As Virginia high school seniors prepare for their upcoming graduations, many have also been navigating the complex system of paying for college. The statewide organization GRASP guides families through this process, with the goal of helping more people access higher education.
The average cost of tuition at Virginia’s public universities is about $10,000 a year. Adding room and board doubles the price. Over a period of four years, it adds up.
“You have to be a really careful consumer when you’re looking at higher education.”
Bettsy Heggie is CEO of the non-profit group GRASP, which assists thousands of students across the state as they plan for college. Heggie says she starts with this important advice: “Consider applying to a variety of schools both public and private, do your research on how much financial aid that school offers and if, when they say are talking about financial aid, they are talking about PLUS loans or grants.”
Heggie says some schools, including those with large endowments, are more generous when it comes to grants and scholarships. She suggests scheduling separate meetings with both the financial aid and admissions offices to ask questions like these: “If I do the honors program, is there more grant money available to me. What is deadline for honors program? Perhaps it’s different than the standard deadline. Is there a scholarship form I need to complete?”
Working in 70 schools across the state, the organization did one-on-one advising with more than 6,000 students last year. GRASP also awards scholarships between $500 and $2000 to help students purchase books, computers and other costs not covered by financial aid.