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Financing a college education

Matt DanielsBy Matt Daniels

Financing a college education can be a challenging task for many students and families, but there are many options available to assist students and families in successfully completing a post-secondary degree, diploma or certificate. The starting point for many students is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The FAFSA is the gateway to federal student aid, which is comprised of the Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Federal Work Study program, and the Direct Student Loan program. Eligibility for these programs is based on a student’s “need” as calculated based on the information provided on the FAFSA and the cost of attendance as calculated by the educational institution the student wishes to attend. The FAFSA for the 2017-2018 academic year is currently available online at

The state of Iowa also provides a variety of grants, and in most cases the filing of the FAFSA will determine a student’s eligibility for those programs. Certain state grant programs do require a separate application, which can generally be completed from the FAFSA website. You can also visit the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website to review the state grant programs and complete the application.

Institutional and private scholarships and grants are also available to further assist with paying the cost of a college education. Most institutions provide access to scholarship and grant funding; students should inquire with the institution regarding their application process. For graduating high school seniors, there are also a number of scholarship programs available through the high school foundations; inquire at your high school for information regarding eligibility and application for those programs.

Beyond that, there are also thousands of organizations throughout the country that sponsor grant and scholarship programs. With a little online research students may find a variety of programs for which they may be eligible to apply. Many employers offer scholarship programs to their employees and their families, so be sure to inquire with the employer regarding those types of programs.

For many families, financing a post-secondary education is a daunting task. But with a combination of early planning, applying for grants and scholarships, smart student loan borrowing, and a lot of hard work, that college degree, diploma or certificate is an attainable and worthy goal.

Matt Daniels is the Financial Aid Administrator for Marshalltown Community College.

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