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College students, families have several options for financial aid | Education

TAHLEQUAH – Students and their families frequently seek financial aid to defray or delay the expenses of higher education.

Financial aid through the US government, the state or from tribal sources is an option for many students. Unlike scholarships, aid programs often base their awards on financial need rather than academic performance ñ though students usually must remain in good academic with the college or university to retain or reapply for assistance.

Financial aid commonly takes the form of loans and grants.

ìIt is financial assistance,î said Dr. Teri Cochran, director of student financial services at Northeastern State University. ìFederal aid is meant to fill in the gap between what it will cost to go to school and what it is determined that the family should be able to pay.î.

The standard form most students complete for federal aid is the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Cochran said the FAFSA is used in assessment of student and family financial need.

Applicants should expect to pay part of the expense for college, or to repay loans after attaining a degree or leaving school. Programs such as the Pell grant do not require repayment, but to attend school ìfor freeî usually requires serious financial hardship and applying to several aid programs and scholarships. Veterans and those dealing with qualifications often qualify for generous aid awards.

Other options include full academic or athletic scholarships, though most incoming college students are not blue-chip athletes and have some imperfections on their transcripts.

ìIf the expense is more than what you receive in Pell and your yearly loan limit, there will be a gap there,î Cochran said. ìThat may not be covered by federal financial aid. Here in financial services, we encourage people to start applying early for scholarships. They cannot only apply at the institution they plan to attend, but also outside scholarships.î

The FAFSA must be completed by an early date. The deadline for the 2022-23 academic term opened on Oct. 1, 2021, and closes June 30. Cochran recommends applying as quickly as possible after the window opens.

ìThere are a lot of grants and scholarships that are ëfirst come first served,íî she said. ìThere is only a certain amount of money. So, the sooner you get the application in, the better your chances of getting something from those pots of money.î

About 70% of NSU students receive at least some financial aid. Not all is disbursed as grants and loans. A student can also apply for ìwork-study,î which is federally funded.

ìWe also have what we call ëinstitutional work-study,íî Cochran said. ìIt may go by other names on other campuses. It is student employment paid with institutional dollars, as opposed to federal funding.î

A high school student may choose to apply for concurrent coursework programs, which are usually offered to juniors and seniors at a discounted fee per hour.

ìEven if it may not always be feasible for a high school student to save for college, if students take advantage of concurrent coursework they could save significant money by earning credits through concurrent enrollment,î said Aaron Emberton, acting representative executive director of education for the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Nation also offers scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students. Application opens March 1 and closes June 15. The CN Foundation also lists more than two dozen available scholarships.

Native students can also apply for other scholarships and aid through programs such as the Indian Health Service Scholarship, American Indian Graduate Center, American Indian College Fund and the Cobell Scholarship.

CN Education Services maintains a page with several links at https://www.cherokee.org/all-services/education-services/college-resources/higher-education.

Call Education Services at 918-453-5000, ext. 5341 or write to education@cherokee.org.

The CN Foundation lists its scholarships at http://cherokeenationfoundation.org/scholarships.

Call the CN Foundation at 918-207-0950, or write to contact@cherokeenationfoundation.org.

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