With tuition costs rising roughly five percent annually, higher education "sticker shock" is a common first reaction when investigating how to pay for college. However, before you rule out a school based on cost, you and your family should consider the many opportunities available to you. A number of sources of financial aid are available to students from the federal government, state government, foundations and private lenders, and the colleges and universities themselves. In addition, there are four different forms of aid: grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study.
The federal government is the single largest source of financial aid for students. The U.S. Department of Education's student financial aid programs make more than an estimated $40 billion available in loans, grants, and other aid to millions of students. To apply for federal student aid you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - after January 1.
- Grants: Grants are given for athletics, academics, demographics, special talent potential, and/or need. Repayment is not required.
- Scholarships: Scholarships, also called "merit aid" are awarded for academic excellence. Repayment is not required.
- Loans: Student loans, which have lower interest rates, may be college sponsored or federally sponsored or may be available through commercial financial institutions. Loans must be repaid, generally after you have graduated or left school.
- College work-study: College work-study is a federally sponsored program that enables colleges to employ students. Eligible students work a limited number of hours throughout the school year.
Student Loans of North Dakota (SLND) is administered by the Bank of North Dakota and offers a variety of loan programs to help students and parents finance a college education. SLND's College Information Service (CIS) also provides a wealth of free information about colleges and financial aid.