2004-09-24 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer Well, it’s that time of year again. School is in session, and the students are heading back in droves to schools and campuses. If you or your child plans to attend college in the near future, many exciting choices and decisions await. Which college is best suited? What program of study to pursue? How will the tuition be paid? For many, the last question weighs most heavily, especially considering the rising tuition costs. For the 2004-2005 academic year, the estimated cost for a New York resident enrolled as a full time undergraduate student at a State University of New York (SUNY) institution is $13,000 per year, including tuition, meal plan, fees, and room and board. At some private institutions in New York such as New York University and Columbia University, tuition, meal plan, fees, and room and board can cost as much as $43,000 a year. 1 Fortunately there are several federal and state programs to assist New Yorkers to finance their dreams of attending college.

The college financial aid office should generally be the first stop in a quest to fund a college education. Many colleges offer private scholarships based on academic performance and financial need in addition to special scholarships based on individual talents, such as athleticism and musical ability. These awards are often determined during the admission process based on the application, so it is advantageous to apply early since scholarship funds tend to be limited and are often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, there are many private scholarships available, and high school guidance counselors may be able to offer assistance. Many such scholarships can be found, and sometimes even applied for, at various websites such as www.fastweb.com.

One of the most important steps in the financial aid process is filing the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). This application determines eligibility for state and federal aid, including the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), federal loans, and other awards and grants. A student can access and submit the FAFSA application on line at http:// www.fafsa.ed.gov/.

The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) assists eligible New York State residents attending in-state postsecondary institutions in paying for their education. The amounts awarded depend largely on income and the academic year that the student began their studies along with other factors, but in some cases, annual TAP awards may be as much as $5,000. TAP is considered a grant, and therefore no repayment is required. A student can apply for TAP online while submitting their FASFA application. If the student chooses to submit a paper FAFSA, they will receive an Express TAP Application in the mail.

Federal Stafford loans are another common method of financing a college education. Federal Stafford loans are applied for as part of the FAFSA application. These loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are awarded based on need, and the government pays all interest accrued while the student is enrolled at least half-time, during the grace period, and during deferments. No need requirement exists for the unsubsidized loans, but students are responsible for repaying all interest accrued on unsubsidized loans.

There are many more options available to help finance a college education. For more information, consider making an appointment with a high school guidance counselor or with the college financial aid office. For specific questions about the FASFA, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 or TTY 1-800-730-8913. For information about financing higher education in New York State, visit http://www.nymentor.edu, the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation’s (HESC) website.

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