College is more of a necessity than ever to be successful in the workforce. Everyone agrees you need a college education, but they have a harder time figuring out how to pay for it. College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) seeks to raise awareness among students and their families of available scholarships and grants. When you look at the math, taking the time to apply for scholarships is a no-brainer when it comes to college.
When it comes to paying for school, some teens are electing to do things the old-fashioned way. They’re finding part-time and summer jobs, working hard and saving up. It’s an admirable approach, and their work ethic deserves to be applauded. However, with the rising cost of tuition, a teenager will have to work a lot of hours to make a dent in their college expenses.
Most teens starting in the workforce will likely be making the federal minimum wage at their positions. The federal minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 an hour. The average cost of college tuition is about $4,850 for a semester at a public university and close to $1,750 for one semester at a two-year institution. To afford one semester at a public, four-year school while making minimum wage would take approximately 700 hours! That’s before accounting for taxes. That’s over 16 weeks of full-time work at minimum wage. Thankfully, there’s an additional, and possibly more lucrative, way to find money for school.
People talk about getting scholarships all the time. Even so, a surprisingly small number of students sit down and fill out their scholarship applications. Plenty of students will discourage themselves by saying that their grades aren’t good enough, they’re not smart enough, or they can’t write a strong enough essay. Laura Morgan, vice president of communications, savings, and legal affairs at College Foundation, Inc., says this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It breaks my heart to see so many students think they can’t qualify for a scholarship,” says Morgan. “There are so many different scholarships out there for everyone. No one should feel like college is out of reach.”
There are a myriad of resources where students and parents can search through comprehensive lists of scholarships. An hour or two spent filling out scholarship applications can lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars to go toward college expenses. If you estimate an hour for each application, a student could easily find and apply to more than $5,000 worth of scholarships in a full workday. Not bad compared to 700 hours working minimum wage. And there are more than scholarships to help send students to college.
In addition to scholarships, grants are available to alleviate some of the burden of college expenses. Unlike student loans, grants are not required to be paid back. In essence, grants, such as the Pell Grant, are free money for students willing to apply for it. What’s shocking is that an estimated $2.9 billion in available grant money and scholarships go unclaimed each year. Applications for these grants are submitted as part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.gov). By filling out the FAFSA, students are throwing their hat in the ring for a wealth of available funds.
“We want students to take advantage of every possible resource to pay for college,” says Morgan. “That’s why College Foundation of North Carolina works to help students and families apply for financial aid. This is really their money, and we strive to connect them with it on their way to college.”