Grants can help keep education plans on track


CORVALLIS - If you're a community college student trying to decide whether to get a job now or continue your education at a four-year school, the good news is there's a multitude of funding possibilities available to help.

When compared to the moderate costs of a community college, a major university might seem high priced. But dozens of scholarships, grants, loan programs and other options can help take the edge off those costs, experts say.

In fact, if you can enter a university with standing as a junior, there are many scholarships available to upper level students that are not offered to beginning freshmen. And the maximum amounts available on some grant or loan programs are higher than they would be if you were just starting college.

The fall before entering the university is as good a time as any to check out the possibilities.

"Community college students should almost always apply for aid, even if they don't think they will get it," said Keith McCreight, director of financial aid at Oregon State University. "They're often surprised at the range of grants, loans and scholarships available."

Even as an in-state resident at a public institution like OSU, the estimated cost of tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies and other costs are now estimated at $11,361.

That amount can seem overwhelming. But there are literally dozens or hundreds of scholarship possibilities, many other types of financial aid and organized programs set up to help you find the financial help you'll need.

In one recent year at OSU, for instance, university students were provided with 3,726 scholarships and 6,856 grants, none of which had to be repayed. That didn't include 10,280 loans and 6,254 student jobs.

Altogether, OSU students were given, borrowed or worked part-time to produce $78 million to support their education.

There are several keys to success. Among them:

- Talk to your community college financial aid counselors. They have the information, forms and advice to get you started in the right direction.

- In the fall, the year before you would transfer to a four year school, think about your career goals, your interests, and start researching some of the scholarships that might be tailored to your situation.

- During January, fill out and send in the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid," or FAFSA form. It's a key to getting basic information and applications made for aid at up to six colleges you can list.

- Consider making applications early in the school year for admission to the colleges in which you are seriously interested. Most universities won't actively process your aid applications unless you have at least applied for admission.

Taking these actions are important, McCreight said. Especially important is making sure that the FAFSA form is filled out by Feb. 1 to put you in a priority position for any grants, scholarships or loans.

The list of aid possibilities is lengthy. At OSU, you could be eligible for some combination of Pell Grants, federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, state supplemental tuition waivers, a state need grant, Perkins loan, federal direct loan, work-study or other programs.

And that doesn't even begin to mention the dozens and hundreds of special scholarships that could benefit you.

An interest in horticulture, graduation from a certain high school, career ambitions in forestry, evidence of 4-H leadership or any of dozens of other "qualifications" could make you a candidate for a scholarship. Sometimes high academic achievement is a prerequisite and sometimes it isn't.

Many such programs are outlined in a book published by OSU called the OSU Bulletin. And a copy of that book should be in the financial aid office of your community college - always a good place to start. Other great resources include those available on the web: financial aid information at OSU can be found at and national information from a wealth of sources is available at

"On one level the approach is fairly simple," McCreight said. "Always send in the FAFSA form during January, always assume there may be some help available and start looking into it."

If you need more information, phone numbers to keep in mind include:

- The Federal Student Aid Information Center, 1-800-433-3243

- The Oregon State Scholarship Commission, 1-800-452-8807

- The OSU Office of Admissions, 541-737-4411

- The OSU Office of Financial Aid, 541-737-2241