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In search of money for college.

Sending a child to college can be a prohibitively expensive endeavor. Today, the average cost of tuition, fees, books, room and board for four years at a public college is about $35,545. That number may reach more than $104,934 by the year 2008. And the four-year price tag at an Ivy League school - which is now about $67,820 - may soar to $200,217 over the next 16 years.

Moreover, annual increases of 10% to 12% in tuition costs are not unusual at some schools. With high tuition costs and other ancillary expenses, most families - even those solidly in the middle class - have difficult time finding the money necessary to give their children college educations.

In spite of the concern about the high cost of college, it should not preclude anyone from pursuing higher education. There is a veritable treasure-trove of financial aid and scholarship money available to anyone who is willing to dig. The problem is it is a very arduous task.

Experts claim that about $15 billion in scholarships is available to students every year, yet more than one-third of that money goes unclaimed. "People don't know the money is there; they don't know to apply for it; they don't know how to put together a winning application," says Saryl Zegerson Schwartz, founder of Pathfinders, a Phoenix-based firm that helps people find scholarship money.

Schwartz has been hired by several businesses to talk to their employees about her course "How To Find Money For College." She was even able to raise over $17,000 annually in scholarship money for her own child.

About 82% of all applications submitted for funding are rejected, claims Schwartz, because they are incorrectly put together or because they are mailed late. Sterling Hudson III, deputy vice president for academic affairs and director of admissions at Morehouse College in Atlanta says that "deadlines are the thing most students take too lightly."

But perhaps the biggest reason why most people don't apply for scholarships is that they believe they have to be 4.0 students, all-star athletes or impoverished, to be considered. But those perceptions are untrue, says Schwartz. Most financial aid programs are based neither or need nor academics. Moreover, many scholarships come from the private sector.

Shirley Scott, manager of student financial services for Spelman College in Atlanta, says sometimes finding scholarship money is as simple as writing to the makers of products most people have their homes (i.e., peanut butter, tuna fish or appliances). Most of these companies sponsor scholarships.

Scholarship money doesn't fly at students. It takes time and effort to learn what's available. High school counselors are a starting place, but for the most part, students and their parents will have to do their own research.

Fortunately, resource aids are getting better and more comprehensive; there are a host of books on various types of scholarships and financial aid packages. For instance, Octameron Associates of Alexandria, Va., publishes 15 books that are important in preparing for college, including Don't Miss Out: The Ambitious Student's Guide to Financial Aid. And, the U.S. Department of Education offers The Student Guide: Financial Aid, a booklet listing federal student aid programs and ways to apply for them. Reference Service Press of San Carlos, Calif., publishes a directory of financial aid for women and another for minorities. Most reference books can be found in high school and college admission offices or libraries as well as in public libraries. In addition, many college admissions offices have databanks of nationwide scholarship programs.

A lot of scholarship money goes untouched simply because of narrow definitions of prospective recipients. At Arizona State University there is a never-used scholarship available for a person with one brown eye and one blue eye.

"The money that goes untouched has a lot of other criteria that goes along with it," says Dolores S. Davis, financial aid director for North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. "Some scholarships require people to come from a certain region or be a certain religion."

Many scholarships apply to different ethnic groups. There is a great deal of money out there for minorities, she adds. Garrett Park Press, Garrett Park, Md., puts out six booklets on financial aid for minorities.

Among the many black/minority scholarship programs are:

* The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) awards $3 million each year to 2,500 students.

* All of the black sororities and fraternities award scholarships to high school seniors, usually to those with C+ or better grades.

* The George E. Johnson Fund awards 87 grants to minorities, which total more than $42,000.

There is no set time when students should begin to prepare for the scholarship application process. In one regard, their high school career should be preparation - being good students and participating in extracurricular activities. A good example of this is Marianne "Angel" Ragins, from Macon, Ga., who knew by the seventh grade that she wanted to go to college and knew that she would have to finance it on her own. Her early preparations and diligence paid off because last year, Ragins was offered more than $315,000 in scholarship money - perhaps the largest sum ever received by one student. The 19-year-old, who is a business administration major at Florida A & M University, has even written a book, Winning Scholarships For College, which basically tells how to find scholarship money and what she specifically did to get hers. (To order, send $16.95 to P.O. Box 6845, Macon, GA. 31208.) Ragins admits that searching for scholarship money can be tedious, but urges students and parents to keep looking.

Terri Neal, scholarship officer at Howard University in Washington, D.C., says students should start as early as the 10th grade and no later than the early part of the 11th grade to investigate what scholarships are available and what criteria need to be met.

"When students start early, they have an advantage over everyone else who is applying for financial aid. Most students wait until it's too late to apply."

Neal also warns students to stay away from mail order and commercials that offer "guaranteed resource material - just send money." Often that information is outdated, Neal says, and the student could get the same listings from the public library.

There is no sure-fire way to increase a student's chance of getting financial aid or scholarship money. While there may be a lot of competition out there, there is also a great deal of money if you know where to look. And one doesn't need to be an Albert Einstein or a Michael Jordan to be eligible.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles
Author:Bergsman, Steve
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Words:1103
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