With origins dating back to 1766, Rutgers University has been educating students since before the U.S. was established.
Back then, its cost of attendance was surely lower than what you see today: $34,138 for in-state students and $50,848 for out-of-state students for the 2018-19 academic year.
Given these high costs, it’s crucial that you take the time to understand your Rutgers award letter before you enroll.
If you’ve got your sights set on this historic public college, here’s what you need to know about deciphering your Rutgers financial aid award letter.
1. You’ll see direct and indirect costs, but they’re only estimates
Once you’re accepted to Rutgers, you’ll get an email from its financial aid office when your Rutgers award letter is ready to be viewed online. After signing into your account, you’ll gain access to your Rutgers financial aid award.
You’ll first notice an estimate for direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include tuition, fees, housing, and dining, and you’ll pay them directly to Rutgers. But your actual direct costs might differ from the estimate you see here. For instance, you might forgo on-campus housing and commute from home, resulting in a lower housing bill.
Along similar lines, your indirect costs, which include books, supplies, and travel expenses, could be more or less than Rutgers’ estimate, depending on your budget. Although the totals on your Rutgers award letter can be a useful guide, you should still take time to add up your own costs based on your situation.
2. The estimated total cost of attendance is just the sticker price
After revealing your direct and indirect costs, your Rutgers financial aid award letter will give you a total estimated cost of attendance. Before you get sticker shock, remember that this total hasn’t yet taken your financial aid into account. Any scholarships or grants could significantly lower this total cost of attendance.
The rest of your letter will break down the gift aid and student loan offers that can lower this total cost of attendance into a more reasonable range.
3. Your aid could include scholarships and grants
Once you’ve got a sense of total costs, it’s time to look closer at your financial aid award. First, you might see gift aid in the form of scholarships or grants. This aid could be merit-based or need-based, and it might come from the federal, state, or institutional level.
The Department of Education, for instance, awards the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant to students with financial need. In-state students might also receive state grants, such as the New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant for up to $10,730 a year or NJ Stars II for up to $2,500 a year.
Since you don’t have to pay back gift aid, it’s essentially free money to help you pay for college. That said, some scholarships last only a year, meaning your costs the next year could go up. Make sure to read the details of each award to see whether it’s renewable.
The gift aid on your Rutgers award letter is provided based on the information you gave on the FAFSA and your college application. For even more help paying for college, you can apply for scholarships from independent organizations. Use scholarship search engines to find the right opportunities.
4. You’ll also see offers for federal student loans
After subtracting your gift aid from your total cost of attendance, you’ll likely still have costs left. That’s where student loans can come in handy. Based on your FAFSA, Rutgers will offer Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, or both.
Both of these loans have the same interest rate of 5.05% for undergraduates, but subsidized loans have more attractive terms since they don’t start accruing interest while you’re in school. Subsidized loans go to students with financial need, whereas any student attending an eligible school can take out unsubsidized loans, regardless of their financial circumstances.
Note that the student loans on your Rutgers financial aid award letter are just offers. You’re not obligated to take out federal student loans. If you do choose to borrow, make sure you understand their terms and conditions.
Learn about your repayment options, and use our student loan payment calculator to estimate your future monthly bills. By doing your due diligence before you borrow, you can avoid taking on too much debt.
5. You might see a work-study offer to help lower costs
If you have financial aid, you might see another offer on your Rutgers award letter: work-study. The Federal Work-Study Program guarantees you a part-time job on campus during the school year.
You can use your earnings for indirect costs, such as books and miscellaneous expenses. Even if you don’t qualify for work-study, you might get a part-time job as a college student to make extra cash.
If your award letter offers work-study, make sure to factor in this income as you prepare your budget.
6. You might still have a gap in funding
After reviewing your financial aid award, you can estimate your remaining expenses by subtracting any gift aid you’ve received and student loans you plan to accept from your total cost of attendance.
If you still have a gap in funding, you could consider borrowing additional student loans. Your parents, for instance, could borrow federal Direct PLUS Loans, which come with a 7.60% interest rate and 4.264% origination fee.
Another option is to borrow private student loans from a bank, credit union, or online lender. Since private lenders have underwriting requirements, you’ll likely have to apply with a cosigner to qualify.
Of course, the decision to borrow debt shouldn’t be taken lightly, and you should make sure you’re prepared to handle repayment. You could also try other avenues first, such as working part time and applying for scholarships.
Whatever you can do to save money now could mean less student debt in the future.
Take time to decipher your Rutgers award letter
Financial aid can be confusing, so take your time reading over your Rutgers award letter. Be cautious when taking out student loans so that you don’t find yourself in over your head.
If you decide to borrow, make sure you understand how your loans work. By doing your due diligence now, student loans can be a useful strategy for paying for Rutgers University rather than a burden.
Above rates & terms are accurate as of September 2018.
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