©2002 Environmental Education Outreach Program & Northern Arizona University
Chapter 5, Section 1:
Financing a college education is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces come in different sizes and shapes; together they create a design that will show you the way to pay for college. How do you know which pieces to try? Every college has a financial aid office. If you have submitted your paper work on time, the financial aid office will piece together a financial aid package that should cover your expenses. When you apply to the colleges of your choice, they will ask you if you want financial aid and they will request that you fill out a FAFSA. FAFSA is the U.S. government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, online at: www.fafsa.ed.gov/. It should be completed and submitted by the January before you plan to begin college. Not only the government, but the colleges and the tribes use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for various sorts of financial support.
Be sure to Apply
Financial aid comes in the form
of scholarships, grants, loans and employment. In Arizona, all students whose grade point
average is in the top 5% (of their class or statewide?) are eligible for a full tuition waver
at any state college or university. Students whose grades are in the top 10% receive a 2/3
tuition waver. Grants are funds for your education that you do not repay, and Federal Pell
Grants are important early pieces in the financial aid puzzle for millions of students. Your
college’s financial aid office will know of other grants for which you may be qualified.
Scholarships are like grants and do not need to be repaid. There are two types: those that
are awarded by your college and those that are given by off-campus organizations, tribes or
individuals. You must submit separate scholarship applications to your college for on-campus
awards. In order to qualify for off-campus, independent scholarships, you must apply individually
to each organization or tribe. You will find a list of web sites with links to scholarships
expressly for American Indian students in Section 2 of this chapter, but two good places to start are:
Some Arizona tribes have their own tribal scholarship funds. Students must apply to their own tribal scholarship offices in order to be considered for these awards. Scholarship money is not usually paid to the student, but is sent to the college to pay your bills. You must submit a special application to your tribe for these funds. A discussion of tribal scholarships is at www.nau.edu/~finaid/OtherProgram/TribalProg.html
There are many kinds of loans available for college and they all must be repaid. Educational loans may be provided by the federal government or by private banks and financial institutions. Some states, like Alaska, offer college loans to their citizens. If you are eligible for loans, your financial aid office will select those pieces of the puzzle for you and you and your parent or guardian must sign the promissory note that commits you to repayment. Since not all loans are based on financial need, most applicants qualify for some form of loan. Repayment of most educational loans does not begin until after you graduate or terminate at least part time enrollment at college.
Employment is another form of financial support for students. Universities and colleges have many kinds of jobs that are open to students, and priority often goes to students in need. These work-study jobs can be arranged to fit your class schedule. Some on-campus, part time jobs are available in your field of study, but you may choose to work off-campus. It is important to test your ability to both hold down a job and complete your studies. Your class work may prove more demanding than you expected and you will probably need to spend more time studying than earning money. For this reason it is necessary that you submit your FAFSA and college financial aid documents before the deadline expires.
Last updated: May 27, 2005