Welcome to Columbia College's parent support page for financial aid!
College is expensive and financial planning can be a stressful, but rewarding, investment. We encourage parents and students to carefully review all of their options together. Our guide below will help you start this process and give you the confidence to make the decisions that best fit your family.
- Complete all paperwork as early as possible.
- Students should check e-mail frequently. Your student's CougarMail e-mail account is the official notification of financial aid requests for documents.
- If you are unsure about something, ask - we are here to help.
- Request that your student complete the Parental Release Form so you can access your student's financial aid information.
Download a checklist for parents
Things to consider: How much will you need?
The first step is to have an understanding of the costs associated with college. Once you know how much you will need, you can review scholarships, grants and other aid eligibility to determine the out of pocket costs and what program best fits your family needs.
Don't forget! Determining your costs for college will depend on more than tuition and dorm charges. The chart below is a guide to help you determine the cost per year for your student.
Expenses associated with college
- Tuition: Tuition rates by campus
- Books: Between $100 - $200 per course
- Housing: Your cost will vary, depending on where you live. Click here for dorm room rates.
- Transportation: Your cost will vary. Estimate your student's monthly transportation costs for the year. Does your student need to drive to and from class? If living in the dorms, will your student travel home on some weekends?
- Extra personal expenses and supplies: Your cost will vary. Estimate your student's monthly supply and personal expenses for the year. Don't forget: school supplies, clothing, shampoo, etc.
Once you calculate the expenses for a year, you can help your student review all of the payment options and determine the best method to cover the amount needed. It is generally recommended as a best practice for students and parents to have multiple options to allow for greater flexibility. Researching early is important to give your student time so they do not feel pressured to attend one program over another.
Payment and loan options for your student
When paying for college, your options generally fit into the categories of: pay ahead, pay at the time or pay in the future.
Pay ahead (plan ahead)
Types of payment:
- 529 plans
- Missouri MOST accounts
Pre-planning keeps need for loans at a minimum
Often difficult for families to plan ahead due to other financial constraints.
Pay at the time
Types of payment:
- Columbia College payment plans
- Student employment
- Employer tuition assistance (check with your employer to see if they offer this benefit)
- Columbia College payment plans allow student to have additional time to pay while attending school. Payments may be extended over six months.
- Pay at the time keeps the need for loans to a minimum.
- Eligibility for grants, scholarships and federal student employment may be based on financial need or merit, not all students will qualify.
- Scholarships have specific criteria and may be competitive.
- Student employment availability may be limited.
Pay in the future
Types of payment:
Gives student and parent an option if they are unable to pay ahead or at the time. Some loans require no payments while student is in school and six months after graduation or non-enrollment.
Final cost to student and parent will be higher due to interest and fees. Students will have debt and payments due after graduation or non-enrollment.
The federal aid process: student and parent roles.
Now that your student is heading off to college, you might think that your involvement is no longer needed. However, in order to participate in federal aid programs, regulations require that parents be involved for dependent students – at least by providing financial information.
The first step in this process is to complete the FAFSA. Until a student is considered independent, both the student and parents are required to submit financial information to apply for federal and state aid-based programs. The completion of the FAFSA does not require that the student or parent take out a student loan, so we encourage all parents to apply so their dependent student can be reviewed for grant eligibility.
The next step is the submission of financial aid documents to Columbia College. After the FAFSA results are sent to Columbia College, the financial aid office will request additional documentation through the student's CougarMail account. To avoid delays in the award of aid, it is important that your student be involved by checking e-mail frequently and submitting required documents.
Documents that may be requested:
- Verification Documents: A percentage of our students are selected for the verification process. If your student is selected, we will request documentation such as copies of the federal tax return. Students will not receive a financial aid package until verification is complete, so early submission is important.
- Loan Documents: If you and/or your student are interested in loans, we will require additional loan paperwork in order to fully process.
- Electronic Award Letter: Once a student is eligible to be packaged, we send an electronic award letter for review to the student's eServices account. The electronic award letter must be submitted by the student in order to fully process the aid.
The final step is to continue to check e-mails for any updates or requests for information. Though not routine, it is possible for student aid eligibility to change. It is important that your student check their CougarMail account frequently and communicate any changes with you.
You can find additional detailed information regarding all of the steps from start to finish and important links at the Financial Aid Home Page.
Loans: Can my student borrow enough to cover tuition? How much am I eligible to borrow?
We recommend exploring the options of paying ahead or paying at the time before considering student loans or parent loans.
The amount your student is eligible to borrow in his/her name will be based on the type of loan. Stafford loans have a grade level loan limit (i.e. freshman, sophomore, etc.). If you are unsure of the cost of the program your student intends to enroll in, please review tuition rates. If you complete the FAFSA, Columbia College will automatically package federal Stafford Loans in an estimated status. If you need additional loan funding beyond federal Stafford Loans, we recommend that you consider Parent PLUS loans or private loans. The PLUS loan is a credit-based loan in the parent's name and can be approved for up to the cost of attendance for your student (based on credit approval each year).
Students may also apply for credit-based, private loans. Private loans are the last recommended option because the interest rate is higher than all other types of loans. A co-signer may be required on private loans because your student's credit may not be approved on a stand-alone basis.
The general order of preference for paying for college is, in order of the lowest interest rates and fees, when applicable*:
- Gift aid: scholarships and grants
- Personal payment, by family member and/or student
- Loans in the student name
- Loans in the parent's name
- Private, credit-based loans in parent or student name
*This list is not mandatory or applicable to all students. Some parents choose to have students borrow as opposed to a parent's personal payment or loan in order to maintain student involvement in the financial commitment.
Ways to minimize loan debts:
Keeping student loan debt to a minimum will help your student meet the demands of a repayment plan later on.
For example, a student who borrows*:
- $5,000 over their college career will have a monthly payment of: $57.54 with a total interest cost of: $1904.81
- $20,000 over their college career will have a monthly payment of: $230.16 with a total interest cost of: $7619.27
- $65,500 over their college career will have a monthly payment of: $753.77 with a total interest cost of $24953.13
*Calculated at 6.8% simple interest rate with 120 monthly payments.
Some traditional ways for students to keep student loans at a minimum:
- Apply for Columbia College scholarships - don't forget that we also have scholarships for currently enrolled students, so there is a second chance if your student doesn't meet the requirements initially.
- Apply for external scholarships
- Fill out the FAFSA before March 1st for maximum consideration for all federal and state grants
- Work part time in either the federal work study program (must meet need eligibility range) or a job off campus.
Some other ways for students to save money:
- Buy used or rental books
- Carpool, if possible
- Use student discounts at movie theaters, restaurants, insurance. Just ask if they offer discounts.
- Use your prepaid meal plan instead of eating out.
- Day Students: take advantage of free activities sponsored by Columbia College.
- Resist impulse buying. Buy what you need, not what would be nice to have. When you do shop, use coupons and look for sales.
- Know and understand your cell phone plan. Stay within your free minutes.
- Brew your own coffee.
- Avoid buying snacks at vending machines.
- Watch ATM fees. Look for a bank with free ATMs.
Scholarships while attending Columbia College
If your student is not eligible for scholarships as a new student at Columbia College, there is still a chance that they can meet eligibility requirements while attending. Day students at our main campus with 30 semester hours who meet the minimum GPA requirement for courses completed at Columbia College may be eligible for scholarships.
Please note that the review time for Day student scholarships corresponds with the student's initial start date in the Day program (students who started in August may apply for scholarships and be reviewed in August each year, students who started in January can be reviewed in January each year).
Students in our extended (nationwide) campus programs may also be eligible for scholarships.
Additional information on scholarships for returning students.