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Financial aid is needed part of college search process

Don't let the cost of a college education deter you from going to college.

That is the message that Joyce Hall, director of financial aid, and Douglas Christiansen, assistant vice president for enrollment services and director of admissions, are trying to spread.

Douglas Christiansen

"Please don't let finances be a barrier in the college search process," Christiansen says. "And tell your friends, associates, teachers and others. A college education is affordable. You may have to work and be creative to find the funding but you shouldn't let cost be the starting point in the college search process."

Hall, who is working on a comprehensive booklet about financial planning for college, says students should first look at what they want to study and where that program is available. Most colleges and universities then will work with the student to help find necessary financial aid.

"We don't want anyone to make the decision that a college education is out of reach without exploring all the possibilities," Hall says.

Joyce Hall

Purdue has increased its available financial aid offerings -- both merit-based aid and need-based aid -- over the past decade. More is needed, Christiansen and Hall agree. And more will be offered as Purdue works to enact its strategic plan and, in the fall, begins a fund-raising campaign that will include fundsd for financial aid.

Of the approximately 30,000 undergraduate students who attended Purdue during the 2001-02 academic year, 18,000 received some sort of financial aid. Of those, approximately 12,000 received need-based aid.

Purdue's merit-based awards have increased recently in the way of additional scholarships for valedictorians, Indiana resident top scholars and National Merit winners. There also is the Beering Scholars program for Purdue's top applicants, offering full financial support throughout the undergraduate and on into graduate education. In addition, the Purdue Academic Success Award offers scholarships to high ability students. Those who achieve a minimum score of 1360 on the SAT or 31 on the ACT, and rank in the top 5 percent of their high school class or have a 3.8 grade point average on a 4.0 scale are considered for the Academic Success Award. Individual schools and departments also offer financial awards for top students.

"We're seeing better-prepared students coming to Purdue each year," Christiansen says. "They are high achievers and many are eligible for merit-based aid. Many of them also qualify for need-based aid. We want to work with them to ensure the best situation for all the students who enroll at Purdue. We need to work to meet the needs of the students while also meeting the needs of the University."

Hall says parents should begin planning early. She and her staff in financial aid offer workshops and planning advice throughout the year.

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"Planning for the entire financial picture of the collegiate career is extremely important," she says. "It is important to plan and save. Then, with a combination of savings, state awards, Purdue awards and student loans, that college education should be attainable for all students."

Hall encourages students and parents to do their homework and re-search the opportunities that are out there.

The College Board and Sallie Mae Web sites offer advice for families who are planning for college and also information about conducting a college search. Go to or

Compare apples to apples when assessing colleges

When assessing and comparing the cost of going to one college or another, it is wise to consider all the costs, says Joyce Hall, director of financial aid at Purdue.

"In some cases, a college will list tuition and fees and perhaps the residence hall fees, but might not include the cost of books, transportation and other incidentals," she says.

Purdue makes it a point to provide families with an accurate picture of total college costs in order to assist them in their financial planning for college, Hall says.

"Our current estimate for Indiana residents for one year at Purdue is $14,000," she says. "For out-of-state students, the number is $24,770." Those numbers include fees, tuition, books and supplies, room and board, miscellaneous and travel.

Douglas Christiansen, assistant vice president for enrollment services and director of admissions, advises parents and students to make sure they judge all schools' financial aid and scholarship options with an eye toward the total, bottom-line cost.

"We are working to increase our financial aid offerings and are still behind in some respects," he says. "It is essential, however, that we help students and parents understand that the bottom line at Purdue may still be less than what they pay elsewhere when they look at the complete picture."

For instance, Christiansen points out, a student who is offered a scholarship of $10,000, $15,000 or even $20,000 at another institution may still pay more for a year at that college than for a year at Purdue with a smaller financial aid package.

"The important thing to remember," Christiansen says, "is that a student must consider where he or she will have the greatest opportunity for success. Once that decision is made, by all means consider the available financial aid options and the cost factor.

"Be sure, however, that you are comparing the costs equally -- that you are considering expenses beyond fees, tuition, room and board."

Hall and Christiansen suggest that parents and students look at the College Board Web site for more suggestions and help with comparing the costs of attending various schools. That site is

In addition, for specific information about admissions and financial aid at Purdue, go to and click on "Admissions."

Stories by Julie Rosa
Photographs by David Umberger and Nick Judy

For many students, financial aid options can help with the expense of a college education. In addition to savings plans, merit-based aid, need-based aid and student loans are a few of the ways students can pay for college.