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Planning for college? Financial options exist

Posted February 26, 2010

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— Somewhere between taking the SATs and moving into dorms, students and parents must plan how to pay for college.

Experts say the first step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form, which is required to apply for need-based scholarship money that won’t have to be paid back.

“We have about a half a billion dollars available every year for students in North Carolina,” said Ben Kittner, spokesman for the College Foundation of North Carolina, a free service that helps students plan, apply and pay for college.

Start applying early for college financial aid Start applying early for college financial aid

FASFA forms are also used to apply for federal loans. “They are subsidized by the federal government, and they are the least expensive loans you can take out,” Kittner said.

Parents and students should also check with financial aid offices at colleges and universities for additional scholarships.

“Just start doing your research because you’ll find something you can apply for,” Kittner said.

Scholarships aren’t all based on academic or athletic criteria. For example, Kittner said, some scholarships exist for left-handed students or for people who live in a certain part of the state.

The last option students should consider are private loans because they usually have higher interest rates, Kittner said.

“You just want to compare the interest rates, the borrow benefits. You might get discounts for things like automatic payments,” he said.

While it is never too early to start researching options, Kittner suggests that students planning to attend college next fall start applying now for scholarships and loans.

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