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Loans, grants and scholarships are options for students

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:44 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009

In the current economic climate, students and their parents might feel the pinch more than ever when it comes to funding tuition.

Brenda Noblitt, assistant director of financial aid at MU, said circumstances often change for students during college. 

The Financial Aid Office in Jesse Hall can provide students with information and assistance in obtaining grants, scholarships and student loans. Advisers are available to discuss money matters with students and refer them when necessary.  

The process of obtaining aid is based primarily on a student’s financial situation, determined by the income of their parents or guardian.

The first important step to securing aid is completing the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. It can be accessed online. Students may be eligible for grants, loans and work study.

“Students should complete the FAFSA each year before our March 1 priority filing date," Noblitt said. “They can also complete the general scholarship application before MU’s priority filing date."

Here's an overview of the process of securing financial aid through loans, grants and scholarships.

Loans

There are two types of student loans: A subsidized loan is where the federal government pays the interest while a student is enrolled in school. An unsubsidized loan accrues interest, and students can choose to either pay monthly or defer it.

After submitting a FAFSA, eligibility to receive either a subsidized or unsubsidized loan is determined by the university.

There are also Federal PLUS loans for parents to assume, and interest is charged during all periods. When both students and parents have taken out loans for tuition, they can be combined into what’s known as a direct consolidation loan.

Before applying for a loan, students are required to make sure they follow these basic steps, so they are able to complete their FAFSA satisfactorily:

  • Get a PIN (pin.ed.gov).
  • Gather documents and information required to apply online.
  • Be aware of deadlines.
  • Use the "FAFSA on the Web" worksheet.

After following those steps, the application can be completed and submitted.

When applications are processed, a student aid report will be sent, usually within three weeks of submitting the application.

It is also possible to follow up on the status of a FAFSA by visiting the Web site fafsa.ed.gov. The Student Financial Aid website (sfa.missouri.edu) provides more information with regard to loan and scholarship information.

Scholarships

Some schools and departments have university loans available for their students, Noblitt said. She suggested that students check with the Financial Aid Office and their own departments to learn about available funding through scholarships and grants.

Freshman or other undergraduates can apply for scholarships via the Financial Aid Web site. Receiving a scholarship is typically based on both financial need and academic achievement.

Among the scholarship opportunities are the Mizzou Scholars Award, the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence Scholarship and the Curator’s Scholar Awards.

Hardships

The Financial Aid Office helps many students and their parents meet unpredictable financial difficulties.

A student might be ineligible one year, then find one or both parents becoming ill or losing their jobs.

“If students are struggling, they should come and speak to someone at Financial Aid,” Noblitt said. “That goes for any student, not just freshmen. We will be glad to review their situation with them.”

The Financial Aid Office can also help students understand the technicalities of  various loans. The Missouri Department of Higher Education also can provide information and access to repayment options in the event of missed payments or default.

Students should  keep up to date with the status of paperwork and their personal information, Noblitt said, and understand the consequences of assuming a loan.

“They need to ensure they turn their paper work in on time, and they can do this by checking important deadlines on their ‘to-do list’ on their MyZou page,” she said.

Financial Aid advisers can assist students with budgeting issues through the Student Success Center.

Information about FAFSA, loan options and other financial aid tips can be accessed via the Missouri Department of Higher Education’s website www.dhe.mo.gov.


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