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Financial Aid


While expensive, post secondary education is a key to professional and personal development and future financial independence.  The more education usually equals more productivity in the economy.  The purpose of financial aid is simple; to provide funds for eligible students to attend post secondary education (colleges, schools, etc.), because very few individuals or families can afford to pay the entire cost out of pocket.  

Financial aid programs are based on the philosophy that the primary obligation for college expenses rests with the student and their parents, but society/government will help meet some of their need.  Financial aid is any help given to a student to pay for the expense to attend post secondary education (college).  It could be in the form of or a combination of these types of aid: need based, merit based, gift aid, loan aid, and/or self-support aid .

Some aid you must specifically apply for. Other aid may be awarded based on reports from testing and/or application for admissions or other submitted data.

The financial aid process assists students and their families to identify and access sources to help pay for college expenses which will supplement their own contributions for post secondary education.

Financial aid professionals at the post secondary institutions work hard to offer students the best package of financial aid that is available based on the:

  • available financial aid resources at the institution
  • the cost of attending the institution
  • student's calculated need using the institution and/or Federal Methodology

Financial Aid could be in the form of a Grant, Tuition Waiver, Scholarship, Work Study or Loan. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the most important form that seniors fill out in order to qualify for financial aid.


Here are FREE Resources from Federal Student Aid

Resource English Spanish
Booklets and Brochures
College Preparation Checklist PDF PDF
2018–19 Do You Need Money for College? The Guide to Federal Student Aid PDF PDF
My Future, My Way: First Steps Toward College—A Workbook for Middle and Junior High School Students PDF PDF
Federal Student Aid for Adult Students PDF PDF
Financial Aid for Graduate or Professional Degree Students PDF NA
Comparing Colleges PDF PDF
Videos and Images
Financial Aid Process video Video Captioned
Financial Aid Process graphic Image Image
Types of Federal Student Aid video Video Captioned
Types of Federal Student Aid graphic Image Image
Responsible Borrowing video Video Captioned
Budgeting video Video Captioned
Web Pages and Tools
Checklists for Academic and Financial Preparation Web Web
Career Search Web Web
College Search Web Web
College Scorecard Web NA
Scholarship Search Web Web
Glossary Web Web
Fact Sheets
2018–19 Federal Student Aid at a Glance PDF PDF
Federal Student Aid: Find the Information You Need PDF PDF
Federal Student Grant Programs PDF PDF
TEACH Grant Program PDF PDF
Federal Student Loan Programs PDF PDF
Scholarships for Military Families PDF PDF
Information for International Students PDF NA
Financial Aid and Undocumented Students PDF PDF
Educational and Training Vouchers for Current and Former Foster Care Youth PDF PDF
Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth PDF PDF
Internal Revenue Service fact sheet on education tax benefits—“Students and Parents: Why Form 1098-T Is Important to You” PDF NA
Federal Student Aid Eligibility for Students Confined in Adult Correctional or Juvenile Justice Facilities PDF PDF
Fact Sheets—Early Preparation
Saving Early = Saving Smart! Watch Your Money Grow With Your Child PDF PDF
Fact Sheets—College and Career Preparation
Why Go to College? PDF PDF

Budgeting for College

Sample Costs for Northwest Colleges and Universities

College Costs Include More Than Tuition

Every school charges what is known as tuition which is the price you pay to receive instruction at that institution. In addition, schools charge fees for things like lab supplies and the health center. You also must pay for books, room and board and other living expenses.

Each year, schools figure out the average amount a student will need to attend the school. The cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, room and board, allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and personal and incidental expenses. Student loan fees, if applicable, also may be included in the cost of attendance, as well as child care and expenses for disabilities, at the discretion of the financial aid administrator.  Schools establish different budget amounts for students living on campus and off campus, those who are married and unmarried, and those with in-state and out-of-state residency status.

Try not to let a school's cost of attendance scare you away. Don't make your decision based on the cost alone. Instead, consider what the school has to offer, its location, programs, the student body, faculty, and other any other factors that are important to you.  Although you're responsible for paying for your education, financial aid can help. You won't know if a school is affordable for you until you receive your financial aid award letter in the spring of your senior year.  This page will help you develop a working budget for college.

Besides tuition, you'll have to pay for other things, such as:

     Books and supplies

     Room and board (where you live, food, utilities, etc.)

