A common misconception among aspiring natural health students is financial aid isn’t available for their programs. Fortunately, the truth is more uplifting and finances shouldn’t stop you from reaching your goals.
Here are six basic steps to take, and key questions to ask early on to help you make smart, confident decisions.
Are You Eligible for Federal Aid?
The U.S. government is the largest single source of higher education funding in America. To qualify for aid, you have to meet certain requirements, including:
- Being a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- Having a valid Social Security Number
- Having a high school diploma, or the equivalent such as a GED (General Education Development) certificate
2 Other Expenses
What Are the Expenses Beyond Tuition?
When tallying up your school costs, don’t forget about the extras. They can add up.
- School fees
- Textbooks and other school supplies
- A laptop or computer
- Internet access
- Transportation or parking
3 School Consideration
Do the Schools You’re Considering Offer Federal Aid?
Only schools that are accredited by organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education can offer federal financial aid. To get accredited, schools have to meet certain academic quality standards.
In the case of natural health schools, not all certificate programs are covered by federal financial aid. If your school doesn’t receive Title IV funding, find out if there are other options, such as payment plans or work-exchange programs, to help cover costs.
- In certain cases your tuition may be tax-deductible. You can find more detailed information about education tax benefits at IRS.gov.
- The URL for the official FAFSA site is www.fafsa.ed.gov. Be careful to avoid websites that use FAFSA in the URL but end in .com, .biz, .net, etc. Many charge fees to fill out your FAFSA. If you want their advice, that’s your call, but you should not have to pay a dime to apply for financial aid.
4 Net Price
How Do I Identify a “Net Price” Estimate?
That’s all your costs minus grants and scholarships. If a school doesn’t include an easy-to-find, user-friendly net price calculator on its website, call the school’s financial aid office.
5 Other Types of Financial Aid
Are Grant, Scholarship, Work-study Opportunities Available?
A key advantage to these three types of financial aid: You do not have to repay them.
- Grants are typically based on financial need and the cost of your program. Federal and state governments are the two largest sources of higher-education grant funding.
- Scholarships are available from community groups, professional associations and more. Some are need-based and some are merit based, and some may require you to maintain a certain grade point average. The harder you search, and the more you apply, the better off you’ll be. Millions of dollars in scholarship money goes unused each year. Check with your school as well; some institutions provide scholarships to their students.
Some natural health schools also provide tribal aid to Native American students. This financial assistance typically comes in the form of scholarships and grants.
- Work-study programs pay students who work on or near campus while attending school. For more information, ask an admissions officer at the schools you’re considering.
6 Federal Loans
What Federal Loans are Available?
All loans have to be repaid with interest, so your No. 1. goal should be to borrow as little as possible. You’re not required to borrow the entire amount offered to you. Your No. 2 goal should be to limit as much of your borrowing as possible to federal loans.
Key advantages of federal loans:
- Interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan. Private loans typically come with variable interest rates that often increase substantially, which can make them harder to repay.
- In some cases, you can lower your monthly payments after making automatic electronic payments for a certain period of time.
- Federal loans are eligible for income-based repayment plans and public service loan forgiveness. Some common federal loan programs:
- Stafford Loan — Includes the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and the Direct Loan programs
- Parent PLUS Loan — Distributed to students’ parents through the FFEL and Direct Loan programs
- Perkins Loan — For low-income students