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Financial aid is hard to get, but harder to learn about

College is often portrayed as this financial nightmare where students spend thousands of dollars that they don’t have and years of their lives, in order to work towards a degree that would supposedly open up many new job opportunities for them. This archetype is facilitated by students who take out loans without knowing what they were getting into, then ending up in a sticky situation.

Educational institutions, such as high schools and universities, should provide their students with support in learning how to finance their education through careful planning and consideration. The monetary aspect of an education beyond high school is a major factor that deters many potential scholars from pursuing it and prevents students from realizing that in some cases, a college education is priceless and beneficial.

If high schools would reach out to their upperclassmen, and provide them information about using financial aid, it may help overcome the financial barrier that exists. It may sound cliche, but this is a perfect example of how knowledge is power. A simple thing such as an advisor meeting with the class, and providing information about the resources the students could access has the potential to go a long way.

In a similar manner, universities should continue to help students keep track of their loans, and plan for loans that they would need for graduate school, if they decide to pursue it. They can also help expand the knowledge that students have about their loans by teaching them about some basic concepts, such as how interest can compound over time and accumulate, how students can start paying back loans in installments and the different interest rates associated with each loan.

In some cases, the problem is not the unavailability of resources for students, it often stems from the fact that universities are not taking up a more active role in informing them. I can and have emailed my financial aid advisor here at UMBC about a couple questions that I had, which may have required scheduling a meeting. I was able to receive the information and answers that I needed within a couple hours via email. It made me think about how many students would benefit if they were mandated to meet with their financial aid advisor to go over their loans and get any updates. Maybe it would keep them conscious of the day-to-day financial decisions they make, and plan their futures accordingly.

I know that coming from an immigrant family, the only resources that I had when it came to learning how to finance my education was through doing my own research, and it seems clear that the system needs to play a more active role.

If schools become more active when it came to educating their students about financial aid, it would help put the students in a better financial position. It would also open up the opportunity to attend college for the students who decided not to solely due to the financial barrier. With undergraduate loans that have interest rates of 4.3 percent, and graduate loans that can peak at interests rates of 6.8 percent, students should be able to make a knowledgeable decision about whether the benefits outweigh the costs of a higher education.