     Fees (lab, Internet, parking, registration, etc.)

     Transportation expenses

     Personal expenses



Washington Financial Aid Association Student Budgets Estimates. Average Annual Tuition and Fees

2 Year Community or Techincal College-Public ($4,000)

2 Year Techincal College-Independent/Private ($10,000)

4 Year Regional University-Public ($6,000-$7,000)

4 Year University-Public ($10,000-$12,000)

4 Year University-Independent/Private ($20,000-$40,000)

Expense Beside Tuition:  Families need to budget for other costs such as

Books and Supplies  ($500-700 per term)

Room/Board-at home-commuiting (estimate costs $4000) or

Room/Board-at college ($10,000-$12,000)

Transportation ($1000-$1500)

Miscellaneous/Personal ($1000-$2000)

     Add tuition and the above expenses to get a ballpark estimate of your total costs.


Differences Between Need and Merit Based Aid

Most financial aid programs are "need-based" which means the student and family will provide information to determine the amount the family can contribute.  Some students may qualify for both Need and Merit based aid while some may only qualify for just need or just merit based.


Need Based

Most financial aid-need based programs are taxpayer supported and administered by federal and state governments. Colleges and communities also sponsor programs to help students pay for college.

Students must demonstrate financial need in order to qualify for need based aid.  Need based aid award amounts are based on this formula:

The total cost of college.  This includes expenses of tuition, books, room, board, and miscellaneous living


Minus your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).  This is what you will be expected to pay regardless of which colleges or schools you plan to attend.

The difference from costs minus EFC will equal  your financial need.  This is the amount of need based aid that you should qualify for at the institution if you apply early.

The EFC is based your family's financial resources.  Here are some facts to consider:

  • EFC stays the same regardless of where you go to college/school.
  • EFC is always the minimum you will be expected to pay for the year before any financial aid is awarded.
  • EFC is an economic calculation and will changeThe FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the document you complete to report your family's financial status.
    • based on the age of your oldest parent
    • the number of students in college in that family
    • the income and assets of parents and the income and assets of the student.
  • October of your Senior Year in high school is the earliest you may file your FAFSA
  • You will need to have access to financial records for the year ending in December of your Junior year in high school:high GPA in college prep coursesdemonstration of special talents such as in instrumental or vocal music, athletics, theatre, art, mechanics, etc.
    • INCOME TAX RETURNS: Both your own returns and your parents/guardians returns
    • BANK STATEMENTS: Savings and checking for you and your parents/guardians
    • ALL OTHER INCOME SOURCES: Any source of income for student or parent/guardian
    • ASSET/DEBT RECORDS: Current values of assets and debts (not including residence) for both students and parents/guardiansdemonstrating mastery in an academic area such as a foreign language, robotics, nursing, etc.

Remember, since the cost to attend varies among the different colleges and schools, but the  EFC (family contribution) is constant, the student may be eligible for different amounts of need based aid at different colleges.

Many websites have EFC Calculators that may help you estimate your EFC before filing a FAFSA.   When you have estimates of the above financial records you can those plug numbers into the calculator.  An estimated EFC will then be calculated


The College Bound Scholarship: The College Bound Scholarship program (need based) is an early commitment of state financial aid to eligible students who sign up in middle school and fulfill the scholarship pledge.

From sign up to scholarship, we provide the tools and resources you need to get College Bound.

Sign Up: eligibility and application information

Fulfill the College Bound Pledge: frequently asked questions, academic resources for high school students, financial aid information

Access the Scholarship: FAFSA help, scholarship requirements, frequently asked questions, financial aid information


Merit Based Aid

Merit based financial aid is aid given in the form of a scholarship or grant based on a special talent or ability that the student has demonstrated and/or processes.

Merit based aid may be given in competitions (beauty, cooking, writing, art, photography, other talents, etc.) and is earned because you demonstrated a talent or ability to excel beyond the average student.

Merit based aid may include both scholarships awarded by the individual college or university and those awarded by outside organizations.

Merit based aid is typically awarded for outstanding academic achievements which can be based on

Merit based aid is awarded without regard for the financial need of the applicant. At many colleges, every admitted student is automatically considered for merit scholarships. At other schools, however, a separate application process is required.


