Financial aid advice all families should know
Donít miss these tips from Clara Capron, Westernís executive director of Admissions and Financial Aid:
- Know about federal tax credits for higher education expenses. The American Opportunity Tax Credit can reduce federal income tax bills by up to $2,500 for eligible taxpayers. The Lifetime Learning Credit may be up to $2,000. Each student may take one of the credits each year -- families with two students may be eligible for both. Learn more from the IRS about higher education tax credits. Meanwhile, student loan interest payments may also be tax-deductible, up to $2,500.
- Be serious and strategic about applying for scholarships. Students may check with academic departments and Westernís Scholarship Center to find awards they might qualify for.
- Be smart about student loans. Some students avoid them altogether, but a reasonable amount of debt can be a good investment in the future. Learn more about managing and planning for student loan debt at the Career Services Centerís Dollars and Sense website.
- Keep the car at home. Save on insurance, gas and parking fees, and get around by bus. Students already have a bus pass: the Western Card.
- Students shouldnít be shy about finding a job right away. Many students put off finding work for a quarter or two to acclimate to college life. But working 10 to 15 hours a week can actually help students manage their time wisely Ė and the paychecks can help a great deal with expenses. Get to know the Student Employment Center, which keeps an electronic database of job openings on and off campus.
- If your financial situation changes during the school year, tell Financial Aid. Some forms of aid do not run out, so your family may be eligible for additional help.
Capron says her office is seeing a slight decrease in mid-year requests from families to adjust their financial aid packages. She hopes thatís a sign the economy is improving.
More good news this year: The state Legislature increased funding for the Washington State Need Grant, which serves the neediest students, and preserved funding for state work study. Finally, there were no cuts this year to federal aid programs such as the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan and others.