This analysis does have some limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic: The most recent available data from the NCES is from the 2018-19 academic year. We used this data and the data from prior years to make projections about the percentage of high school graduates who will enroll in a four-year college, the percentage of them who will be awarded student loans and the amount of student loans they’ll ultimately take on. We’ll only know for sure in retrospect if our projections are overestimations, but all calculations have been made based on past high school graduation enrollment rates and student loan loads. “Even after a rough year for students due to the pandemic and the possibility of taking on $38,000 in loans over the next five years, college is still a worthwhile investment,” says Anna Helhoski, NerdWallet’s authority on student loans. “Completing at least a bachelor’s degree typically leads to better job opportunities and more income over your lifetime.” If you’re a 2022 high school graduate (or the parent of one), here are some ways to minimize student loan debt before, during and after college.
Submit the FAFSA annually The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a form that should be submitted each year you plan to attend college. In addition to qualifying you for federal student loans, it will also be used to assess eligibility for federal, state and school grants, scholarships and work-study programs, all of which could reduce your post-graduation debt balance. For the 2022-23 academic year, the FAFSA opens on October 1, 2021, and you can still fill it out until June 30, 2023. If you plan to enroll in the upcoming academic year and haven’t yet applied for aid, do so as soon as possible. Filing the FAFSA close to the open date can improve your chances of qualifying for grant, scholarship and work-study aid before it runs out. Also, find the FAFSA deadlines for your state and college. These dates are typically earlier than the federal deadline and filing on time can qualify you for state and institutional grants and scholarships. If your family’s financial situation changes – maybe a parent loses a job or becomes disabled – you can appeal a financial aid decision that was made using data that no longer reflects your household finances. In this case, email your school’s financial aid office to ask about its appeals guidelines or request a professional judgment. You’ll need to provide documentation about your situation and can request a specific sum to make up the deficit. Appeals aren’t always successful, but there’s no harm in asking for what you need.
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