This year’s high school graduates maybe done with exams, but with changes to Arkansas’ lottery scholarships and college loan interest rates, they’d better be cramming for the financial challenges ahead, said Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“High school seniors may have some last-minute adjustments to make in paying for a college education,” she said.
Among the changes: interest rates on government subsidized Stafford loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. Students who receive loans now are committing a larger chunk of their future paychecks.
The Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship has fallen from $4,500 per year to $2,000 for freshmen starting school in the fall of 2013.
“That’s $2,500 the student will have to make up from some other funding source,” Connerly said. “This can be especially difficult for moderate income families who don’t have as much expendable income might not qualify for needs-based financial aid.”
Connerly has four financial tips to consider for additional college funding:
• Apply for financial aid: “Always explore all of the possibilities,” she said. “There might be scholarships or grants for which you qualify. Contact your school’s financial aid office to complete an application.”
• Earn some income: Students can supplement financial aid with earned income. “It can be challenging to manage a schedule that includes both college and work, while ensuring school work comes first,” Connerly said. “Look for employment opportunities that fit into your school schedule. Work during the summer and save for the school year. Work only part-time during the school year and limit work hours so that you have enough time for classes and homework. Check with your school about work-study programs that provide on-campus jobs.”
• Borrow as little as possible. “It can be tempting to borrow as much money as the lender allows,” Connerly said. “Beware of using student loans to finance a lifestyle. The less you borrow now, the easier it will be to manage your household budget after you graduate. Calculate your actual financial need and borrow only the minimum necessary to finance your education.”
• Comparison shop for loans. “If you decide to take out a loan, be sure to shop around,” she said. “As with any important consumer decision, compare at least three places before making a final purchase decision. Look for the best terms and rates available. The lower the interest rate, the more money you’ll keep in your pocket after your graduate.”
For more information about managing your finances visit www.arfamilies.org/money.htm or contact your county extension agent.