WILLISTON, N.D. - Williston State College's Financial Aid Office has disbursed the financial aid payments to WSC students for the 2011 spring semester, and now it's time to start thinking forward to summer and fall semesters that will be here before we know it.
According to WSC Financial Aid Director Lynn Haverlock, plans for financial aid should begin now. There are many forms of aid out there, but she said that the main source of financial aid for college students is federal financial aid and that there is a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which can be found and completed at www.fafsa.gov.
"That should be completed as soon as your 2010 taxes are completed," Haverlock said. "There is a priority deadline of March 15, which means that you may be eligible for more aid if you get your application in before that date."
According to the website, the FAFSA should take less than one hour to complete depending on your answers and whether or not you have the necessary information available.
Types of aid available, which are determined by the FAFSA, include the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant (FSOG), Federal Work Study, as well as federal loans which can be either subsidized or unsubsidized, and a federal direct parent loan.
"If you are a parent who wants to help your college student who is an undergrad and their aid does not cover the cost of attendance, you as parents can borrow money for them as long as the loan doesn't go above the cost of attendance," Haverlock explained.
She said that North Dakota has a state grant of $1,200 per year that is also based on the March 15 FAFSA deadline and is need based.
After all the federal aid has been applied for and you find that you're still unable to pay for your college education, then you can turn to private loans.
Haverlock said that there is a misconception that if your income or your parents' income, if you are still dependent on them, are too high, you will not be eligible for a student loan.
"It does not matter how much you, or your parents, make in a year. Unless you are in default on a previous student loan, you can get a loan," she said. "Freshman can receive a loan which is limited to $3500, and sophomores can get $4500. They may also borrow additional unsubsidized loans based on dependency status."
These loans can either be subsidized (need-based) or unsubsidized.
"The FAFSA is what we use to determine if the students have financial need or not," Haverlock said. "It should be noted that anyone can get an unsubsidized loan, no matter how their FAFSA comes back."
Another misconception that she would like to quash is that you must be a full-time student to get financial aid.
"In order to receive a student loan, you must be taking at least six credit hours," she said. A full-time load is usually 12 credit hours. She also stated, "the Federal Pell Grant may be offered at less than half-time attendance if the student has eligibility."
To apply for summer financial aid, students must complete a Summer Aid Application in addition to the FAFSA. This application can be found on the WSC website, www.willistonstate.edu, after March 1 of each year.
Scholarships can also provide funding for a students' college education, and WSC has many scholarships available through the WSC Foundation, which has awarded up to $1 million in scholarships to date. "We require students to fill out an application for scholarships and that can be found on the WSC website." Haverlock said. Again, the priority deadline for WSC scholarships is March 15.
"Students do not have to apply for admission to the college before they fill out a scholarship application," she said. "But they will want to apply for scholarships even if they may end up not attending WSC - at least they would have their application in if they do decide to come here."
There are many scholarships available that are geared to specific students. Anyone who graduates from a Williams County or McKenzie County high school has a $1,000 scholarship to WSC waiting for them if they apply. "And for students with a 2.5 GPA or above, they would be awarded an academic scholarship," Haverlock said. Academic scholarships range in amount from $750 to $5,000, depending on the student's GPA.
The Foundation also offers matching scholarships for various high school scholarships in the area. High school students will want to check with their high school counselors or contact WSC for more information on which high school scholarships are eligible for matching funds.
Haverlock understands that financial aid and all the paperwork involved with the application process is confusing for most students and their parents. She encourages those who are planning to attend college and will need some aid to contact her office to set up an appointment.
"We would be more than happy to help potential students find a way to finance their college education," she said.
For more information on financial aid available, call Haverlock at 774-4244.