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3 Tips on Paying for Postsecondary Education

June 1, 2023

An overly complex financial aid system and some common misbeliefs lead many students to give up on pursuing a postsecondary education before they even start. This is particularly true for first-generation students. In addition, the inadequate number of high school guidance counselors only compounds the problem, and who do you turn to for help and advice if you are no longer in high school?

These tips and resources can help dispel some common confusion about how to make postsecondary education affordable and open doors to new possibilities for first-generation and non-traditional students.

Tip #1 – The sticker price of education is not what most families pay.

Fewer than one in five families understand that the sticker price of education – what’s listed on the website and printed in the catalog – is not what most families pay.1 That’s unfortunate because about 6 in 10 families report eliminating a school from consideration before they even start the research or application process.

When it comes to private college – the most often eliminated choice – only families making more than $200,000 a year are paying full price.2 Everyone else is paying less than what’s advertised.

Unfortunately, while most students are not paying the list price, the price the schools are asking them to pay is still too high, particularly for low-income families. But many options are available to students to close this gap, which leads us to tip number two.

Tip #2 – Most students qualify for financial aid.

Ugh, the dreaded ‘F’ word – the FAFSA. Most people have heard of it, but few understand it. Yet, the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key to unlocking federal financial aid, including grants, work-study funds, and student loans. It is also what most postsecondary institutions use to determine if students qualify for need-based scholarships.

The good news is that if you fill out this form and turn it in on time, you’ll likely get money – 87% of first-time, full-time undergraduate students receive financial aid.3

The bad news is that the form really is a pain in the neck to fill out. And most people do not understand that the federal government gives out the money on a first-come, first-serve basis. The FAFSA usually opens on October 1. Ideally, you should have all the information needed to complete the application organized and available before that date, allowing you to turn in the FAFSA as quickly as possible.

That’s why resources like The Chatfield Edge exist. Of course, there are online resources you can turn to – or OASFAA – but nothing beats having an experienced counselor who has been through these dozens of times sitting right beside you and guiding you through the process. This personal touch is often the difference between success and throwing in the towel.

Tip #3 – There is a scholarship for almost every student.

Scholarships are not only for students with outstanding grades or abilities. There are unusual scholarships like those for students with red hair, vegetarians, or who are addicted to Minecraft. There are corporate scholarships based on the businesses where you or your family members work. There are scholarships available for those pursuing vocational degrees or through workforce development programs like Ohio Means Jobs. There are local scholarship organizations specifically funding awards for students in the Greater Cincinnati area. Finally, scholarships are likely available from the postsecondary institution you want to attend.

There are so many scholarship options to choose from that it can cause anxiety and confusion and lead students and parents to give up. If that’s happened to you, you are not alone. Some 44% of families report not using scholarships to pay for postsecondary education and three-quarters of these families never even bothered to fill out an application.4

Again, this is where The Chatfield Edge strives to make a difference. We provide a dedicated counselor at no cost to each student to help them identify and apply for these opportunities.

The Chatfield Edge has prepared some basic information about financial aid on its website, but we know it can be overwhelming, so we are here to help guide you. We’d love to welcome you into The Chatfield Edge family and help you transform your life through education.