by Katie Seraikas
College could be one of the most expensive investments you make in your life. But it can also yield one of the highest returns on investments.
Median income for bachelor degree holders is $45,500, compared to $30,000 of those with an associate degree and $28,000 for those with high school credentials alone.
Making the decision to attend a four-year university may seem like a big financial undertaking, and it is certainly a decision that requires serious deliberation and financial planning from both the student and his or her family. But there are several options to help a student attend school. At UNH Manchester, the Financial Aid Office works hard to offer about 90% of students some form of financial aid — and are striving to reach 100% for the 2016-2017 school year.
Sharon Eaton, associate director of financial aid at UNH Manchester, said students often face a lot of pressure to go away to college. And in many cases, they may not know the experience they're looking for or the financial burden that could come with it. Eaton said talking about affordability with parents, guardians and mentors is extremely important.
“Having conversations about what they can afford out of pocket, what is in the budget and what the student will be responsible for is key,” Eaton said. “That sets the stage for considering the financial aid package.”
Audrey Beaudoin, an incoming sophomore at UNH Manchester, is all too familiar with this situation. A graduate from Goffstown High School, Beaudoin was at the top of her class. When accepted to UNH Manchester, she was offered the Success Scholarship, the top merit award for incoming freshman. But even with a $5,000 scholarship, Beaudoin didn't think it was financially possible for her to afford the four-year university.
When Goffstown High Principal Frank McBride caught wind Beaudoin's dilemma, he resolved to help her pursue the education she deserved. McBride called UNH Manchester to learn more about its financial aid opportunities, particularly for high-achieving students like Beaudoin.
“I just think that a student and person of that caliber is best fit for a four-year school, so I was trying to advocate to bridge that gap in the financials," McBride said. "She is just one of the brightest, sweetest, kindest students who is very empathetic and didn’t necessarily want to burden her family.”
The Financial Aid Office reached out to Beaudoin, guiding her through the federal aid process to close the gap of her college costs. After the scholarships, grants and loans, 75% of her tuition was covered. Her family was able to then set forth a plan to pay the remaining balance.
“I received a phone call from the ever-so-helpful Sharon Eaton," Beaudoin said. "She explained my financial aid situation in detail, and I quickly realized that my dream of becoming a Wildcat was much more possible than I had thought.”
It was no mistake, either. Beaudoin, a psychology major and education minor, just finished her freshman year and could not be happier at UNH Manchester. In her first semester, she earned a 4.0 GPA – an unprecedented feat for a freshman. All of this while working part-time, volunteering at her church and assistant teaching dance classes. Beaudoin highlighted small class sizes and accessibility to professors and advisors as key to her success.
“The community and family I have found in UNH Manchester are like none I have heard of or experienced when visiting other schools," Beaudoin said. "Academic advisors know each of their students personally and have a lot of wisdom to offer when it comes to selecting classes. I love having small classes where not only do my peers know me, but also my professors.”
Resources available to those considering higher education and looking to determine what they can afford, are plentiful.
Goffstown High School is just one of hundreds of high schools that offer Financial Aid Night, where they pull in representatives from New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF) to discuss the federal aid options and beyond. Guidance counselors are well versed in the entire college process, from admission to financial aid.
There is still time to apply for Fall 2016 admission!