Project Opportunity: Access to Washington's Colleges'

“Whitworth was my first choice and luckily I received enough financial aid to enroll.”

— Edralyn Michelle Harmon
Whitworth University


Paying for College

There are lots of ways to pay for college. Don't let tuition be the only consideration in college choice. The money is available to go to the college you really want to attend. Call the financial aid office at the colleges you are interested in attending. They can help you with everything you need to know about getting the money you need. And it's all for free; never pay for financial advice about schools.

Types of Financial Aid

To start, visit the websites of the financial aid offices at the colleges you're interested in. Call the financial aid office. They can be very helpful. There are several web sites that will help you search for scholarships. Another good resource is the financial aid section of the ICW website. It has information about specific scholarships and grants and lots of helpful links. Remember, some of these options may require separate applications. The more grant and scholarship aid you receive the fewer loans you'll have to take out.

Grants and Scholarships

This is money you don't have to pay back.


There are many programs which give students money to attend college, such as the federal Pell Grant, state education grants, and grants directly from the college or university. These programs usually use financial need as the primary criterion for eligibility.


Most scholarships are awarded based on your skills, abilities, characteristics, or need. They often require their own application. They can be based on:

  • A specific field of study you plan to undertake.
  • Need based on the information submitted through FAFSA.
  • Your personal qualities, such as:

Keep in mind that some grants and scholarships are awarded once and do not carry through all four years of college. Be sure to take note of which kind you receive when you are considering the cost of attendance.


Loans are borrowed money you will need to pay back.

Federal Loans

You must submit a FAFSA to be eligible for Federal Student Loans. The type and amount of aid you are eligible for will be included in your offer of financial aid provided by the college.

  • Stafford Loans: are either subsidized or unsubsidized.
    • Subsidized means the aid is based on financial need.
      The federal government pays the interest and repayment is deferred while you are in college. You must be enrolled in a degree-seeking program at least half-time. Includes additional six month grace period after you leave school during which you don't have to begin payments.
    • Unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need.
      Either the fixed interest rate must be paid monthly or you can capitalize (add the monthly interest to the overall cost) your loan and defer payments while you are enrolled.
  • Perkins Loan: The college or university serves as lender for this loan, and not all colleges participate in the program.
    • No interest while you are enrolled at least half time.
    • Repayment begins nine months after leaving school or dropping below half time.
    • There are options for forgiveness of this loan if the student does certain types of social service after graduation, such as teaching in needy schools. To find out more about these options call your college's financial aid office.
  • PLUS or Parent Loans: Parents may borrow through the Federal PLUS loan program.
    • The interest rates and fees are higher than for Stafford and Perkins loans, but lower than for most private loans.
    • Amount that can be borrowed is up to the cost of attendance each year minus financial aid awarded.
    • Period of repayment is 10 years.

Private Loans

Some students or parents use equity in their home or personal credit to borrow additional money for college. Talk carefully with your lender and a trusted financial advisor, and explore all your options to make sure this is the most appropriate choice. Many private loans come with higher interest rates or other provisions that can be financially burdensome. Private loans are not currently regulated, so be sure you read the fine print and look around for the best rates. Your financial aid office may be able to help you find good terms. If you do take out private loans report them to your college.

More detailed information on student loans is available online.

Work Study

If you are eligible for work study it means you are eligible for jobs on or off campus that may not be available to non-work study eligible students. Do not include work study as part of your financial aid calculation as you will be getting a paycheck rather than having the money count towards your tuition and other costs. This is spending money to help you get from day to day, not money that is automatically counted toward college.

At private colleges state work study is generally used off campus for juniors and seniors in internships. Your financial aid office can help you with this information. If you want even more information, read the State Work Study Handbook.

The federal work study program is generally used for freshmen and sophomores at private colleges. This is a great way to get to know more about how the college operates. Your financial aid office can help you. If you want even more information, you can also read federal work study information.

College Savings Plans

While there are many types of aid, it always best for you and your family to save some for college. These plans can be complex, and you must research them fully before choosing an investment option. Check with your bank, credit union, or financial advisor to have them explain the options available.

In the meantime, saving your summer work money will give you more flexibility in the activities you want to pursue at college.

