Scholarships Fill in the FAFSA Gap
A new year typically marks a crucial time for students and their families, as colleges and universities across the country begin to make admissions decisions for the fall semester. Those decisions impact where students enroll — and which schools they can afford. For many students, the aid that comes from completing the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) will help offset the high cost of tuition at their dream school. But the reality is that, for far too many students, there will still be a financial shortfall even after federal aid.
Increasingly, students and their families have turned to loans to help fill the gap between government aid and the full cost of college; during the 2013-14 academic year, The College Board reported that student loan volume from banks, credit unions, states and institutions was about $10 billion. The massive amount of borrowing — and subsequent debt — has concerned policymakers, higher education professionals and the individuals who are affected most: students and their loved ones.
Students who want to avoid loan debt can also work while they’re in college. Unfortunately, long hours or multiple jobs mean less and less time to focus on school — leaving students struggling to meet academic standards even if their job helps them pay tuition. As a result, students cite the need to work to make ends meet as the number-one reason for dropping out of college.
It may seem like there’s nowhere else to turn. But scholarships and grants, which don’t need to be repaid, can help fill the FAFSA gap. With costs continuing to rise, it’s increasingly important that there are resources to help cover them, from the time a bill lands in a student’s inbox to when they actually make a payment.
Janelle exemplifies someone who made the most of her circumstances and was able to pursue her studies thanks to the Scholarship America Dream Award. Even as a full-time student, she worked four part-time jobs to make ends meet. Combined with taking care of her family, the load became too heavy to bear and she nearly dropped out of school. The gift of a scholarship was a game-changer: Janelle reduced her jobs to just one position, and she was able to focus on her studies without being plagued by how to pay for her education.
With every completed class, Janelle is able to get one step closer to a postsecondary degree — an achievement that has a huge impact on the course of students’ adult lives. The benefits are many:
Jobs are becoming increasingly skilled, with 65 percent requiring a higher education degree by 2020.
In 2013, college grads made 98 percent more an hour than people without a degree.
Bachelor’s degree earners are more likely to be employed.
For those who are unemployed, college-educated job seekers find jobs faster.
Adults with higher levels of education are more active citizens, with higher rates of voting and volunteering.
With a scholarship, a student’s life can change for the better, no matter what their college situation. A part-time student taking one course at a time may need to cover the cost of a specific class. A student who has received substantial aid from her institution may still face steep fees for class supplies that aren’t accounted for in her financial aid package. A returning adult student could make use of an award that’ll help with transportation costs. Each student may have a different need, but the goals are the same: to make a better future for themselves and their families.
At Scholarship America, we’re focused on access and completion. Both are vital to the success of students, and for the ways that they’ll shape our future. A scholarship is a crucial piece of making that success happen now.