- Eligibility requirements: The Optometry Grant Loan Program is available to graduate students pursuing an optometry degree. You must be a resident of Virginia for at least one year and be enrolled in an approved optometry college. You’ll also need to agree to return to Virginia and work in high-need areas; otherwise, you’ll need to repay the grant.
- Deadline to apply: Contact SCHEV for more information
In the end, you’re better off taking out as few student loans as possible. Save up what you can for school and apply for scholarships and grants, and be sure to submit your FAFSA so you have access to federal and Virginia state programs.
You can also look into federal work-study programs and consider working part-time while enrolled in college. If you’re still experiencing a college funding gap, opt for federal student loans over private loans wherever possible.
You’re probably going to need multiple sources to help you pay for school. With the right planning, though, you can go to college in Virginia without borrowing as much.
Author: Miranda Marquit