Does Financial Aid Cover Campus Housing?

Question: I was wondering (and praying) if financial aid would cover campus housing. My mother and I have been unemployed for over 5 years and living under my grandmother's roof. So we make 0 monthly. It is so very difficult to find a job where I am in NC. HORRIBLE. And the school I need and want to attend is out of state. Thank you for your help!

The good news: :-) When colleges compute financial aid, it is based on total "Cost of Attendance," and not on tuition alone. So your room & board, miscellaneous fees, and even travel to and from campus will be part of the aid formula. Note also that, at some colleges, students who are selected to be “Resident Advisors” receive free rooms and sometimes free board, too. (These Resident Advisor jobs, which may be called by different names at different schools, are typically reserved for juniors and seniors but sometimes sophomores are eligible as well. The positions are often very competitive. Good grades and, especially, involvement in extracurricular activities are usually weighted heavily in the selection process.)

The bad news: :-( Many colleges will not meet your full financial need or--if they do meet it--some of your "aid" may be in the form of loans that you must repay. While student loans have reasonable interest rates, you want to be careful not to graduate with too much debt. Thus, your best bet is to not set your sights on just one college alone. Instead, you should apply to several places—including in-state schools that might be most affordable. Then you can compare financial aid offers before making a final choice.

But, above all, you shouldn’t let your family’s low income keep you from attending college. You just have to be a savvy “shopper” in order to find the place that will meet your academic and personal preferences while also offering sufficient financial support to make it a realistic option.

(posted 11/7/2012)