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How to pay for school: A guide to financial aid

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It’s no secret that it can be hard to pay for college. With tuition, housing and course fees, paying for college can be quite expensive. However, there are many tools and opportunities students can take advantage of to help cover the costs of school, from scholarships to federal aid.

At the University of Arizona, the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid offers many services that can help students pay for education.

“The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid basically is the middle man, the middle person between the federal government, its resources and the student,” said Paul Weeks, a counselor with the financial aid office. “Our main job is to focus on getting to the student the maximum financial aid they are entitled to.”

An important step all students must take to receive financial aid is to fill out their FAFSA. By filling out this form, a student becomes eligible for financial aid through the United States government.

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“The student starts off … with filling out the FAFSA. … Once that has gone through government scrutiny, we get it back and build a financial aid package based off of it,” Weeks said. If they have not filled out their FAFSA, students may be ineligible for many forms of financial aid and services that the financial aid office provides. The FAFSA for a school year opens in October of the prior year.

Among the services provided by the financial aid office is Scholarship Universe, which connects UA students to millions of dollars in potential scholarships.

“From the standpoint of additional scholarships and grants, [students] should definitely create an account in Scholarship Universe,” Weeks said. “[Scholarship Universe] is an application with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of resources.”

Scholarship Universe provides access to hundreds of scholarships – both scholarships directly funded by the UA and external scholarships provided by third parties.

When seeking out financial aid, "the second thing [students] should do is talk to their department,” Weeks said. Many schools and departments at the UA have department-specific scholarships and pools of funds devoted to financial aid for their students.

If they are still in need of financial assistance after they have received all gift aid (scholarships and grants), students should research student loans. Some may be offered by the financial aid office in the form of subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and others are provided by private institutions such as banks or credit unions.

Unsubsidized student loans are available to any undergraduate and graduate student, but they have to pay interest on the loan. Subsidized loans, on the other hand, are only available to students who can demonstrate financial need and interest is paid by the government.

“We are not allowed to offer more financial aid than it would cost to go here,” Weeks said. “[Students should] consider student loans when there is a gap between what their cost of attendance will be and the amount of aid they will be getting. … They should do some [research] on our website.”

Another option available to help pay for school is Federal Work-Study, a need-based form of financial assistance where the federal government provides part-time work to help students earn money to help pay for their education. This service is one of the many additional services provided by the financial aid office here at the UA.

The UA Virtual Career Fair showcases work-study opportunities, in addition to other non-work-study employment opportunities. The first career fair takes place on Aug. 25 from 1-4 p.m.

“Ask questions. That’s what we’re here for,” Weeks said. If you need more information about financial aid, contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at (520) 621-1858 or visit their website at financialaid.arizona.edu.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (7/15)
57 3 5.3%
Total (8/4)
274,434 4,382 1.6%
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated July 15, 2021