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 many ways to pay for college: grants, scholarships, loans.

  • Don't let tuition be the only consideration. Institutional scholarships and grants from the college can be significant, and you often will not know your final aid package until you apply and are accepted.

  • Financial Aid is available to go to the college of your choice.

  • Call the financial aid office at the colleges you are interested in attending. They can help you.

  • The best advice is free; never pay for financial advice about schools.

Alert: budget shortfalls at state and federal levels have student aid at severe risk.
Visit to learn more and contact your legislators.

Types of Financial Aid

College Savings Plans

Other Programs and Opportunities

Grants and Scholarships:
Money you don't 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. For most grants, you must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible.

Grants and Scholarships are terms used interchangably; they are considered "Gift Aid", money that usually does not need to be repaid and is not earned for working. Grants are often awarded based on financial need, while scholarships often have merit (as well as need) considerations.

Institutional Grants

More than 80% of students receive institutional aid at private, non-profit colleges. Washington's private non-profit colleges give over $175 million in grants and scholarships to students each year. It is not uncommon for students to recieve grants from the college that make the cost of attendance close - or even less expensive - than public colleges and universities.

Visit to learn more about state and federal budget cuts. Contact your legislators now.

Federal Grants

    • Federal Pell Grant: Undergraduate students who have significant financial need and have not earned a bachelor's or professional degree may be eligible for grants.

    • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: Undergraduate students who have significant financial need and have not earned a bachelor's or professional degree may be eligible for grants.

State Grants and Scholarships

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.


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:
    • Leadership

    • Artistic or intellectual talent (Music, Art, Debate etc.)

    • Community service

  • Membership in certain organizations:

    • Churches, temples, mosques , or other religious groups

    • Fraternal organizations (Elks Lodge, Masonic Lodge, etc.)

  • Students from a specific background or with special situations:

    • Children of Veterans

    • Students with disabilities

Searching for Scholarships

Finding scholarships can be a difficult process. There are so many to apply for, how can you know which ones will work best for you? These websites will help you figure out how to navigate this process.

Local scholarships often give you the best chance, since there are fewer students applying for them. National scholarships can sometimes be for a larger amount, but there may be hundreds of thousands of students applying.

Keep your security in mind as you search. Don't give out personal information unless you're sure the scholarship is reputable. You should never pay for information on financial aid. The Federal Trade Commission's $cholarship $cams has some guidance about what to watch out for. Also check out Don't Get Hooked on the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators web site.

Independent Colleges of Washington

This association has several scholarships for students who attend its member colleges (Gonzaga University, Heritage University, Pacific Lutheran University, Saint Martin's University, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle University, University of Puget Sound, Walla Walla University, Whitman College, Whitworth University). was created by the state Washington Student Achievement Council and the Washington Scholarship Coalition (Independent Colleges of Washington is a member). It matches students with local scholarships in Washington. It is designed to make applying to scholarship easy, personalized, secure, and SPAM free.

Federal Government

This web site provides a scholarship search engine and an ability to search by key word.


This comprehensive web site will help you search for scholarships. It is a membership site, so your information may be sold to other companies. However it is an excellent resource for national and local scholarships.

A guide to the scholarship application process from Sam Lim, Washington student. This site can connect you with mentors who have been successful in receiving scholarships.

Scholarship America is the nation's largest nonprofit, private sector scholarship and educational support organization.

College Planning Network

This site allows you to search for scholarships based on criteria that fit your strengths.

A great all around guide to getting the money it takes to go to college.

In addition to a scholarship search mechanism, this website, sponsored by a large student loan provider, features many other resources for applying to college.

Loans: money you 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 tuition (though some students use work study funds to pay for tuition).

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 University.

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


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


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