529 Savings Plans

A 529 college savings plan helps you save money for college. There are two types of 529 plans: 529 Prepaid Tuition and 529 College Savings Plan.

Prepaid plans allows you to purchase tuition credits today that will be safe from inflation. They are guaranteed to cover future tuition when they are redeemed in the future.

The College Savings Plan is an investment account that has tax advantages, but does not have the guarantee of future tuition costs. However, since you have some control over the investments, there is the possibility of earning more than a Prepaid Tuition plan.

Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET): This is Washington state's 529 Prepaid College Tuition Program. The state of Washington guarantees that the money you save in this program will keep pace with the rising cost of Washington public college tuition. GET shares can be used to pay for part of your tuition at independent colleges too.

Independent 529 Savings Plans: This is an Prepaid account that can be used at some independent colleges, including Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle Pacific University, and Whitworth.

Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts

the Coverdell ESA is an investment trust available to parents to help save for college expenses of thier children.

Loyalty Savings Plans

These plans rely on you purchasing goods from certain retailers, and often deposit a percentage of your total into an account to be redeemed later. Check with your bank or financial advisor to determine if there is a different or complimentary program that would help you and your family save money for college.

Other Programs and Opportunities

Civil Service


By becoming a volunteer with AmeriCorps, a network of national and community service programs, you'll receive an education award of up to $4,725 each year for up to two years to pay for college or repay federal student loans. In addition, you may be eligible for forbearance (postponement of loan payments) and possibly deferment on your federal student loans while you're an AmeriCorps volunteer. If you serve full time, you will also receive a modest living allowance.

Peace Corps

At some colleges, you can incorporate your Peace Corps service into a master's degree program and may receive financial assistance for doing so. In addition, up to 70 percent of your Perkins Loan debt may be forgiven if you serve as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Teach for America

Teach for America, a member of the AmeriCorps programs, sends recent college graduates to teach for two years at disadvantaged schools. You'll be paid for teaching and participate under an alternative teaching certification program. You may also receive forbearance and interest payment benefits on your student loans. You may earn an education award of $4,725 a year to repay your student loans or for more education.

The Military

Scholarships are available from the Army, Navy, and Air Force through the Reserve Officers Training Corps programs at hundreds of colleges in return for serving at least four years on active duty after graduation. To learn more, go to,,, call 800.USA.ROTC (Army) or contact your college's ROTC office if it has one.

In addition, all branches of the military provide tuition assistance for college courses and some offer loan assumption benefits. To learn more, go to

Earn Credits in High School

Consider taking these courses to challenge yourself. Check which colleges accept credits from high school.

Advanced Placement

International Baccalaureate

Running Start

Running Start and similar programs allow you to earn credits at a local community college while you are attending high school fulfilling your high school and early college requirements. These credits can be transferred to many four year colleges after you graduate from high school. This program is not good for everyone. Talk with your counselor about whether you should explore this option.

Attend a Community College

Motivated students can save significantly in tuition costs if you choose to earn your associate's degree at a community college before attending a four year program. If you think you might be a good candidate for this, evaluate the community colleges in your area for quality and academic rigor just as you would the four year colleges, and talk to the four-year college to which you want to transfer to learn about programs that would prepare you best for bachelor's degree. If you take too long at a community college, this option could cost you eligibility for financial aid later.

Money for Future Teachers

If you're considering a teaching career, take a look at these federal, state, and college financial aid programs for future teachers:

  • Federal Loan Forgiveness for teachers benefits allow federal Stafford loan borrowers to have up to $5,000 of their loan debt forgiven in return for five years of teaching service at a designated K-12 public school, and up to $17,500 if they are highly qualified math, science, or special education teachers in certain communities or schools.
  • Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness benefits forgive Perkins loan debt for those who teach at a designated low-income public school, in a designated subject area, or to children with disabilities.
  • Teach for America participants are generally eligible for postponement of loan payments (forbearance) and interest payment benefits on qualified student loans for graduates who teach for two years in the country's most disadvantaged school districts. Click on to learn more.
Funded in part by a grant from
the Ben B. Cheney Foundation
published by Independent Colleges of Washington