A College Education is Affordable

Like putting together a puzzle, you just have to find the right pieces


April Tovar, Assistant Director, Student Financial Services

Stevi Warner

Tasi Salanoa

WSUV Preview Day

Want to learn more about programs at WSU Vancouver, how to apply for admissions and how to pay for it all? At Preview Day, you can get answers to these questions, hear from current students and meet with faculty and staff.

Here is the schedule for the next three Preview Days: Dec. 9 and Jan. 20 at 1 p.m. and May 17 at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit vancouver.wsu.edu/preview.

A popular workshop during Preview Days, The A-Z of Paying for College explains the different pieces of the financial aid puzzle—grants, loans, savings, scholarships and work. Guests learn which provides free money and which must be paid back. The workshop also covers important forms, dates and deadlines, and scholarship strategies. Offered throughout the year, the free workshop is open to all.

For more information on how to go through college with as little debt as possible, visit vancouver.wsu.edu/finaid.

According to The College Board, a nonprofit organization founded more than a century ago, a year of tuition and fees at a public school for state residents is nearly $10,000—not including housing or food. That number jumps to almost $25,000 a year for an out-of-state school and balloons again to just over $33,000 at a private college.

While a college degree can jumpstart a career in many fields, that kind of money can give high school students and their parents, or anyone looking to return to school, some serious second thoughts.

Washington State University Vancouver wants to change that way of thinking for students.

“When we talk about paying for college, it’s a funding puzzle,” said April Tovar, assistant director of Student Financial Services at WSU Vancouver. “Students and families need to be more creative than 15 – 20 years ago. They used to be able to take advantage of one thing, now they have to take advantage of several.”

“Everybody’s financial aid puzzle is different,” Brenda Alling, campus director of marketing and communications at WSU Vancouver, said. “But there is a way to complete the picture without racking up mounds of debt.”

Washington State University has more than 800 scholarships available. Some are system-wide and some are specific to the Vancouver campus. Grants, federal aid, work and campus jobs can fill in the gaps, allowing students to get their degree without getting into a financial hole. This aid is available to almost any student of any age, too.

“According to a survey by Royall & Company, 24 percent of parents think their kids will qualify for financial aid,” Alling said. “But 85 percent actually will qualify. I want to help more people to understand how a college education is possible. And that it’s worth it.”

Worth it in more ways than one. According to the Economic Policy Institute, college graduates earned 56 percent more than high school graduates in 2015. This gap is as large as it has been over the past 44 years according to the EPI. In addition, college graduates are being tabbed for new job openings sooner than their high-school graduate counterparts. There’s so much more though—studies (“It’s Not Just the Money” and others) find college grads are less likely to commit crimes and be unemployed. In short, they live longer, happier lives.

Two Degrees, Zero Debt
Stevi Warner, a senior earning double bachelor’s degrees in human resources and human development, will graduate in May of 2018. Warner transferred from Clark College, where she was a Running Start student, another great way to keep college debt down.

Once at WSU Vancouver, Warner used a combination of scholarships and work to pay for school, and will be debt free when she receives her diploma.

“I’ve managed to graduate college debt free by using the resources available here,” Warner said. “Career services offers great workshops on scholarship application writing. Participating in clubs like the human development club has given me material to write about in my scholarship applications.”

During her time at WSU Vancouver, Warner received multiple scholarships and worked at the university as the senate secretary for student government and as a programming coordinator for the Office of Student Involvement.

“Working on campus has provided me additional funds,” Warner said. “(The internship) offered an $8,000 tuition waiver for the year, which greatly reduced my amount of student debt.”

“I have a lot of freedom now because I don’t have to worry about my student debt. I can relocate for a job, I can take time off. If it weren’t for the aid and the scholarships, I’d be a lot more stressed out.”

Preparation Pays Off
The journey to little or no student debt started early for Tasi Salanoa. At McLoughlin Middle School, Salanoa entered the AVID program, which prepares students for high school and college. He got a College Bound Scholarship, established by the State of Washington in 2007, which offers financial aid to income-eligible students.

“In my household, from middle school through high school, it was always about going to college,” Salanoa said. “I come from a hard-working, low-income family. It was preached to have the grades up, and if you do well, you can have it paid for.”

Salanoa did just that and managed a partial scholarship to play football in Arizona. After an injury, he made the decision to come back to Vancouver where the College Bound Scholarship was still waiting for him.

“When I decided to come back, they looked back at my high school records, went through the whole process,” Salanoa said. “I qualified. It was easier because of all the hard work I did through high school. It was all about preparation.”

A Hand From Uncle Sam
Serving his country helped Stephen Palermini pay for school. Through a combination of the G.I. Bill, a 50 percent tuition break granted to veterans by WSU and student loans, Palermini was able to get his degree in the digital media field.

“I didn’t receive any scholarships or grants,” Palermini said. “But the 50 percent tuition break was a major advantage for me.”

The financial aid he did receive allowed Palermini to be creative with how he used it.

“I went about paying for school slightly differently than others I know.” Palermini said. “I used my GI Bill to pay for my housing, groceries and bills, along with my wife’s income at the time. I took student loans in order to pay for the rest of my tuition.

“This allowed me to not have to work a job while I was in school,” Palermini added. “I was able to solely focus on going to school.”

The GI Bill helped Palermini earn his general requirements at Walla Walla Community College without taking out student loans, cutting his education costs in half.

“I currently pay for my loans by working full time in the digital media field, using the digital technology and culture degree I earned at WSU Vancouver,” Palermini said.

Along with everything else, the cost of going to college is increasing. That doesn’t mean higher education is out of reach, no matter your financial situation. Scholarships, grants, work study and sensible loans can see you finish college with a degree and, just as important, little to no student debt.

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