How to Pay for Boston University: Financial Aid and Student Loan Options

 August 25, 2020
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Like many other private colleges, Boston University is a pricey option to earn an undergraduate degree — annual tuition and fees alone are $58,072 a year. If this is the school you want to attend, you’ll need to be aware of any Boston University financial aid options.

While the tuition costs might initially give you sticker shock, it’s not what most students pay. Fortunately, many students can receive gift aid to use for college costs without generally having to repay it.

If you understand the student aid you could get and the options you have to finance your education, you can better decide if attending Boston University is affordable for you. Let’s look at what you need to know about paying Boston University tuition — specifically:

Costs of attending Boston University
Annual tuition and fees $58,072
Annual room and board $16,640
Total cost $74,712
Net cost (after aid) $30,729
Median federal student debt after graduation $21,824-27,000
All info current as of July 19, 2020. Sources: Boston University and College Scorecard

How to unlock Boston University financial aid options

There are two key applications to fill out that will give you a crack at a wide variety of financial aid available at Boston University. Here are the details, along with key dates to watch:

Start with the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your key to unlock several forms of student aid. The information you provide on your FAFSA is used to evaluate how much student aid you need and what you qualify for. This is determined by the gap between what you can afford to pay, called your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and what you’d pay to attend Boston University.

Most significantly, you’ll need to submit a FAFSA for each academic year to be eligible for federal student aid such as grants, work-study and federal student loans. Your FAFSA information is also used to evaluate you for many other student aid programs, such as those offered by your state or college.

Submitting the CSS Profile

Besides submitting a FAFSA, Boston University students and applicants should also complete the CSS Profile. The CSS Profile is a separate student aid application administered by The College Board that asks for more in-depth information about your financial situation and need for aid.

Many private colleges, including Boston University, require incoming students to complete the CSS Profile to be considered for grants and scholarships funded by the school. The CSS Profile does come with a $25 fee, plus $16 for each additional school or scholarship program to which you submit the application. Note, however, that many low-income or first-year undergraduate students can have these fees waived.

Important aid application dates for Boston University

Submitting your FAFSA and CSS Profile early can increase your chances of qualifying for student aid that draws on limited funds. Here are some key dates to keep in mind as you file a FAFSA or submit a CSS Profile:

  • Oct. 1: Both FAFSA and CSS Profile submissions open for the following school year
  • Nov. 1: Deadline to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile for the first round of early decision applicants
  • Jan. 1: Deadline to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile for the second round of early decision applicants; deadline for fall freshmen to file a FAFSA and CSS Profile
  • March 1: Deadline for returning students to file a FAFSA
  • May 1: Deadline to submit a FAFSA to qualify for Massachusetts student aid

You’ll need to complete and submit your aid applications by these deadlines. But don’t put it off until the last minute. Submitting these forms early allows plenty of time for your application to process and could help you qualify for more aid.

Types of funding to pay for Boston University

The FAFSA and CSS Profile should result in some aid opportunities, and there are others out there as well. Here’s a rundown of the types of funding you can get to pay for your education.

Grants for Boston University students

Once you’ve applied for student aid, you can start exploring your options and put together your plan to pay for Boston University. One of the best types of help come in the form of gift aid that doesn’t need to be repaid, such as grants.

Grants are most often based on a student’s financial needs, so those less able to cover college costs out of pocket will often qualify for more grants. Keep in mind, too, that financial need also takes a college’s costs into account. So at private colleges like Boston University that have higher annual costs, students are more likely to qualify for need-based aid than they would at a less-expensive public college.

Common types of grants for students include federal college grants, state college grants and institutional college grants. The Boston University Grant, for example, is awarded to students who meet the eligibility criteria for both financial need and academic performance.

Understanding the difference between these grants can make the difference in being able to find, apply for and receive more of this gift aid for college.

Federal college grants

Some grants are funded and offered through the federal government — specifically, Federal Student Aid. Complete and submit your FAFSA and you’ll automatically be evaluated for and receive any federal grants for which you’re eligible.

  • The Federal Pell Grant awards up to the $6,345 maximum for the 2020-21 academic year, based on a student’s financial need.
  • The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is reserved for students with the highest financial need. It’s administered and partially funded by Boston University.

Massachusetts and state college grants

Many state governments also have their own grant programs to help resident students pay for college. In fact, undergraduate Boston University students received an average of $31,000 in grants and scholarships. Here’s an overview of Massachusetts state grants:

  • The Massachusetts Gilbert Matching Student Grant Program is offered to residents of Massachusetts who meet the program’s criteria, including demonstrating financial need. Awards range from $200 to $2,500 a year.
  • Massachusetts Part-Time Grants start at $200 a year and are extended to students enrolled part time who are taking at least six — but fewer than 12 — credits per term.
  • Foster Child Grants provide up to $6,000 per academic year to resident foster children (younger than 25) attending eligible in- or out-of-state colleges.
  • MassGrants are for Massachusetts residents attending eligible schools. Award amounts will vary based on the student’s EFC, which must be $5,486 or less to qualify.
  • Public Service Grants cover full annual tuition and fees for college students whose parent or spouse was “killed or missing in the line of public service duty in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” according to the Office of Student Financial Assistance.
  • Paraprofessional Teacher Preparation Grants provide funds for current paraprofessionals working in Massachusetts public schools to complete a teaching degree and certification. Qualifying paraprofessionals can get $625 per credit in grants, or up to $7,500 an academic year.

All the above grants require students to be residents of Massachusetts and submit a FAFSA by May 1 to be eligible to receive this aid for the following academic year.

Nonresident Boston University students should check out the state college grants offered in their home state. They might find a program that they could use to attend an out-of-state college.

