ON EDUCATING LARUE: Financial aid information available at free event

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By Ron Benningfield

 Co-sponsored by the youth service center, College Application Week held in late November at LaRue County High School helped students take a proactive step toward making the financial burden of a college degree lighter.

The costs graduating seniors face for a college degree are staggering and climbing.

“A state school would cost an average of $20,000 a year including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal and transportation versus a private school whose costs range from $35-50,000 a year,” said Kristi Wright, LCHS guidance counselor. “Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges costs total roughly $5,000 a year including everything except room and board for our local students.”

The outlook for how much scholarship money will be made available is unclear.

“I just know each year it seems the financial aid monies are quickly distributed,” she said.

Because of the higher costs and uncertainty as to how much help will be out there, Wright noted the importance of students applying for help early on.

“Financial aid is first-come, first-served, based on financial need,” she said. “Therefore, students and parents must apply as soon after Jan. 1 as possible.”

College financial aid representatives have informed the veteran counselor that state monies ran out in early February last year. 

“That is why it is crucial that students and parents apply using 2011 tax information and estimates after Jan. 1,” she said. “Then, they can go back in and make corrections to their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) once they get 2012 taxes completed.”

Wright explained that two main types of financial aid - need-based and merit-based - are awarded.   

Need is determined by the FAFSA. Merit-based rewards are granted for excelling in some area. One award is KEES (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship) in which money is granted according to grade point averages in high school.  Athletic and local scholarships are based on grades or abilities. 

“The types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, work-study, student loans, waivers, military benefits, conversion scholarships and national service awards,” said Wright.

For students wanting to further their education, but not through college, financial aid may also be available. Wright believes most beauty schools, for example, will award monetary assistance. 

“Students must apply for FAFSA to be considered,” she said. “I would suggest a student contact the beauty school or other place they plan to attend to speak to them about financial assistance and scholarship opportunities.”

The counselor urged students and parents to attend College Goal at 2 p.m. Jan. 13 at sites throughout the state including local hosts Campbellsville University and Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. The event is free with no appointment necessary. 

“Financial aid experts will be available to assist students and parents with applying and submitting their FAFSA,” Wright said. “Students and parents need to take income information with them.”

More information about this event is available at www.kasfaa.com/savethedate. 

Wright encouraged students and parents to visit www.kheaa.com or fastweb.com as well as college and university websites for scholarship opportunities.

“Our local community has always been very generous in supporting and offering our seniors many local scholarship opportunities,” she said. “As we receive local scholarship opportunities, we make them easily available for seniors in our guidance office.”