Gift, Loan and Self Support Aid


Gift Aid: Just as the name implies gift aid is given to you as a gift. It does not needed to be repaid.  Gift aid may include grants, tuition waivers and scholarships

Loan Aid: Once again with the name we know that loan aid is a loan of money to help you get through college. Once you quit or graduate from  college you are expected to begin paying back your loans. Interest may be payable in addition to principle. Loans for students make up the majority of the financial aid packages.  Most loans are the student's responsibility to pay back after they leave college.  Some loans are the parents responsibility to pay back. These are called PLUS loans.

Self Support Aid: This kind of aid takes the form of helping yourself earn your way through college.  Work Study is the most well know program where your earnings through part-time employment arranged by the college are applied to your college expenses.  These college awarded work study jobs are supported by state and federal aid sources and at some independent colleges by private donations or foundations. Students must qualify for work study and may be considered part of a need based aid package.

Part time work you find on your own is not Work Study, but part time work is a very popular method to pay for college.  Some students work during the school year, others only on the weekends or summer time.  With part time work you do support yourself, but the wages are paid to directly to you.  The student must make their own payments to the college from this income.

College Savings Plans.  These are another form of self support aid, While there are many types of aid, it always best for you and your family to save some for college. Saving your summer work money will give you more flexibility in the activities you want to pursue at college. Hopefully the family started these several years ago rather than waiting for the senior year.  The federal government has set up some tax advantages for families who save such as with the Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, 529  Plans and Tax Benefits for college expenses. 

529 Savings Plans: A 529 college savings plan helps you save money for college. There are two types of 529 plans. One allows you to purchase tuition today that will be safe from inflation. You save money because you buy tuition in advance. The other kind relies on economic markets and a base investment that acquires interest based on the economic performance. Often such plans deposit a certain amount into your savings plans or loan accounts every time you purchase goods from certain retailers.

Other Programs Providing Self Support Options in Paying for College

Families can also check with their bank or financial advisor to determine if there is a different or complimentary program that would help you and your family save money for college.

AmeriCorps: By becoming a volunteer with AmeriCorps, a network of national and community service programs, you'll receive an education award of up to $4,725 each year for up to two years to pay for college or repay federal student loans. In addition, you may be eligible for forbearance and possibly deferment on your federal student loans while you're an AmeriCorps volunteer. If you serve full time, you will also receive a modest living allowance.

Peace Corps: At some colleges, you can incorporate your Peace Corps service into a master's degree program and may receive financial assistance for doing so. In addition, up to 70 percent of your Perkins Loan debt may be forgiven if you serve as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Teach for America: a member of the AmeriCorps programs, sends recent college graduates to teach for two years at disadvantaged schools. You'll be paid for teaching and participate under an alternative teaching certification program. You may also receive forbearance and interest payment benefits on your student loans. You may earn an education award of $4,725 a year to repay your student loans or for more education.

The Military: Military enlistment and service often offers bonuses, tuition assistance, college fund programs which is another form of self support aid. Scholarships are available from the Army, Navy, and Air Force through the Reserve Officers Training Corps programs at hundreds of colleges in return for serving at least four years on active duty after graduation. To learn more, go to,,, or contact the Zillah High School recruiters

All branches of the military provide tuition assistance for college courses and some offer loan assumption benefits. To learn more, go to or contact the Zillah High School recruiters

Finally consider the Washington Army or Air National Guard programs. The National Guard is a citizen soldier/airman who commit to being a back up  to the regular Army or Air Force in time of crisis.  Normally the commitment is for 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks summer camp during the year for a 5-7 year period of time.  Guards are paid for this service.  In addition then, the Washington Guard has many college plan and tuition assistance programs available for those students not wishing full time military commitments.  While deployment to full time service in time of crisis or war is possible, the National Guard does offer some guarantees about college before deployment.  Contact the ZHS recruiters for further information on National Guard options.


Grants are gift aid.  They may be need or merit based, but most are need based. State and federal grants are awarded to students who qualify for need based aid, and who apply early, using the FAFSA. 

Pell Grants: The Maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2016–17 (July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017) will be $5,815. The amount an individual student may receive depends on a number of factors. Learn more via the links below:

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): An FSEOG is for undergraduates with exceptional financial need, that is, students with the lowest EFCs. Priority is given to students who receive Federal Pell Grants. An FSEOG doesn’t have to be paid back. Each school participating in the Federal Pell Grant Program will receive enough money to pay the Federal Pell Grant amounts its eligible students qualify for. Every eligible student might not receive an FSEOG, however; students at each school will be awarded these funds based on availability at that school. FSOEG range between $200 and $4,000 a year, depending on when you apply, your need, the funding level of the school you’re attending, and the policies of the financial aid office where you attend school. Your school will credit your account, pay you directly (usually by check), or combine these methods. Schools must pay students at least once per term.

