Nov 172004
Authors: Nicole Barrett

Tuition is rising all over the country, yet many students continue to neglect applications for financial aid.

Many students who are eligible for financial aid do not apply, while others know that they will not qualify, financial aid officials said.

"Every student at CSU that applies for student aid qualifies for some sort of financial aid, whether it is a grant or loan," said Christie Leighton, associate director of Student Financial Services.

"It's hard to know why (more students) don't apply," she said.

Last year, 58 percent of CSU students applied for and received some form of financial aid, Leighton said.

Undergraduates who receive Pell Grants total 16 percent of those who apply for aid, whereas 44 percent receive federal direct loans, Leighton said, based on SFS statistics.

A Pell Grant is a federal grant that is awarded to undergraduate students for their first degree, if their expected family contribution to their education cannot cover their college expenses.

The amount of the grant varies from student to student and normally just covers the cost of tuition and fees, said Daniel Kauffman, spokesman for the National Education Association.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is essential to obtain federal aid, although it requires a lot of paperwork, Kauffman said.

The application can be completed online as well.

President Bush tried to make eligibility requirements higher but was shut down by Congress, Kauffman said.

The FAFSA is the gateway for federal and state aid for students, especially at public institutions, said Baird Johnson, vice president of Products and Marketing for FastWeb, a free online scholarship database, that allows students to find aid online at

Private sector scholarships evaluate for talent, not financial need. There are many ways to apply, including Web sites such as FastWeb that do not require students to fill out the FAFSA. However, too many students think they can pay for college with scholarships alone, which is not the case, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid, another web-based, student aid, information organization.

"Only 6.9 percent of students receive scholarships," Kantrowitz said. "(There are) no scholarships going unclaimed."

The federal government budgets student aid and only what is needed is distributed, Leighton said. No funds are unclaimed as a result, she said.

Kantrowitz said that as little federal aid as possible remains unclaimed nationally. Johnson reiterated this, stating virtually all scholarships are distributed among students.

"The Higher Education Act authorizes federal student aid that students and colleges receive," said Johnson.

The act is now up for reauthorization, Johnson said.

Students need to be educated about financial aid and try for as many federal aid opportunities as possible. Kantrowitz said the Stafford loan, which is open to all students, provides the lowest rates for student aid when compared to private loans.

"Talk to financial aid officers, counselors on campus, visit Web sites, (educate yourself)," Johnson said.

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