FAFSA and Researching Colleges (Part 2)

FAFSA

If you have lots of savings and can pay for your child’s education in full, out of pocket, then you are golden and you can skip the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and funding details below. If like most of us you or your child needs a loan then you are going to need to fill out the FAFSA application, even for college in the US. If you are thinking about getting a private loan instead then that will prove difficult as a completed FAFSA application and an approved international school are generally needed.

The government is not in the habit of just giving money to any college, so there is a list of approved international schools which is updated yearly. The document can be found here. This spreadsheet can be filter by country. Remember that the UK is made up of 4 countries, England, N Ireland, Scotland and Wales, so remember to check all them. Print it out and keep it handy to start researching colleges.

Filling out the FAFSA is not as complex as it used to be now that it can link to the IRS and pull down your income directly.

Later when you look at a UK college you will have to become familiar with how they accept FAFSA applications as they are not electronically linked to the US loans system like colleges in the US. This generally means you will need to email documents back and forth. A web page on the college site will give you the information.

Loans

If you need to take out a loan you have a number options:

  1. Stafford loan – Federal loan for the student starting at $5,500 for first year and increasing by $1,000 for each following year.
  2. Parent Plus loan – Federal student loan available to the parents of dependent undergraduate students.
  3. Private Loan – such as Sallie Mae and others.

My daughter obtained a $5,500 Stafford Loan for her first year. Our plan is to use this to cover some, if not all her accommodation.

Researching colleges

If you google “UK universities” you are going to get a long list of websites so here is a couple that I found useful when trying to locate which course is available at which college.

  • WhatUni (link) – Very easy to filter and search for course to study. It also has lots of useful information for students. This is my favorite site.
  • TheStudentRoom (link) – UK’s largest online student community..
  • The Complete University Guide (link) – Has college rankings and so much more.

Use WhatUni website to enter the course you are interested in. You can rule out any school not listed on the approved FAFSA schools if you need a loan. From here you access the colleges website for more details.

First thing you will need to do is head over to the international section of the web page to perhaps get an idea of fees for international students to start off. You will notice that UK/EU student will be paying less than you will because the price of public education is fixed by the government. Nice for UK/EU members as no matter how prestigious the school it is the same price. As of 2018 UK student pay approx $12,000 for tuition. Additionally once the student starts college the tuition fee is fixed for 3 years. You will definitely want to contact the college to see if this is also the case for international students. How much higher international fees are depends on the school and some are still very affordable when you consider the cost of an out-of-state college in US.

My daughter’s yearly tuition for 2018 was £12,500 ($16,235) fixed for 3 years.

Scholarships for undergraduates are sparse in the UK, but postgraduate scholarships are more widely available from the government and private institutions. A helpful site is the British Council (link). It might also be work looking for scholarships from the US, but check if you can use it for an international school.

Sometimes the UK college will provide a scholarship which may be as simple as a tuition reduction if you pay a deposit or portion of your tuition before a certain date. Some have a scholarship just for attending. In our case if we pay half the tuition before May 31st we get £1,000 ($1,300) tuition reduction.

This brought my daughter’s tuition down to £11,500 ($14,937) per year, fixed for 3 years.

Look at the college website on how to pay tuition. I was able to pay her tuition fees using a credit card. Some colleges might add an extra 1-2% fee for the convenience for paying via credit card, but York St. John did not, so that was a bonus. Just make sure your card also does not charge a foreign transaction fee.

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