Boston University Scholarships for students

Besides grants, scholarships also provide funding to help students cover their college costs and educational expenses. Most Boston University scholarships fall into two categories:

  • Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on a student’s academic or athletic merits, area of study or other qualifying factors.
  • Need-based scholarships are granted primarily by financial need, though they can have more eligibility criteria.

Scholarship programs also differ in how they’re structured and funded. This type of aid is awarded by states, colleges, private companies, nonprofits and many other types of organizations. Boston University has several award programs of its own, and Massachusetts offers scholarships, too.

Each scholarship has its own application process, which can vary in its requirements and process.

Here are a few top scholarships available to Boston University students:

  • The Trustee Scholarship is awarded by Boston University’s Trustee Scholars Program, which invites about 20 high school seniors to join the organization the following year. Being a trustee comes with a scholarship award that covers full undergraduate tuition and fees. Applicants must complete and submit personal essays by Dec. 1 to be considered.
  • The Presidential Scholarship awards $25,000 to freshmen for academic achievement. Incoming students are automatically considered for this scholarship, which can be renewed for up to four years.
  • The Thomas M. Menino Scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship. High school seniors at Boston public schools can be nominated by their principal or counselor, and will then complete an application process to be considered.
  • The BU Community Service Award is open to Boston public high school graduates who are incoming freshmen or transfer students. Recipients must have demonstrated financial need, with award amounts intended to cover the full cost of attendance without loans. Students must commit to performing 25 hours of community service per semester after their first is complete.
  • The Richard D. Cohen Scholarship is extended to select students with exceptional financial need and will provide enough funding to cover the student’s full costs.

On top of offering these programs, Boston University also has the BU Scholarship Assurance. This policy guarantees that aid offered to students in their first year will be renewed each year (as the undergraduate student meets ongoing criteria).

You can also find other national or local student aid programs through scholarship search sites.

Federal work-study at Boston University

Boston University participates in the federal work-study program, which helps students access employment and earn income they can use to cover college costs. If you’re interested in federal work-study, indicate that when completing and submitting your FAFSA.

If you qualify for this form of need-based aid, you’ll be offered a work-study award for each semester. You’ll need to accept it and apply for Boston University jobs through its job directory. Keep in mind that the number of hours you can work through a work-study position will be limited to keep your total semester pay under your award amount.

Federal student loans

Once you’ve maximized all forms of gift student aid that won’t have to be repaid, you might still have some costs left to cover.

Federal student loans can be an accessible and affordable way to help you pay for Boston University. You won’t need a credit history to get federal student loans, and they have low interest rates and fees. Federal student loans also have several ways to manage your debt in repayment, from income-driven repayment plans to deferment or forbearance.

The direct subsidized loan even includes a subsidy that pays interest for you while loans are deferred, such as while you’re in school. If you qualify for a subsidized loan, borrow with this loan type first.

It’s important to compare federal student loans and choose your best option. Some federal student loans are more expensive than others, and one option is only available to parents of undergraduates.

Here’s an overview of federal student loans. Note that the rates given are accurate for July 1, 2020, and before July 1, 2021, while the fees are for loans borrowed on or after Oct. 1, 2019 but before Oct. 1, 2020.

Federal student loan Who can use it? Interest rate One-time loan fee Interest is paid in deferment
Subsidized Undergraduate students with a demonstrated financial need 2.75% 1.059% Yes
Unsubsidized Undergraduate students 2.75% 1.059% No
PLUS Graduate students and parents of undergraduate students 5.30% 4.236% No

State and university loans

Beyond federal student loans, Boston University students have more limited options. The university itself doesn’t provide any student loans.

At a state level, students have another option: the Massachusetts No Interest Loan program. This provides student loans to Massachusetts resident students who meet need-based eligibility criteria. These loans range from $1,000 to $4,000 per academic year and charge no interest for the life of the loan, which borrowers have 10 years to repay.

Boston University also offers several payment plans to help students and their families break up tuition payments so that they can more effectively budget for these costs. Keep in mind that these payment plans are not loans and won’t incur any interest charges.

Private student loans

Private student loans are another financing option that Boston University students might want to consider. Unlike federal or state student loans, private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions or online lenders.

These private lenders don’t offer the same benefits you’d receive for federal student loans, such as the option to change your repayment plan or take part in federal student loan forgiveness programs.

Private student loans also require a solid credit history to qualify. Most students can’t get approved on their own and will need to borrow with the help of a student loan cosigner.

Private student loans offer different rates for each borrower, with lower rates correlating to a high credit score. These private student loan rates are often higher than those offered on federal student loans.

Private student loans can help cover gaps in financing if other forms of student aid aren’t enough to cover a student’s full costs. But you’ll need to shop around and compare private student loans to find a private student loan that is affordable and meets your needs.

Final thoughts on paying for Boston University

There’s no denying that Boston University is a high-cost school. Students hoping to attend this college will need to be informed and get creative to make a smart plan to pay for a degree here.

Parents and students should turn to gift aid like scholarships and grants first when figuring out how to pay for Boston University. Research, find and apply for as many of these programs as possible to maximize the funds you can get.

After gift aid, consider other ways to cover college costs without borrowing. Students and parents can both look for extra cash to put toward a degree, out of savings or personal earnings.

Then turn to student loans to cover your remaining expenses. Borrow only what you must to cover BU costs, and make sure you’re comparing and choosing the best student loan available to you.

By exploring your college financing options, planning and taking advantage of all student aid opportunities, you can pay for your Boston University degree while limiting your out-of-pocket costs and student debt.

Christina Majaski contributed to this report.

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