Financial Aid Director Offers Tips for Last-Minute College Cash

Recent increases in tuition for Georgia's public universities and community colleges have led some students and their parents to rethink how they're going to finance the upcoming semesters. Marie Mons, director of student financial planning and services at Georgia Tech, offers tips for students and parents who are looking for a little extra cash.

1. It's a good time to borrow
Beginning July 1, federal student loan interest rates will drop to 2.82 percent for students in school or in the grace period and 3.42 percent for students in repayment. Rates for PLUS loans (federally guaranteed loans for parents) will drop to 4.22 percent. In most cases, taking out a student loan is a better investment than having a parent pull money out of an IRA or home equity.

2. Take more hours
At some schools, including Tech, students pay per credit hour up to 12 hours. So, if you can take 15 hours, you will only have to pay for 12. Over the course of several semesters, the savings add up.

3. Think about cooperative education programs, internships, work-study or part-time work
Co-op programs, in which students alternate between semesters of work and school, and internships can be great ways to earn extra money and gain experience that will help you land that first job. Work-study can also boost your income, but those positions are limited, so act quickly if you want to get one.

4. Avoid scholarship scams
Information on scholarships is freely available. You should never, ever pay anyone money for information that is free. Some will ask you for a credit card number or a bank account number so they can "deposit the money in your account," when they're really trying to set up a withdrawal. Despite their claims, there's not as much scholarship money out there as you might think. Non-university-funded scholarships account for less than 1 percent of the money available for students.

The Seven Deadly Sins People Commit When Trying to Get Financial Aid

Skip the application
It's like the lotto. You can't win if you don't play.

Apply late
Deadlines are important, and most people applying for aid meet them. So don't expect much sympathy if you're late.

Apply incompletely
The applications are important, so fill in every line. This is not the SAT, where you're supposed to leave a question blank if you don't know the answer. If you don't know the answer, find out, or call the financial aid office for help.

Don't accept the offer
If you don't respond to the offer for aid, the financial aid office assumes you don't want the money.

Refuse to provide a social security number or provide an incorrect number
This is government money. They already know your social security number. So while it's not a good idea to give your social security number to telemarketers or the guy on the corner selling hot dogs, giving it to the financial aid office is essential if you want the money.

Neglect to report changes in financial circumstances
If your financial resources suddenly bottom out, let the financial aid office know. Many awards are based on financial need, so if you have that need, make it known.

Let your grades slip
Some financial aid awards, such as the HOPE scholarship, are contingent upon students keeping their grades up. So don't throw good money away by getting bad grades.