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Financial Aid 101: Overview


Group of GraduatesGetting the education you want is possible. The investment in education is a gift that that will benefit both the individual and the community. The percentage of the Arizona population age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree in March 2004 was only 17.2% according to The Investment Payoff by the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet, the return on investment of a college degree is reported to be approximately $1 million more in earnings over a lifetime. According to the College Board a college degree results in up to 80% more earnings over a high school diploma. And the aforementioned study, found the increase to be 112% in Arizona. Research also indicates that college graduates are healthier, live more satisfied lives, and contribute to society through voting and volunteer service more frequently.

According to the American Council on Higher Education the U.S. higher education system has been strongly influenced by an underlying commitment to equal opportunity and social mobility. In the 20th century higher education became a primary gateway to the middle class.


Student in Class

In the 1980’s financial aid grants were funded well and aimed at the traditional full time student who was supported by parents through college. However, in the 1990’s college costs rose and a shift in the financial responsibility to students and their families to pay for college occurred. Today more students are non-traditional and students and their families have a greater reliance on loans to pay for postsecondary education. A collaborative group initiated by the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education called the Need-Based Financial Aid Task Force is raising awareness about these changes.


In most families students and parents assume the primary responsibility for paying for college using a combination of savings, current earnings, and financial aid. Although society benefits significantly from college educated citizens the size of the public contribution to higher education has diminished significantly over the past several years.


Financial aid is a form of monetary assistance that is given or lent to students or their parents to pay for the customary expenses of attending a postsecondary institution. The single largest source of financial aid is the federal government, followed by state governments, colleges, and private organizations. The first step in accessing these funds is completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Arizona Postsecondary Commission is helping students and families at College Goal Sunday, an event held before the early FAFSA filing date in Arizona at 23 sites across the state. The event pairs students and their families with assistance from financial aid professionals from colleges across the state through their professional association the Arizona Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (AASFAA). Basically, financial aid falls into two categories: Gift Aid and Self Help Aid








Types of Financial Aid



Steps to College and Financial Aid




What does College Cost?








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