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Paying for College

How to Get Help Paying for College

When you hear about how much a college education can cost, it can be kind of scary. You may wonder how you and your family will be able to afford it. Just about everyone worries about this, so you are not alone. It turns out there are a lot of different ways to get money for college, and we are going to explain all of them to you here. Of course, you can always call or email WOU Financial Aid to ask questions, and there are a lot of online resources that can help, too.

First, we are going to explain the different types of money you can get to help pay your WOU tuition. We also have made a video about this, which you can view any time you like.

Remember, too, that getting money for a college degree always starts with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA) (for undocumented or DACA students). Just about any other step you take will depend on whether you have completed one of these forms. They both are available to submit online starting Oct. 1 every year (must be filled out EVERY YEAR), and the earlier you and your family fill them out, the better, because some money goes to the earliest birds.

If you are unsure which form to use, this quiz can help.

The Four Types of Financial Aid

Scholarships: Scholarships are money that you don’t have to pay back. Some require individual applications (such as scholarships based on your major), and some are competitive. In general, they go to applicants with very good grades, financial need, athletics, leadership experience or other considerations. Scholarship opportunities can be found in your community, at your high school, online and possibly through your employer, if you have a job.

WOU offers dozens of different scholarships to help WOU students pay for college. Many of the scholarships can be applied for with a single form, the General Scholarship Application.

Grants: Grants, like scholarships, are money that you don’t have to pay back. They are given out based on financial need and can be combined with scholarships and other sources of funding to pay for college. The best known grant are the Pell Grant, which is given by the federal government, and the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which is awarded by the state.

Loans: Loans are money you do have to pay back. However, they have low interest rates and often don’t have to be paid back until after you leave college. The most a first-year student can get in loans each year is $5,500. There are also loans for parents, called Parent PLUS Loans, that can make up the difference.

Work study: This is money you earn by having a job on or off campus while you are a student. The good thing about it is that it can be used for college costs other than tuition, such as housing or books.

WOU has a lot of resources to help you understand the different kinds of financial aid available to you, as well as information on how to find more scholarships to apply for. Once you are admitted to WOU, you’ll be able to apply for more than 80 WOU scholarships with one easy form.

Now let’s learn some important words you will see when you are looking at a financial aid offer. You will receive this offer, or “package” from WOU Financial Aid after you apply to WOU. That package will list the kinds of aid you can get to earn your degree at WOU.

Definitions of Financial Aid Terms

Award offer: Also known as a “package,” it lists the different types of financial aid you can receive. It may include grants, loans, scholarships, work study and more. The amount of money you receive is based on your Expected Family Contribution that is decided from the information in your FAFSA or ORSAA form. The award letter also includes information about cost of attendance.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This is NOT the amount you and your family will have to pay. It is just the amount the federal government has decided you could afford based on your income shown on the FAFSA or ORSAA. The amount and types of financial aid you are eligible for are based on your EFC.

Cost of attendance: An estimated amount that adds together costs such as full-time tuition, fees, housing, transportation, books and supplies and miscellaneous to end up with a total number for going to WOU for a year. This is NOT the amount you will pay to attend WOU. It’s just an estimate against which to figure out your financial aid.

Work study: A type of funding from the federal government that helps pay the student’s wages either on or off campus. If you see work study listed in your financial aid packet, the dollar amount listed is not something you automatically receive. At WOU, students can apply for work using a program called Handshake. You can get help finding a job at WOU’s Service Learning and Career Development office. Of course, there are hundreds of jobs on campus that you can apply for using work study funds.

Fee remission: Financial aid money comes to students in the form of university funding called “fee remissions.” The money reduces the student’s bill by getting applied to your tuition and fee charges. It does NOT mean that the money only goes toward fees.

Verification: Every year, the federal government chooses people who filled out the FAFSA and asks them to confirm what they submitted on the form. This process is called verification. Unfortunately, it can slow down the creation of your financial aid package. WOU doesn’t decide which families get selected for verification, the government does. If you are selected, you are encouraged to respond quickly with the required information.

Release of Confidentiality form: Because financial aid information is federally protected and private for students, they have to sign these forms every year before a financial aid counselor can talk to a parent about the student’s account. Also, financial aid counselors are only permitted to discuss students’ financial aid with people whose names are listed on the FAFSA or ORSAA, even if a release form has been signed.

Business Services: The department that handles billing at WOU. Students can pay their bills online or at the cashier in the administration building. Financial Aid sends electronic funds to Business Services but does not take or give out money.

Tuition equity: A law that allows students who meet certain criteria to pay Oregon resident tuition and fees instead of non-resident tuition and fees.

The world of financial aid can be complicated, and the idea of paying thousands of dollars can be stressful. We get it. WOU Financial Aid will help you with any questions you might have. Also, you can get more information by visiting or by calling 503-838-8475.

Most WOU freshmen are required to live on campus in the residence halls. Click the Housing tab to learn more about how to get a spot in a residence hall.