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College-bound Students: Six Tips for Cutting the Cost of Tuition

by Brandon Hook

A college degree is becoming essential to securing employment. The U.S. Department of Labor finds that 62 percent of all U.S. jobs now require a two- or four-year degree. The number is expected to increase to 75 percent of all U.S. jobs by 2020. While the value of a college education is evident, many families ponder how to pay for one. Amid the current economic climate, Americans must exercise more financial caution than ever in selecting a college.

In response to greater student need, Azusa Pacific University has increased its financial aid budget by $7 million over the last three years, according to David Dufault-Hunter, vice president of enrollment management. The average award per student grew by about $2,000.

Hunter also said that 92 percent of APU students receive financial aid. APU institutional aid accounted for 65 percent of total aid for students in the 2010—11 school year, with state aid making up 17 percent and federal aid making up 13 percent.

For students considering Azusa Pacific, here are six tips for cutting the cost of tuition:

1. Check on merit-based awards during your sophomore year in high school to ensure you meet criteria.

APU offers many merit-based awards for incoming freshmen and transfers. The Trustees Scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship awarded to five first-time freshmen who are interviewed and selected by the Trustees’ Scholarship Committee. In addition, APU offers academic awards for incoming freshmen ranging from $6,000 to $10,000 per year, depending on academic standing, SAT and ACT scores, and grade-point average. There are also transfer scholarships available, which award $4,000 to $5,000 per year, depending on grade-point average.

2. Take AP classes in high school to reduce your time in college.

By taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes, you can complete general studies requirements, such as Freshmen Writing Seminar, Introduction to Literature, or foreign language classes, ahead of coming to APU. With those classes out of the way, you focus on your major and reduce the time it takes to graduate.

3. Research APU and community-based scholarships.

APU offers scholarships in music, athletics, acting, musical theater performance, cinematic arts production, forensics, vocational pastoral ministry, multi-ethnic leadership, chemistry, biochemistry, and many others. The requirements and number of awards vary depending on the department, so make sure to research the scholarship(s) that interests you.

There are also exclusive scholarship opportunities for Azusa residents through the Azusa Scholars program. Each year, five Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) graduates and two transfer students from Citrus College are awarded the Celebrate Azusa Citizen/Nancy Moore Scholarship. These renewable $5,000 scholarships cover up to four years. This scholarship honors community service and academic achievement and encourages students’ personal growth and development. Scholarship recipients must engage in consistent service within the city of Azusa, discussion forums once a semester, a one-on-one mentor program, and training retreats once a year.

Junior social work major Marie Millares is an Azusa Scholar who sees the benefit of attending a private university where she will graduate on time.

“I feel like I’m paying less than my friends who go to University of California schools,” Millares said.

4. Explore affordable summer classes.

By taking two full-time summer semesters, you can reduce the length of your program by one year. During the summer, APU offers 60 percent off of tuition, with the exception of nursing classes. The classes are offered in short, intensive four-to-six-week terms with morning and afternoon sessions. You can even stay in Azusa with flexible and affordable campus housing.

5. Participate in a Federal Work Study Program.

The Federal Work Study Program provides funds for part-time employment to help students finance college.

Senior communications studies major David Gracida receives $1,500 a year for working on campus in the Information and Media Technology (IMT) office.

“APU has helped me pay for college,” Gracida said. “And the Federal Work Study Program gives me valuable job experience.”

6. Look for external scholarship programs on the Web.

Reputable scholarship search sites allow you to find and apply for scholarships outside of institutional and federal aid. CollegeBoard.com offers a scholarship search and currently helps 7 million students annually prepare for higher education. Their scholarship database contains more than 2,300 scholarship opportunities, totaling nearly $3 billion.

Fastweb has helped 50 million students find money since the site was founded 15 years ago. Fastweb’s site indicates they currently have roughly 1.5 million scholarships worth $3.4 billion in their database.

Another resource, Scholarships.com now claims to be the largest free and independent scholarship search and financial aid information resource on the Internet, with more than 2.7 million scholarships, totaling $19 billion, in their database.

While researching scholarships and applying for financial aid can be time consuming, Pamela Christian, Ph.D., professor and chair of APU’s Department of Doctoral Studies in Education, reminds us that college is worth the effort and investment.

“In today’s competitive marketplace, establishing a career calls for at least an undergraduate degree, often a master’s degree, and substantial experience,” Christian said. “A college education serves as a prerequisite for both marketability and flexibility.”

Aid in 2010-2011:
APU Need-Based Aid: $19,767,377
APU Non-Need Based: $8,594,891
Total APU: $28,362,268
Federal: $5,571,091
State: $7,387,202
Total Need: $33,877,430
Total Non-Need: $10,081,102
Total: $43,958,532