Financial aid widespread
If you are like most families, you’ll be interested in what kind of financial aid is available when your student goes to college. When it comes to Minnesota’s private nonprofit colleges, 84% of first-year students are applying for financial aid by completing the FAFSA form online. (That all-important step is key to receiving financial aid and qualifying for federal loans.)
And most families are receiving aid at our colleges — an average of $19,340 per year in institutional, state and federal grants for first-year students. That average covers more than half of the tuition costs.
This means that many low-income families are able to afford our colleges. This runs counter to the myth that we’re not within reach. In fact, our share of low-income students who receive federal Pell Grants — 27% — is higher than at the U of M. Delissa Hernandez is an example of student whose family cannot contribute much to helping her cover her college costs. But with some grants, hard work and careful borrowing, she’s making it work at a private nonprofit college.">
For middle-income students, we’re a workable option too. While there’s no clear agreement on just what makes someone middle-income, but it may help to know that our median family income, for first-year students applying for FAFSA, is $89,000. So that means that half of these families have incomes below that amount and half have incomes above that. Here’s part of what Doug Minter, dean of financial aid at Gustavus Adolphus College, had to say when asked about how middle-income families are paying for college:
“Middle-income families rely heavily upon both merit and need-based institutional grant aid from the private nonprofit colleges — along with limited need-based grant aid from federal and state governments, primarily in the form of Pell and State Grants. Many of these families have saved for college costs and are able to use these funds to help pay for college. Many others take out some loans to spread the payments into the future. Loans are OK for higher education — our students have some of the lowest default rates in the country, a reflection of their ability to repay these loans. Students also work during the summer and on campus during the school year to help defray the cost.
Looking for more on the financial side? You can hear a family talk through what they learned about college financing, and a whole lot more, with the “Paying for Private College” video and clips that are online. There are links to other videos too, including ones in Hmong, Spanish and Somali.