College affordability: Tips to help you get a higher education

Pennsylvania ranks 48th, or third worst, in the United States at funding colleges, technical schools and universities.

So how can someone who wants a higher education afford to get it?

My staff and I are happy to help.

Here’s some information to get you started.

Planning for college

If you’re thinking about college and looking for ways to pay for your education, you will want to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

FAFSA is what determines someone’s eligibility for federal student aid, like federal grants, work-study and loans.

It typically takes about 30 minutes to complete the application, which can be done online at, and it’s totally free.

You must complete a FAFSA each school year. If you have completed a FAFSA in the past, most of your information will roll-over automatically.

You should fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible. You can apply as early as Oct. 1 the year before you start college. The deadline is June 30 the year after for when you are applying.

But the sooner you apply, the better to meet your school deadlines and receive aid for the start of the school year.

Many states and colleges have earlier deadlines for applying for state and institutional financial aid. You can find your state’s deadline at

Items you may need in order to complete your FAFSA:

  • Federal Student Aid ID
  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License Number, if you have one (optional)
  • Alien Registration Number, if you are not a U.S. Citizen
  • W-2 Forms
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned.
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

If you have questions, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center toll free at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

More information about the FAFSA, financial aid programs through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and the financial aid process in general are available online at

You have a college degree. Now how do you deal with your student debt?

Shortly after graduation, you’ll have to start repaying your school loans.

It can be overwhelming. But there are ways to manage the debt.

The federal government’s Income-Based Repayment Plan for direct loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Programs is a possibility. It caps your monthly payment at an affordable level, based on your income and family size, which may be less than traditional repayment plans. To learn more and calculate your estimated loan payment visit

Other options for dealing with college debt:

Deferment/Forbearance - Obtaining a deferment allows you to temporarily postpone your student loan payments. Forbearance temporarily reduces the amount you must pay. Talk to your loan servicer to learn if any of these is right for you and to find out if you qualify.

Loan forgiveness is another option. This is when part or all your student loan is forgiven based on your commitment to working in a specialized field for a certain number of years.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program- This program encourages graduates to enter and continue working in public service. For details, visit

Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program- This program encourages graduates to enter and continue in the teaching profession in low-income schools. For details, visit

Much of this information and more is available at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency's website, and the U S. Department of Education website,

Contact my office for more information

Paying for college can feel like a burden to many students and their parents and caregivers. But it is possible.

If you have more questions or need more assistance, my staff and I are available to help. Please contact us if we can provide any assistance.