Atlanta’s local universities and colleges offer programs, initiatives and opportunities designed with freshmen in mind. read more
As young metro Atlanta residents pursue their dreams to land well-paying jobs, rewarding careers and worthwhile fulfillment as adults, many will pursue college degrees. And many will struggle with the age-old question of how to pay for their education. Fortunately students have several options, namely scholarships, grants, loans and even work programs, and they have access to an array of help to navigate the myriad options.
For instance, colleges and universities house financial aid offices to assist students to examine various options to address the challenges of financing tuition, room and board and more. Even before that, high school guidance counselors can direct students to resources, such as scholarships available from local civic organizations, workplaces and religious organizations. Additionally, the Georgia Student Finance Commission, which is the State of Georgia’s higher education finance agency, administrates more than 20 state and lottery-funded scholarships and grants, along with service-cancelable loans, providing an array of financial aid information via its website.
Thirty years ago, Gov. Zell Miller recognized that families needed assistance funding their children’s college education. The Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarship program was launched in 1993 in Georgia under Miller’s supervision, funded through the Georgia Lottery for Education and directed toward high-achieving students. In his 1992 State of the State address prior to the program’s launch, Miller called the program “the single best way to help our middle-income families,” adding, “For them, it is a pocketbook issue of major proportions.” That holds true today, as thousands of students benefit from HOPE scholarships and Pell grants, the latter of which are awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a Bachelor’s degree.
Outside of those popular statewide opportunities, federal work-study programs provide part-time employment to undergraduates and graduate students who need financial help; the program encourages work related to the student’s field of study and community service.
The Power of Financial Aid
Financial aid is critical for students and may make a life-changing impact for them. “Financial aid is so important for our students because it aids in the affordability of their education,” says Jessica Magazu, director of financial aid at Life University. “Through financial aid opportunities like community federal work-study, students can contribute to their community and public sector services in a way that adds value and context to their education and their social impact. Education is the gateway to many skilled career paths that, without financial assistance, students wouldn’t be able to actualize.”
In fact, the experience of applying for financial aid itself can be a benefit to students of all ages, as education is the entry point to most career opportunities. According to Magazu, “Through the process of obtaining and maintaining financial aid, students learn the critical skills of interviewing, essay writing, meeting and maintaining eligibility criteria and managing their finances. These are all skills that easily transfer into real work practical application."
Make a Plan
Peachtree College Planning, a full-service college planning firm, highlights strategies on how to finance higher education and provides resources for students and parents. The organization’s website encourages parents to help their students choose a college that is the right fit financially, academically, professionally and socially. It touts its ability to locate scholarships and applies strategies to maximize the rewards students can receive, as well as encourages parents to compute the four-year cost of a school before their student even applies.
Of course, the listed cost of college is only a “sticker price,” Peachtree College Planning notes on its website. “One of the most important facts is that the cost of college is dependent on your expected family contribution, not the listed price on a college’s website. Every family will pay something different depending on their financial situation. It is similar to walking on an airplane. You know everyone has paid something different, and it was based on the situational variables at the time of their ticket buying decision.”
Metro Atlanta Options
With metro Atlanta being home to so many universities and colleges, there are plenty of options not only academically, but also when it comes to their financial options. Here is just a sample of the possibilities for students as they begin to consider higher education opportunities across the area.
At Life University, some coveted scholarships award students 50 to 100 percent of their tuition for four quarters of attendance. “Life University communicates early and often to perspective and continuing students, both on-campus and online, in all degree programs,” Magazu says. “We encourage students to research and apply for all types of financial assistance to help fund the cost of their education.” This includes the school’s robust institutional fund offering for academic and athletic scholars. She continues, “Through each step of the student’s journey, we provide education on responsible borrowing and opportunities for additional assistance if needed.”
Students can visit Life University's Financial Aid page and their scholarship page for information; they also can browse external scholarships that are provided by private donors, foundations, businesses and other sources outside of Life University, here. From there, Life University students can apply for student loans on the Federal Student Aid website where they must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application asks for demographic information and financial situations and circumstances. “The FAFSA will also walk you through which schools you would like this information to be sent to so those schools can review your eligibility for aid if you attend,” Magazu says. Additionally, tuition discounts are offered to international students, while married couples and family members who are enrolled concurrently at Life University may receive a tuition benefit of up to $14,000.
Students, including those still in high school, are encouraged to apply for scholarships between March 1 and May 1, with recipients of awards ranging from $500 to full tuition being selected in June. Students qualify based on degree program, financial situation, academic merit and extracurricular activities.
Georgia State University
Georgia State University (GSU) offers top academic scholarships for exceptional incoming first-year students through the Stamps and Presidential scholarships. Students also can search a database of scholarships available to GSU students and apply for merit scholarships. The school’s Student Financial Management Center also hosts FAFSA workshops and information sessions. Students can apply for a federal work study program that will provide them with jobs in community service or their field of study if they exhibit financial need. Click here for more information.
Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology offers the Zell Miller and HOPE scholarships, along with 850 institutional-named scholarships. When students apply for scholarships, they will be considered for all of them. Criteria includes, but is not limited to, academic achievement, athletic ability, geographical location, departmental and community involvement, areas of study and/or financial need and other factors. Some examples are the Gold Scholars program, offered annually to the top two percent of first-year students, and the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise program, which provides a debt-free degree for low-income Georgia families and covers a student’s full cost of attendance. Scholarship recipients often are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate financial need, and the award may depend on the field of study. Interested individuals can find more information here.
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University (KSU) offers similar grants and scholarships as other institutions (including the Zell Miller and HOPE scholarships and Pell grants), along with those funded through local community groups, corporate donors and the university. Scholarship Universe allows students to search and apply for thousands of scholarships. This system matches students with their best scholarship opportunities and the best fit for them. Students are also alerted to new scholarship opportunities through the system. For further information, student applicants can click here.
At Morehouse College, many institutional scholarships require students to have a FAFSA completed. Students can review opportunities at the Morehouse Scholarship portal and apply. They can also look at external scholarships offered through the United Negro College Fund and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Current and admitted students with questions can attend a virtual financial aid session on Thursdays; they also can join others who are successfully financing their college educations through an understanding of financial assistance. More financial aid information is available through Morehouse College’s Office of Financial Aid here.