SALEM — Whether you’re going to college for the first time, already enrolled, or returning after time off, you should know how financial aid can work for you.
The State’s key resource for college financial aid is the Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC), a part of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC). OSAC administers numerous grant and scholarship programs – public and private money that helps students pay for the cost of college – to make higher education affordable for students. Additionally, OSAC provides education and outreach so that Oregonians know what financial aid is available to them.
As part of this outreach effort, OSAC has provided five key tips for Oregonians planning for college:
- Start your search at OregonStudentAid.gov. This is your go-to source for all things financial aid. From here you can find links to federal and state aid applications, information on state-funded grant programs, the OSAC Scholarship Application (a single application for more than 600 private scholarships for Oregonians), and more!
- Complete your financial aid applications every year. Securing money for college ultimately comes to down to completing your applications fully and on time. Financial aid applications and awards are typically only for the following academic year. You must re-apply for each year you’re in school. To be sure you don’t miss out on government-funded grants for which you may qualify, start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA) as soon as possible. You’ll also need to complete applications for public, private, and college-based grants and scholarships. Many of these require a completed FAFSA or ORSAA too.
- Know your deadlines. Most grant and scholarship applications open in the fall and close in the spring each year. State programs, like the Oregon Opportunity Grant, will run out of funds each year, so students should apply as soon as they can. Other programs, like Oregon Promise, have multiple deadlines depending on your high school or GED® completion date. You can always find up-to-date deadlines on the program’s page at OregonStudentAid.gov
- Get free help finding financial aid. Beware of scams! An organization asking you to pay for their help finding or securing a scholarship is generally not a legitimate source. On OregonStudentAid.gov, you can search and apply for many Oregon grants and scholarships for free, plus you can contact OSAC if you need any assistance! There are also numerous other free search resources for other kinds of grants and scholarships, and OSAC staff would be glad to suggest some.
- Exhaust all grant and scholarship opportunities before taking out student loans. Grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid and should be your primary source of financial aid, if available. Both federal loans and private loans must be paid back. We encourage students to apply for as many grants and scholarship as possible, and if offered these awards, to accept them first before taking out loans.
Remember, spending just a couple of hours on financial aid applications could be ultimately worth thousands of dollars in money for college! And if you ever need more information, OSAC is here to help!