Washington State Need Grant: A program that helps the state’s lowest-income undergraduate students pursue degrees, hone their skills, or retrain for new careers. Students can use the grants at public two- and four-year colleges and universities and many accredited independent colleges, universities and career schools in Washington. The award can be up to $10,000 per year based on need. 

Tuition Waivers: In Washington State colleges may offer tuition waivers.  This is a college level offering which is a gift aid award.  It may be need or merit based. Contact the colleges for specific information on this type of aid.

Work Study

Both Federal and State programs allow students to work on campus to help pay for tuition and room/board expenses.  Since this is earned aid, it does not have to be paid back.

Federal Work-Study: The Federal Work-Study Program provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to each student’s course of study.  You’ll earn at least the current federal minimum wage, but the amount might be higher depending on the type of work you do and the skills required.  Your total Federal Work-Study award depends on when you apply, your level of need, and the funding level of your school.


If you’re an undergraduate, you’ll be paid by the hour.  If you’re a graduate student, you might be paid by the hour or you might receive a salary, depending on the work you do.  Your school must pay you at least once a month. Your school must pay you directly, unless you request that the school make payments to your bank account or use the money to pay for your education-related institutional charges such as tuition, fees, and room and board.


If you work on campus, you’ll usually work for your school. If you work off campus, your employer will usually be a private nonprofit organization or a public agency, and the work performed must be in the public interest. Some schools might have agreements with private for-profit employers for Federal Work-Study jobs. These jobs must be relevant to your course of study to the maximum extent possible.


The amount you earn can’t exceed your total Federal Work-Study award. When assigning work hours, your employer or financial aid administrator will consider your class schedule and your academic progress.

State Work Study: The State Work Study program helps students from low- and middle-income families earn money for college while gaining experience whenever possible in jobs related to their academic and career goals. Students can use the work study grants at public two- and four-year colleges and universities and many accredited independent four-year colleges and universities. To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:

Awards are based on the availability of funds and your determined financial need. While awards vary, students generally earn between $2,000 and $5,000 per year. Students work an average of 19 hours per week during the academic year and up to 40 hours during school breaks. You will be considered automatically for State Work Study when you file the (FAFSA). Contact your school financial aid office for more information



There are many kinds of loans with special features.  Most loans, other than the conditional types, must be paid back.


The U.S. Department of Education has two federal student loan programs:

  • The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program is the largest federal student loan program. Under this program, the U.S. Department of Education is your lender. There are four types of Direct Loans available:    
    • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school. 
    • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but in this case, the student does not have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for the loan.
    • Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid.
    • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single pyament plan">loan servicer.
  • The Federal Perkins Loan Program is a school-based loan program for undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. Under this program, the school is lender. If you have questions about Perkins Loan eligibility, please contact your school's financial aid office. 

Compare all of the federal student loan programs.

Loan Forgiveness

There are some opportunities for loan forgiveness, in other words reducing or canceling your debt. These are usually run through federal or state programs or the military where you work in an area of need and in exchange for your work, in addition to a salary, you receive credits or repayments for your loans. 

The Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship programs were created to address the critical shortage of health care professionals in Washington State. In return, participants agree to provide primary care health service in rural or underserved urban areas with designated shortages.                           

The Future Teachers Conditional Scholarship and Loan Repayment program is designed to encourage outstanding students and paraprofessionals to become teachers, and to encourage current teachers to obtain additional endorsements in teacher shortage subjects. In return for scholarships or repayment of student loans, program participants agree to teach in Washington K-12 public schools. 

Conditional scholarships or loan repayments cannot exceed your tuition and fees or the full-time resident undergraduate tuition and fees at the University of Washington - whichever is lower.  Participants are eligible to receive conditional scholarships or loan repayments for up to five years. Award amounts are determined each July .

If you are a teacher in a low-income school or subject matter shortage area, you may be eligible for a cancellation or deferment of your student loans through a federal program. For more information, contact the U.S. Department of Education.