April is Financial Literacy Month, that time of year to check your fiscal fitness, take a hard look at your money management habits, and brush up on your financial skills. It’s also a great opportunity to practice improving your finances through budgeting and setting savings targets for important life goals such as earning a college degree.
National University is here to help you pursue your education goals with options to finance your education and increase your social mobility. Setting your life on a trajectory of success begins with boosting your financial literacy.
The Benefits of Financial Literacy
From budgeting and saving to borrowing and investing, financial literacy empowers you with the knowledge you need to make smart financial decisions and manage money effectively. Here are five specific ways financial literacy will serve you well in life:
- A working knowledge of money management is key as you pursue life goals such as saving for education or retirement, starting a business, or purchasing a home.
- You can avoid those seemingly innocent financial decisions that can cost you money and derail your life plans. One example is accumulating an unsustainable level of debt, either through poor spending habits or a lack of long-term preparation, which can lead to poor credit, bankruptcy, and housing foreclosure.
- You’ll have the nest egg you need for emergencies. Though losing a job or having an unexpected expense is tough, you can cushion the blow by using your financial know-how to create an emergency fund that covers life’s unpleasant surprises.
- It can help you reach your goals. By better understanding how to budget and save money, you can create plans that set expectations, hold yourself accountable to your finances, and set a course for achieving long-term goals.
- It’s a real confidence booster. When you’re well-versed in personal finance and money management skills, you can face major life choices with greater confidence, knowing unforeseen outcomes are less likely to surprise or negatively impact you.
Ways to Make College More Affordable
Today, college student loan debt surpasses credit card debt in the United States. You can maximize your college education’s return on investment by keeping loans to a minimum. Here are five tips to make college more affordable:
- Don’t look at the sticker price alone. Granted, paying for college will be exponentially easier if you choose a school that’s reasonably priced for you. Keep in mind, though, just because one school’s sticker price is lower doesn’t mean it will be more affordable for you. For example, if a $30,000-a-year school doesn’t offer you aid, and a $60,000-a-year college offers you $40,000 in aid, the school with the higher sticker price is actually more affordable for you.
- Apply early for financial aid. Though college tuition is steep, most students don’t pay the full sticker price. Federal student aid keeps college affordable, but complicated paperwork and unclear deadlines can work against you. If you’re in need of financial assistance for college, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early. The FAFSA connects students with more than $150 billion in free money for college. Those who apply early stand to be awarded the most in FAFSA aid.
- Get a work-study job. A college job provides income, work experience, and potentially valuable connections. The federal work-study program funds part-time jobs for college students with financial need. To apply for work-study, submit the FAFSA. If you qualify, you’ll see “work-study” listed on your financial aid award. However, just because you’re eligible for work-study doesn’t mean you automatically get that money. You’ll need to find an eligible work-study job at your college and work enough hours to earn the full amount of aid you qualify for.
- Take advantage of employer tuition assistance. You likely are juggling additional responsibilities outside of earning a degree, such as being a parent and holding down a job. A growing number of companies, including fast-food chains, offer tuition assistance to help employees afford a college degree. National University’s Workforce Education Solutions has formed educational partnerships with many top organizations to provide significant tuition discounts to employees.
- Earn credit for prior learning. NU offers prior learning credit for applicable, measurable non-traditional experience such as military training, non-collegiate training programs, advanced high school courses, career experience, and self-development. According to a 2020 report from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, on average, adult students with credit for prior learning saved $1,481 at two-year public institutions, $3,794 at public four-year institutions, and $10,220 at four-year private nonprofit institutions.
How National University Is Making College Accessible and Affordable
Named a Best Value College by Money Magazine, National University is dedicated to making higher education accessible and affordable. We take the stress out of pursuing higher education by providing resources like financial aid advisors and financial wellness through our whole human education approach.
To help reduce the cost of education, we accept all federally funded financial aid programs, including grants, loans, and scholarships.
We also award tuition scholarships and grants to those who qualify. Last year NU awarded more than $50 million in scholarships. Through NU scholarship offerings, eligible students are able to reduce the financial burden of college, start classes sooner, and finish their programs faster while focusing on achieving their goals. For students who’ve stopped short of their potential because of the cost of earning a degree, NU’s needs-based Key Grant offers qualified students an alternative path to affordability with a 50% tuition reduction, up to a $10,000 award annually.
As a Yellow Ribbon school, we offer tuition discounts for military personnel and their dependents. In addition, National University forms educational partnerships with organizations to provide significant tuition discounts to employees, create their own scholarships and internships, and develop industry, organization, and job-relevant skills training.
Tips for Applying for Financial Aid
Figuring out how to pay for college can be daunting and time-consuming, so here are five tips on how to apply for financial aid.
- Don’t make assumptions about whether you’re eligible for financial aid because deciding not to apply can be a costly mistake.
- Start searching for scholarships a year before the funds are needed using free resources such as the College Board, FastWeb.com, and the U.S. News Scholarship Finder. It’s an unnecessary expense to pay someone to search for scholarships. But if you do, avoid giving out your personal information, such as your Social Security number, to avoid a potential scam.
- Apply for lots of aid. Thousands of dollars in grant and scholarship money go unclaimed every year, and claiming some of that money for yourself can help you reduce your student loan debt. There are grants and scholarships based on minority status, disability, grade point average, extracurricular participation, or the college major you plan to pursue, to name a few.
- Be aware of deadlines, and better yet, apply early. Missing a deadline can result in money being left on the table. Because some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, applying early can increase your odds of success.
- Check your email regularly. You won’t want to miss requests for additional information that are sent to your email address.
Tips for Applying for Scholarships
Thousands of scholarships are available, and the good news is they don’t have to be paid back. Use the Department of Labor’s Scholarship Finder to get started. While many scholarships require that you submit the FAFSA, most also have an additional application. After you’ve applied for various scholarships, explore National University’s awards, which are considered “last money” tuition scholarships. These awards are designed to supplement, but not replace, federal and state financial aid, employer tuition assistance, and student income.
Tips for Applying for Grants
The high school class of 2021 forfeited $3.75 million in federal Pell Grant Money by not completing the FAFSA, according to a study by the National College Attainment Network. Don’t make that mistake. If you submit the FAFSA and renew it each year you’re enrolled in school, you’ll receive Pell money if you’re eligible for it. In addition to the need-based Pell program, the federal government offers several other types of grants, which also don’t need to be paid back in most cases. Many states have grant programs, too. Use the Education Department’s state education contacts and information locator to find the agencies in your state that administer college grants.
Resources for Improving Financial Literacy
Now that you’ve learned about the many ways you can cut higher education costs, you may be wondering how you can take your financial know-how to the next level in all the areas.
Books, magazines, and newspapers remain a great way to delve into financial topics. A proliferation of personal finance podcasts can help you hone your money-management skills on your morning commute or daily walk. Your local library or civic center may host presentations by local financial professionals that are geared toward novice investors. Financial professionals themselves or the firms where they work often offer financial education opportunities.
There’s also an enormous amount of content online for those who want to improve their financial literacy. One resource is the Financial Literacy Resource Directory which allows you to explore a large selection of financial literacy resources arranged by topic. Here, you’ll find information on everything from credit management and home buying to retirement planning and financial literacy toolkits for youths.
Take Charge of Your Financial Health
From scholarships and financial aid programs to employer tuition assistance and prior learning credits, National University is here to help you pay for college, pursue your education, and achieve your goals.
To learn more about how National University can help you achieve an affordable college degree, contact us at [email protected].