Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, February 23, 1999

Financial aid: Studied
effort reaps reward

By Ruth Bingham
Special to the Star-Bulletin


If you plan to hit the books at college soon, you'd better start figuring out where the money will come from.

"It's like having a baby you have to start nine months ahead," jokes Gail Koki, director of financial aid at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "It isn't just tuition and fees, books and supplies, but it's also your living costs --- your room and board, transportation and some personal expenses."

In Hawaii, Koki says, "People tend to drag their feet. You know, Hawaiian time, and I'll worry about it in June when I graduate."

Because of our economic climate and the increase in students requesting financial aid, that doesn't work any more. Many more now meet the priority deadlines. "That first group gets the best of everything, because we have all our funds available at that time."

Priority deadlines for Hawaii schools (see box) are quickly approaching. Hawaii Pacific University financial aid director Donna Lubong said, "We continue to accept applications after the priority deadline, but funds do run out."

Those funds have to cover many students. The UH and HPU each offer aid for about 30 to 35 percent of their students; at Brigham Young University at Hawaii, the percentage is 60 to 70 percent; and at Chaminade, 85 percent receive aid. Chaminade's director Eric Nemoto says, "We take great steps to make Chaminade affordable."

Hawaii's economic crunch has increased competition. When Koki became the director four years ago, "We had about 2,500 students on financial aid. We have close to 6,000 receiving financial aid now, and this is just need-based aid. We have about 2,500 more students we service who get outside scholarships, so we are kept very busy."

Koki, Lubong, Nemoto and BYUH's Financial Aid Director Steven Bang all said that students need to "do their homework" in looking for aid and should consider all types of assistance.

Although the federal government is the largest single source of financial aid in the country, students should also check out what their prospective university offers. The private sector also offers numerous scholarships, some of them quite substantial, and some of which go begging for applicants.

There are three types of financial aid and most universities award "packages" or "wraps" of all three:

bullet Grants or scholarships are "free" money that does not have to be repaid.

bullet Loans mean the money will eventually have to be paid back, usually with interest.

bullet Employment, or "job" or "work study" provides money in exchange for part-time work.

Financial assistance is further categorized according to need:

bullet Need-based requires demonstration of financial need, usually through a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). One important recent change in establishing need: The family residence is no longer included in your assets.

bullet Non-need based. Anyone can receive this aid. Many of these are awarded for "merit," academic excellence or talent, for example.

In searching for financial aid Koki cautions, "Be very wary of guarantees to find scholarships in exchange for money. One lady told me it was going to be $400 to $500, and she said, 'But he's going to take care of our whole family,' and I said,Yeah right and his, too!

"You can probably call any financial aid officer at any campus and they're going to try to help you as much as they can. Do you really want to spend that money on someone else, on paying for something you could do yourself?"

So how do you do it yourself? By practicing the same skills you will need when you get to college: researching, reading and persistence. Here's how, according to financial aid directors:

1. Talk to your high school counselor and visit the financial aid office at the university of your choice. These offices abound with helpful booklets , such as "Paying for College," put out by SallieMae or the U.S. DOE's "Financial Aid 1999-2000 Student Guide," as well as booklets for individual schools.

2. Those booklets list contact phone numbers, websites and addresses to help you find the information you need. Use them.

3. Visit the reference section of your local library or check out the campus library at the school of your choice. Read "Peterson's College Money Handbook 1999" and "Bulletin No. 15: Scholarships and Financial Aid Available to High School Graduates in the State of Hawaii," as well as books devoted to types of financial aid: grants for particular fields (historians, visual arts, nursing, etc.), for certain ethnicities (Asian, Hispanic, etc.), or for specific purposes (foreign study or graduate school).

4. Make an appointment with a financial aid counselor at your prospective university. Their services are free.

5. Submit a FAFSA application, whether or not you think you are eligible. All Hawaii's universities require it and it's free.

6. Pick up a sample budget from your university's financial aid office and figure out how much money you'll need for direct costs (tuition, for example) and indirect costs (rent, food and transportation). The standard formula is: budget minus EFC (Expected Family Contribution) equals need. That crucial EFC number is supplied by your FAFSA results.

7. Submit applications as quickly as possible. Timeliness and accuracy count!


Helpful Web sites

Here are a few (of many) helpful internet sites:

Scholarship searches

bullet -- A scholarship search; provides some applications
bullet -- Computer Assisted Scholarship Help: a scholarship search

Campus information

bullet -- Brigham Young University at Hawaii
bullet -- Chaminade University
bullet -- Hawaii Pacific University
bullet -- University of Hawaii

Information and applications

bullet -- Financial aid informationpage lists FA resources and information
bullet -- Federal loan servicer; offers information, counseling and applications
bullet -- Information and an on-line application

Application loan information

bullet -- A lender
bullet -- A lender
bullet -- A loan guaranty agency

Priority deadlines

BYUH: -- April 30
Chaminade: -- March 15
HPU: -- March 1
UH-Manoa: -- March 1
Hilo: -- March 1
West Oahu: -- May 1

Community Colleges

Hawaii: -- April 1
Honolulu: -- April 1
Kapiolani: -- April 1
Kauai: -- April 1
Leeward: -- April 15
Maui: -- April 1
Windward: -- April 1

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