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Higher Education in Maryland

Questions about College --  Paying for College

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How much does College cost?

  • The annual cost of attendance of (COA) is usually listed on the college website and in admission materials.
  • Community college tuition charges are usually the least expensive option; public colleges and universities usually charge less tuition than independent colleges.
  • Independent colleges sometimes offer more financial aid directly from the school than public colleges do, though the amount can vary widely from one college to the next.
  • The cost of attendance (COA) means tuition, room and board, books, and other expenses.  This figure is listed as an average because some students may have slightly different expenses.
  • No matter what kind of college a student attends, financial assistance is available from many sources.

These are the three largest sources of financial aid:

Federal Government

State Government/MHEC


  • Federal aid is administered through the U.S. Department of Education
  • PELL Grants are available for families with relatively low income for family size ($400-$4310 per year per full-time student)
  • Offers low-interest loans
  • Federal Work-Study funds (provided to colleges for students)
  • The FAFSA is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
  • State aid is administered through Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), Office of Student Assistance
  • Offers over $109 million annually
  • 1-800-974-1024 or 410-260-4565
  • Need-based grants (EA, GA)
  • Scholarships
  • Most aid from MHEC is for Maryland residents who attend college in Maryland
  • Offer their own financial aid
  • Coordinate federal, state, and college aid in the student's "financial aid package"
  • Contact individual websites and financial aid offers for more information

College admission acceptance letters either enclose or are followed by a letter from the financial aid office providing the student's "financial aid package."  This is an itemized list of the aid the student will receive from federal, state, and college sources if the student accepts the offer of admission and the financial aid package.

To qualify for most financial aid, families must complete a FAFSA (at ).  Some independent colleges and scholarship funds require families to complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile (see ).  This service is administered by the College Board, a nonprofit organization that also administers the SAT.

There are four main types of financial assistance:  scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study.

4 main types of financial assistance

Scholarships are usually based on a student's academic performance, involvement in extracurricular activity/ies or sport/s and may require continued participation.  Some scholarships are based on financial need.
Grants are awards that may be based on financial need or other eligibility criteria.
Loans, unlike grants and scholarships, must be repaid.  Federal loans have the lowest interest rates for educational loans.  Federal and other educational loans may be made to students or parents or both.  It is best to exhaust all federal options before turning to private loan sources.
  • Subsidized loans do not require borrowers to pay interest while in school (the federal government pays the interest for these loans).
  • Unsubsidized loans require borrowers to pay interest while in school or have it capitalized (i.e., added to total loan amount).
Work-Study is a federal program that provides funds to students through jobs arranged by the college.  Students work and earn money, but these earnings do not cause the Expected Family Contribution to increase on the following year's FAFSA.

Here are a few important sources of financial assistance:

The Howard P. Rawlings Guaranteed Access (GA) Grant

The Howard P. Rawlings Educational Assistance (EA) Grant

Check out for other scholarship opportunities and applications.  Many applications are due March 1.  All Maryland residents enrolled in a degree program may apply for the two Legislative Scholarships (Delegate Scholarship and Senatorial Scholarship).

There are many FREE scholarship search services, too.  For a start, try

School counselors and public librarians can also direct you to other sources of information.

Most financial aid requires students to make satisfactory academic progress toward a degree.

Steps to receiving student financial assistance

1.  Check your family resources.  How much can you afford to pay now?  How much can you earn from summer pre-college part time jobs?  Families of modest means may be better off using savings for retirement than their children's education; families should seek appropriate professional financial advice.

2.  Try the following website for federal student aid,

3.  Explore your postsecondary options for content and cost.

4.  Remember that the advertised costs may be more than what you end up paying.

5.  Check for the cost of attendance (COA)

6.  Do FREE scholarship searches.

7.  When visiting college web sites-and colleges-check for financial aid applications.

8.  Keep a calendar of financial aid deadlines.  You only have to submit the FAFSA once per year, but some colleges or scholarship programs have earlier deadlines than others.

9.  Remember to use College Goal Sunday assistance

10.  File the FAFSA at

11. Keep your personal identification number (PIN) you used to file the FAFSA.  You will need it again.

12.  Apply.

13. MHEC applications.

14. Compare the financial aid packages.

15. Select.

Acronyms & Abbreviations of Financial Aid Terms


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