Investing in Your Education: How to Navigate Financial Aid

By John Koehler September 12, 2022

One of the biggest hurdles that students face when deciding to pursue postsecondary education is figuring out how to pay for it. We know the financial aid process can feel overwhelming, so we talked to financial aid expert, Michelle Metcalf.

Michelle Metcalf has an extensive background in financial aid, with more than three decades of experience supporting students’ financial needs. She currently leads all financial aid and student account functions at University of Arkansas Grantham. Metcalf upholds the university's mission to provide accessible and affordable programs, helping students reach their goal of attaining a degree. Prior to joining UA Grantham, Metcalf held roles at Sallie Mae, Security Bank, and EdFund. She earned a Master of Business Administration from University of Saint May and a Bachelor of Arts from University of Kansas.

Here’s what to know when preparing to navigate the financial aid process.

Q: When it comes to financial aid, where do I start?

Most students start with the FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application process will determine your eligibility for Federal Student Aid, including whether you qualify for certain grant funding as well as how much you can borrow through federal student loan programs.

The FAFSA can seem complex, and can take approximately one hour to complete— especially if this is your first time submitting one. If you are renewing, the average completion time should be a lot less. Some students are able to complete the FAFSA in less than 20 minutes. You will need several pieces of important information in order to begin, including government-issued identification, tax records, and other financial records.

Q: How do I set myself up for financial aid success?

At UA Grantham, we strive to make the financial aid process as quick and seamless as possible. Still, it can take time to finalize all the necessary details. UA Grantham doesn’t have a priority date deadline, meaning you can submit your FAFSA application at any point—however, the process still takes a while. (At UA Grantham, we are normally able to help students within 2 weeks of receiving their FAFSA.) Start as early as you can! This can help you determine your eligibility before classes start.

You can also brush up on some financial aid basics, and get UA Grantham financial aid answers to ensure you have everything you need to get started. Also, don’t forget to check out Financial Aid TV—our video portal! It includes helpful video answers (plus their transcripts) to your financial aid questions, as well as the Talon chatbot which provides assistance 24/7.

Q: How much will my education cost?

This answer can vary widely from person to person, but it is important to have a good understanding of your education costs before you take out any loans.

UA Grantham offers one of the lowest tuitions in the nation for our top-tier online degree programs1, as well as a new laptop to students who enroll in a degree program—at no additional cost. We’re also proud to offer our military aid program, which provides a special tuition rate and complimentary textbooks for members of all military ranks and branches—as well as their spouses and children.

In addition, UA Grantham streamlines textbook and technology costs with a single resource fee. That means you don’t have to worry about a ton of extra fees and charges piling up to increase the total cost of attendance.

Q: What other costs should I consider?

Take a minute to ensure you understand all your school-related expenses—including tuition, books, equipment, and school supplies—as well as the additional, often less tangible costs you may incur such as childcare expenses and extra takeout meals when you need more study time. Start with your current monthly expenses or budget and consider what might change once you are back in school.

Q: What about scholarships?

At UA Grantham, we offer partner scholarships. For students in specific fields, who are members of certain organizations, or who meet other criteria, these scholarships programs are a fantastic method to save money on a UA Grantham education.

There are other options available too, such as scholarships designed specifically for military families and/or nontraditional students. You can also check with faith-based organizations, civic groups, and even your own employer for scholarship and grant opportunities to help you fund your degree program.

At UA Grantham, we are committed to helping students of all ages invest in themselves through education. That means offering high-quality online programs, dedicated student support services, and affordable tuition. It also means a knowledgeable team of financial aid professionals who are eager to answer your questions, assist with applications and forms, and provide guidance for every step of the process.

If you are looking for financial aid help or have additional questions, please call (866) 850-2980 to speak with a UA Grantham financial aid representative. You can ask Talon, our 24/7 chatbot.

About the Author

John Koehler
John Koehler is a senior marketing specialist on University of Arkansas Grantham's marketing operations team. John is passionate about enabling education opportunities and a positive experience for prospective students. John holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Marketing from Rockhurst University.
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