College students, families have several options for financial aid | Education

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TAHLEQUAH – Students and their families frequently seek financial aid to defray or delay the expenses of higher education.

Financial aid through the U.S. government, the state or from tribal sources is an option for many students. Unlike scholarships, aid programs often base their awards on financial need rather than academic performance ñ though students usually must remain in good academic standing with the college or university to retain or reapply for assistance.

Financial aid commonly takes the form of loans and grants.

ìIt is financial assistance,î said Dr. Teri Cochran, director of student financial services at Northeastern State University. ìFederal aid is meant to fill in the gap between what it will cost to go to school and what it is determined that the family should be able to pay.î

The standard form most students complete for federal aid is the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Cochran said the FAFSA is used in assessment of student and family financial need.

Applicants should expect to pay part of the expense for college, or to repay loans after attaining a degree or leaving school. Programs such as the Pell grant do not require repayment, but to attend school ìfor freeî usually requires serious financial hardship and applying to several aid programs and scholarships. Veterans and those dealing with disabilities often qualify for generous aid awards.

Other options include full academic or athletic scholarships, though most incoming college students are not blue-chip athletes and have some imperfections on their transcripts.

ìIf the expense is more than what you receive in Pell and your yearly loan limit, there will be a gap there,î Cochran said. ìThat may not be covered by federal financial aid. Here in financial services, we encourage people to start applying early for scholarships. They cannot…