Undergraduate Tuition – College Scholarships

College tuition continues to rise nationally at both public and private universities. Average tuition at public universities increased 8.3% for in-state residents and 5.7% for out-of-state residents. According to the College Board, state residents of Arizona, California, Georgia, and Washington experienced an increase in tuition of nearly 20%. Currently, annual tuition for out-of-state residents at many of the California public universities exceeds $50,000.

Increases in Tuition & Costs at Private Universities

Average tuition at private universities increased 4.0% this past year. Typically, tuition at private universities is two to three times as expensive in comparison to tuition at public universities if you’re an in-state resident.

Financial Aid, the FAFSA & Scholarship Opportunities

Luckily, there are many financial aid and scholarship opportunities available to students enrolling this upcoming fall. The most common form of financial aid is based on need, and is determined by the FAFSA form submitted by the student along with his or her application.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) determines a student’s eligibility for federal loans and other aid packages. At UC Davis, 72% of undergraduates received a financial aid package totaling $18,411. Much like submitting the application itself, sending in your FAFSA early increases your chances of receiving aid from this limited amount of funding.

In addition to FAFSA, many colleges and universities offer Merit-Based Scholarships. These are offered to students on the basis of their academic achievement in high school, or for exceptional SAT scores. Frequently, lower-ranked colleges will offer merit-based scholarships to encourage highly qualified students to attend, which improves the quality of the student body, and often makes college affordable for good students with less income. For instance, the University of Miami awards a select group of incoming freshmen that are in the top 1% of their high school class with an A+ average and a minimum score of 1500 on the SAT a four-year full scholarship called the Issac Bashevis Singer Scholarship.

Ivy League Universities’ Need-Based Scholarships

Unfortunately, the Ivy League universities and many exclusive liberal arts colleges don’t offer merit-based scholarships. Instead, they offer need-based scholarships. Princeton offers need-based scholarships and this past year awarded an average of $23,750 to students whose families made between $180,000 to $200,000. It is important to inquire about school-specific scholarships through your guidance counselor at school, or through the university’s financial aid office.

This brings us to Non-Institution-Based Scholarships and Grants – the least-understood source of funding for college applicants. These scholarships and grants vary widely and can be researched in many different ways. Did you know that you might qualify for a scholarship if you…

  • Plan to pursue a specific major
  • Belong to a specific ethnic or religious group
  • Have a specific career goal
  • Have participated in specific volunteer work
  • Have a disability
  • Can speak a particular foreign language
  • Are an athlete
  • Or a family member is a veteran?
  • Or your family has experienced a particular hardship (Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, etc.)?

You, as an individual, may qualify for many different scholarships, many with quickly approaching deadlines, so it is important to stay on top of things. Check out some scholarship books, like the College Board’s Scholarship Handbook, or Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants and Prizes. Register yourself on scholarships.com, fastweb.com, finaid.com, or any of the many scholarship websites right away; they may notify you when a new scholarship that fits your profile appears, so don’t forget to keep your profile up-to-date with all of your latest successes! Scholarships listed on these websites are frequently nationwide or international, and receive many applications, so don’t forget to research Local Scholarships as well, such as grants from:

  • Alumni of your high school
  • Local businesses and corporations
  • Community groups, such as the Elks, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, or Masons
  • Your local Department of Education

The best way to learn about Local Scholarships is to ask your school or the organizations directly in a respectful and mature way.