Timeka Ruffin, local representative for the College Foundation of North Carolina, spoke to parents and students about their financial choices for colleges at the Anson High School library on Sept. 21.
College Foundation of North Carolina is a “free service of the State of North Carolina provided by a collaboration of Pathways (the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the N.C. Community College System, the N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities and The University of North Carolina System), the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, and College Foundation, Inc.,” according to the CFNC website. “CFNC promotes access to North Carolina higher education and assists students with education planning, career planning, and applying and paying for college.”
Ruffin started by telling parents and students all of the costs of college, which include tuition and other fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, personal and other miscellaneous items, loan fees, and possible health fees.
Ruffin also said that there are options to save money on books as well. Students can rent their books from the university, or look for them on Amazon.com.
Ruffin said that community college is becoming a more popular option. Depending on their career path, students can complete their college courses at a community college. Students can also take classes to complete general courses, and transfer into a four-year university on their late sophomore or early junior years.
Ruffin said that it would save money because there is no room or board, and classes are anywhere from $400 to $750 less than at four-year colleges.
Ruffin said that scholarships are a good way to cover the costs of college. Local scholarships can be found at the guidance office, or by word-of-mouth. CFNC has scholarships on its website. National scholarships can be found almost anywhere.
“Google is the best way to search for outside scholarships,” Ruffin said. “Try to be specific as you can. Keep in mind that almost every place that has a name or a title has a scholarship.”
Target and Walmart are examples of those places. Ruffin said that most students start the scholarship application process, but quit because of the essay.
“If you can survive one essay, you can rework that essay over and over again,” Ruffin said. “Most scholarship applications are going to ask the same kind of prompt. It’s not going to be very creative.”
Local scholarship opportunities are open in October or November for applications. Ruffin told students to be sure to search for community service scholarships if they are hesitant about their grade-point average.
For state-level scholarships, depending on the major, the state will help pay.
CFNC offers the North Carolina Forgivable Education Loan for Service “to qualified students enrolled in an approved education program and committed to working in critical employment shortage professions in North Carolina.”
“If given the scholarship and the student changes their mind, they will have to pay back the money,” Ruffin said.
The education portion of the scholarship is specific to subject teaching. They can be used in public, private, 2-year or 4-year schools, as long as they are in North Carolina. A 3.0 grade point average is required, and it is for anyone wanting to go to school for these majors. The scholarship application is open from Dec. 1, until March 1 every year, and pre-programs do not qualify. No pre-med or pre-dental programs can apply for this scholarship.
They offer $3,000 for community college students, and freshmen and sophomores at 4-year schools; $7,000 juniors and seniors; and $10,000 for graduate or medical school. There are available funds to help with college payments through the federal, state, college and university, private and civic resources.
For federal and state funds, students must be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program and working toward a degree or certificate. Students must have a high school diploma, General Education Development Certificate, or pass a U.S. Department of Education approved test. All males that are 18-years-old must register for selective service.
There are financial forms needed for college, regardless of the college you attend.
There are five North Carolina schools that require their students to fill out the College Scholarship Service Portfolio. These schools are Duke, Wake Forest, Elon, Davidson, and UNC-Chapel Hill. There is a $25 fee for this form, after Oct. 1, according to the CFNC website. These colleges are among the more expensive colleges in the state.
“In order to receive extra money for those colleges, they have to know a little bit more about you,” Ruffin said. “This is why you have to do the profile.”
Ruffin said that the money received through the profile is money that students will not have to pay back.
“Admissions and financial aid are two different things,” Ruffin said. “Just because you get admitted into school, doesn’t mean that they will give you enough money to go there.”
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required by all colleges. The application for the next school year opens Oct. 1. The FAFSA determines a student’s need for state and federal financial aid for college.
“If you apply before Oct. 1, you will be filling out the application for the current school year,” Ruffin said.
You can list up to 10 colleges on the form, so you don’t have to submit separate forms.
“Fill it out as soon as you can, because they award students based off the day that they applied,” Ruffin said.
The fastest and most secure way to complete the FAFSA and get results from the U.S. Department of Education is to get a FAFSA PIN (an electronic signature), and then complete, sign, and submit your FAFSA online, according to the CFNC website. Income tax information for the past year is a requirement on the FAFSA (for students and their parent or legal guardian, if they are a dependent student). Fill it out prior to completing FAFSA form, so that you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your tax information directly into your FAFSA.
“The FAFSA ID signs the application,” Ruffin said. “It is your electronic signature, attached to your name only.”
For those under the age or 24, and considered a dependent student, the parent has to have a FAFSA ID too.
Aid that students are considered for include the North Carolina Community College Grant, the UNC Need-Based Grant, the UNC Need-Based Scholarship, and the North Carolina Education Lottery Scholarship.
“A good portion of the NC Education Lottery Schoolarship goes to our scholarships to help students go to college,” Ruffin said. “You are being considered for these scholarships very year, but everyone doesn’t get it.”
She also said that the scholarship ranges anywhere from $100 to $5,000.
The FAFSA application also asks if the student wants to do work-study. Students get paid for the work that they do in places on campus like the cafeteria and the library.
There are also loans that students and parents could apply for, if the grant and scholarship money is not enough. Federal Perkins Loan include the Federal Direct Stafford Loan (subsidized and unsubsidized), and the Federal Direct PLUS Loan for graduate or professional students.
“Students can only borrow so much,” Ruffin said. “Freshman year, students can take out a loan for $5,500.”
The amount increases by $1,000 for their sophomore year. For their junior and senior year, students can receive a loan for $7,500.
Ruffin said that students will not have to pay them back, until six months after graduation, or after their last day of enrollment. She said that if student loans are not enough, they have a loan for parents, who will be asked about assets of value.
“There is no limit for parent loans,” Ruffin siad. “You have to go through a credit-check process, so you could be approved or denied.”
This year, seniors are required to do a residency application.
“This is for you to be able to receive in-state tuition, and to be considered for the programs mentioned,” Ruffin said. “They ask about social security numbers, North Carolina taxes, driver’s license, and for students, they have to depend on parents for this information.”
The Pell Grant, state aid, is at a lttle over $5,000 a year, and The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant amounts $4,000 a year.
“A student could get both of these at one time,” Ruffin said. “These two programs are very need-based.”
Ruffin said that students who say that they can’t afford college could definitely qualify for these two programs.
Reach Natalie Davis at 704-994-5471.