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When it Comes to Financial Aid, Don't Act Like a Know-It-All!

So here's something you might have known (but wish you didn't): College tuition and fees increased between 5.5 and 7.7 percent at four-year institutions, according to the College Board's annual Trends in College Pricing report. Before you say, "I told you it was impossible to afford college," here's another tidbit for you: More aid was given out to students last year than ever before, totaling over $74 billion.

Are you still so sure that there's none for you? Stop being a know-it-all and open your mind (and wallet!) to financial aid opportunities.

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"There are many misconceptions about college financial aid," says Harold Burtley, director of financial aid at Northwestern Business College, Chicago, IL. That's not a surprise when you consider how complex the cash collecting process can be. Luckily, however, Burtley gave StudentRewards the lowdown on money myths, proving that college cash can be yours, once and for all!

"I'm stuck in the middle of the financial aid food chain."
Just because you're not super rich or extremely poor, doesn't mean you'll be neglected by the financial aid powers-that-be, says Burtley. "Students from middle-class families regularly qualify." That's because there are various federal and state loan and grant programs to meet the needs of students of all income levels, he explains.

"There's no way I can afford a private college, so I guess I'm stuck going to a school that's in my neighborhood."
First off, there are many wonderful public colleges and universities, but if you've got your sights set on a particular private one, don't let dollar drawbacks stand in your way. "Private colleges are just as capable of subsidizing a student's education through state grants as public universities," assures Burtley. In short, you never know -- Dream U. may offer you a full scholarship, but you won't know if you don't apply.

"A loan isn't the same thing as financial aid."
As sad as it may seem if you were hoping to stay debt-free, being eligible for a federal student loan is considered part of financial aid. Why? As Burtley explains, "Offerings like the federally subsidized Stafford Loans and Parent Plus Loans offer lower interest rates than those available through banks or credit unions." And believe us, the amount of savings a few interest percentage points makes is in the thousands!

"This stuff is confusing and I don't even have anyone to help me."
If you think so, that's another misconception you can put aside. "Help is available from the admissions or financial assistance offices at the school of your choice," says Burtley. "Most will [even] walk you through the entire process, as well as counsel you about the programs available for your particular financial situation." Of course, you will have to make the first move and ask.

The common thread here? When it comes to financial aid, you don't know it all (who does?!). Doing your research and asking the right questions will help you make a financially-educated higher ed' decision.