Emory Report

November 30, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 13

Campaign seeks to assure "College is Possible" for families

Emory has joined a coalition of nearly 1,200 colleges and universities nationwide in a campaign titled "College is Possible," with the mission of enhancing public knowledge about financing a college education.

College is Possible kicked off with a press conference in October at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library in Washington attended by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and American Council on Education President Stanley Ikenberry.

The campaign was prompted by a survey earlier this year which found that while parents and students value a college education, many dramatically overestimate the price, sometimes by as much as 200 percent. Roughly $60 billion in financial aid is available to students each year from federal, state, local and institutional sources to help pay the costs of higher education.

At Emory, for example, the average need-based grant to students is $11,700 per year, according to Julia Perreault, director of financial aid. That level of funding is consistent with the University's competing institutions, and Perreault added it is rare that Emory cannot meet a family's demonstrated need through a combination of grants, loans and work-study programs. "Emory's typical aid award does not leave gaps that students and/or families must find a way to fill," Perreault said.

One concern, she added, is that families are not saving for college as they once did; often parents will turn their attention to college just a few years before their child is ready to matriculate, and even then they pay attention first to admission. Only after the list of possible college choices is narrowed down, do many families begin thinking about financing the costs of those schools.

"College is affordable, but families have a part in making it affordable," Perreault said. "People who have the capacity need to begin saving earlier; there are tax benefits and incentives now for saving under the provisions of the tax relief act that took effect this year. Those for whom saving is not a viable option shouldn't simply write off more expensive schools; they need to look at all the schools they might be interested in attending, find out what types of aid options might be available at those schools, and go through the application process."

Families in Georgia have an extra advantage in the form of HOPE scholarships. For the state's public colleges and universities, HOPE covers the full cost of tuition for full- or part-time students who maintain a B average; for private institutions, the scholarship provides $3,000 per academic year for full-time, B-average students. And, of course, here on campus the dependent children of Emory faculty or staff may use courtesy scholarships to attend the University and pay no tuition (after other grants and scholarships, including HOPE, are applied).

There are other options beyond grants and loans. Some colleges, Perreault said, offer payment plans that allow costs to be paid in monthly installments. Some accept credit cards. Combining all of the options available for financing a college education often makes it possible to attend schools that might seem too expensive at first glance.

And there is a wealth of information available for families who want to learn more about college funding options. "Students should start with their high school counselors," Perreault said. "College financial aid offices provide information specific to their schools. The College Board web site <www.collegeboard. org> has a lot of helpful information on applying for admission and for aid, on costs and types of aid available. The Department of Education site <www.ed.gov> provides the basics about applying for federal aid. There are also websites such as <www.fastweb.com> that provide information about any scholarship aid available."

--Michael Terrazas

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