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Going to college is getting increasingly expensive. In-state tuition and fees at in-state public four-year institutions reached $9,970 for the 2017-18 school year.
With prices going up, it’s no surprise many students are trying to figure out how to pay for college.
However, if you are going to school in Washington, you do have some options. There are scholarships and grants available to help you pay for school. Additionally, your student aid package might include student loans.
If you need to turn to student loans for financial assistance, you’re not alone. According to our student loan debt statistics, 52 percent of Washington college graduates have student loan debt with the average borrower having around $23,359.
In this guide:
- Getting Financial Aid for School
- Student Loans for Students in Washington
- Scholarships for Washington Students
- Grants for Students in Washington
Getting Financial Aid for School
Your first move is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In order to be eligible for federal grants and other types of federal student aid, you need the FAFSA. On top of that, the information from your FAFSA will be sent to the schools of your choice, and the school will offer you a financial aid package based on that information.
Some of the federal aid programs you can access when you attend school in Washington include:
Each of the schools in Washington has to list its estimated cost of attendance, which includes tuition and fees as well as estimated room and board.
The FAFSA takes your information and determines how much of the cost of attendance your family should be responsible for called the expected family contribution (EFC).
You might be able to get scholarships and grants to help you cover costs, but you’re likely to face some kind of funding gap when all is said and done. After you exhaust the options mentioned above, you should see if you qualify for the best private student loans or state-based student loans.
State-Based Student Loans in Washington
Washington state doesn’t feature its own student loan programs and instead suggests considering federal and private student loans. You might be able to get emergency student loans at some financial institutions, but these are generally short-term and used for necessities like buying books.
Federal Student Loans
These are federal loans that are available to anyone, regardless of income or credit situation. You can borrow up to:
- $5,500 for your first year
- $6,500 for your second year
- $7,500 for your third year and beyond
Federal student loan interest rates are set by Congress each year using a specific formula, and you retain the same rate throughout the term of your loan.
It’s possible to qualify for subsidized loans (as opposed to unsubsidized loans) in which the government covers your interest while you’re in school, making the debt a little more affordable.
Private Student Loans
On the other hand, private student loans are made by lenders that have credit and income criteria. As a result, you might not qualify for private student loans without the help of a cosigner who can meet the requirements, though there are some loans designed for students without a cosigner.
When choosing private student loans, it’s a good idea to look for a lender that allows you to defer repayment until after you finish school. Additionally, try to find a lender that offers cosigner release and a hardship program in case you face financial difficulties during loan repayment.
Private student loans don’t have the same protections as federal loans, so it’s important to prioritize federal loans and only use private loans as a last resort.
Washington College Scholarships
Scholarships can help you manage your long-term goals and reduce the cost of paying for college in Washington. Your scholarship search might turn up the following options:
- Scholarship amount: Awards vary depending on need
- Eligibility requirements: Students must demonstrate an inability to afford college without help. Middle-schoolers turn in applications during 8th grade, and high school seniors must fill out a FAFSA. Foster children in grades 7 to 12 are automatically enrolled.
- Deadline to apply: For non-foster children, June 30 of 8th grade
- Scholarship amount: Up to $4,500
- Eligibility requirements: You much be a resident of Washington state and spend at least a year in foster care after your 14th birthday. You must enroll in college at least half-time by the age of 22 and be working toward a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or professional certification. You can’t be working toward a degree in theology.
- Deadline to apply: No deadline; fill out the appropriate consent form
- Scholarship amount: $500 to $2,000
- Eligibility requirements: Complete the FAFSA and demonstrate financial need. You must also have close cultural ties to the American Indian community in Washington, show academic achievement, and produce letters of recommendation. You must commit to remain in Washington and benefit the in-state American Indian community after graduation.
- Deadline to apply: February 1
- Scholarship amount: Based on need
- Eligibility requirements: You must be enrolled as a member of an American Indian tribe and prove your affiliation, have at least a 2.0 GPA and be a U.S. citizen or Canadian citizen. You must be working toward a degree at an eligible tribal university.
- Deadline to apply: May 31
Washington Grants for College
In addition to the possibility of a Pell Grant from the federal government, you might also be eligible for grants from the state of Washington. Like scholarships, grants amount to “free” money that you don’t need to repay.
State Need Grant
- Grant amount: Up to $9,745
- Eligibility requirements: You must have a household income of less than 70% of Washington state’s median family income, be a resident of Washington, and attend a Washington college or university. Fill out your FAFSA to demonstrate financial need.
- Deadline to apply: No specific deadline; filling out the FAFSA qualifies you for this grant
- Grant amount: Up to $3,752
- Eligibility requirements: Applicants must complete the FAFSA and the TEACH Grant application; meet the basic requirements for all federal student aid programs; be enrolled as an undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate student in an eligible program at a school that participates in the TEACH Grant Program; and be in the 75th percentile on college admissions tests or have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher. You also need to agree to complete a term of service after graduation.
- Deadline to apply: Contact your school for dates
The best option for undergraduate students is almost always to start with grants and scholarship programs before turning to federal student loans.
You can also save up for school, work while attending college, and take advantage of work-study programs to help afford the cost of higher education.
If you still have a funding gap, private loans can help you fill it in.
Author: Miranda Marquit