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Paying it Forward

By Christopher B. Murr

Paying for college can seem overwhelming for many students and their families. However, holding a college degree is increasingly important in a competitive and global job market. Earning a bachelor’s degree leads on average to substantially higher lifetime earnings as well as a richer quality of life.

It is important to remember, though, that students and their parents are not alone in securing the resources needed to defray the cost of a higher education. The university is a partner in this endeavor.

One such partner within the university is the Financial Aid and Scholarships(FAS) office. The office’s mission is, in part, to advance the access of students to a higher education by providing timely financial assistance and information. The staff of FAS strives to meet their mission and in doing so awards over $370 million in financial assistance each year to Texas State students. These awards range from need-based funds, such as the federal Pell Grant and the university funded Texas Public Educational Grant, to self-help options including work-study programs and federal student loans. The office also awards a variety of academic scholarships that are based on academic performance, leadership, extracurricular activities, and other measures of a student’s potential for collegiate achievement.

One question often posed to financial aid staff is how to get the most assistance possible. “The best way for students to maximize their financial aid and scholarship opportunities is to make sure they submit their respective aid and scholarship applications on time. Also, it’s important to submit documents requested by FAS in a timely manner as some funds are limited,” says Dede Gonzales, associate director, Financial Aid and Scholarships.

For financial aid (grants, work-study, and student and parent loans), that means submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after October 1 as possible. For university scholarships, “Those submission deadlines will vary by scholarship,” says Gonzales.

In addition to awarding financial aid, FAS works along with other offices across the university to help ensure students’ financial wellness. For example, through the Bobcat Gold program “we offer students and their families free financial coaching,” says Dr. Byron Kerr, assistant director, Financial Aid and Scholarships. “This helps students develop budgets and plan financially for college expenses.”

Other tools and educational resources available at bobcatgold.txstate.edu include iGrad and the Student Loan Debt Tracker, which assist students with effectively managing their finances not only while attending Texas State but well beyond graduation. “By providing students with both financial aid and scholarships, as well as financial education tools and knowledge,” says Gonzales, “Texas State University is able to help students access a higher education and do so in a way that facilitates their long-term financial success."