SOURCE: NextStudent

March 06, 2008 10:46 ET

Study Shows College Costs at Forefront of Students' Concerns

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwire - March 6, 2008) - College costs rank as one of the top concerns for college students today, according to a recent survey by the Higher Education Research Institute. Financial aid packages -- the funds schools offer to students in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study awards, and student loans -- were cited by 39 percent of students in the survey as one of the most important factors when making college decisions, an increase of 5.1 percent over last year.

These concerns about affordability may be playing a part in students passing on their first-choice schools, suggests the survey's director, John Pryor. In 2007, over 80 percent of freshmen had been admitted to their first-choice school, but out of that group, only 64 percent actually enrolled in that institution, according to the survey.

Students who find that their financial aid package isn't enough to cover all their college costs may have options other than changing their school choice. In addition to the Pell Grants, work-study awards, and subsidized Perkins and Stafford student loans that are available to students who demonstrate financial need, the federal government offers low-cost, fixed-rate college loans to undergraduates, graduate students, and parents of undergraduates without regard to financial need.

Undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate no financial need or who have already maximized their need-based financial aid award may still be able to qualify for unsubsidized Stafford student loans or Grad PLUS graduate student loans. Eligible parents of undergraduates can qualify to borrow up to the full cost of attendance each year with a Federal PLUS Loan.

When federal financial aid -- whether need-based, non-need-based, or both -- isn't enough to cover all education-related expenses, students may still be able to obtain the additional funds they need to attend their first-choice school from private student loans.

Private student loans are typically available year-round, with no application deadlines, and feature generous borrowing limits, often up to the full cost of attendance.

However, since federal college loans generally offer more attractive terms than private student loans, students and their parents should always look into their federal financing options first before turning to private student loans.

About NextStudent

NextStudent, Federal Lender Code 834051, is dedicated to helping students and their families find affordable ways to pay for college. NextStudent offers one-on-one education finance counseling and has a portfolio of highly competitive education finance products and services, including a free online scholarship search engine, parent and student loans, private student loans, a private student loan consolidation program, and college savings plans.

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