Each year in May, college students graduate in their caps and gowns and enter the workforce after four or more years of college. And yet, many of these students bring with them a hefty amount of student debt. In fact, as of 2019, outstanding student loan debt in the United States has hit over $1.5 trillion dollars.
A college education is all but required nowadays to secure an entry-level job – the number of employers who are content with only a high school degree is dwindling, and even the value of an undergraduate degree is lessening. While college isn’t for everyone, it is becoming increasingly important in securing a stable income. So, most Americans see the loans they take out for their college careers as an investment to be paid in full rather than a burden.
Students in New York state, in particular, have one of the highest loan debt amounts in the United States, with each student owing an average of $31,000. In fact, one million New Yorkers collectively carry about $35 billion in student loan debt. Consider that New York’s population staggers to a high of over eight million people.
Why are students amassing so much student debt? Well, this is in large part due to the fact that the cost of higher education in the United States is rising meteorically each year. The average tuition, room, and board, and fees at a college in 1980 totaled only $9,438 per semester, whereas the average now is about $23,872. Schools like Columbia University, which rank amongst the most expensive institutions in America, cost an astonishing $29,715 to attend per semester.
This begs for the question to be asked – can students actually pay for college without taking out federal or private loans?
Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center, a test prep company specializing in SAT Prep and college admissions and application counseling, has a mission: to help their students get out of the college process unscathed and without an overwhelming amount of student debt to carry on with them past graduation. With their college application program, the center aids its students in gaining the highest possible amount of merit-based and financial aid scholarships.
With more than ten years of experience, Bobby-Tariq has helped thousands of hopeful college students not only earn the top percentile SAT scores that they need to attend prestigious institutions, they’ve also helped them get there and minimize their student loan debt. According to founder and CEO Bobby, “Most of our students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and are the first in their families to go to college. They don’t necessarily have the practical knowledge about how to fill out FAFSA, CSS Profile, apply for outside scholarships, or look for other financial incentives that can help. That’s where we step in to help.”
There are two types of aid that colleges will typically provide students with merit-based and need-based scholarships. Most schools are need-blind, which means that they will not consider student finances as part of their admissions portfolio. Other institutions offer blanket deals to students. Columbia University, for example, offers full need-based aid to any student whose family income falls under the $60,000, but will not offer students any academic merit-based aid. On the other hand, schools like New York University will consider both finances and academic merit in a more holistic, but also more subjective, process.
The ways in which colleges assign merit-based aid are not regulated, but experts have a pretty good idea about what drives institutions to offer students the big bucks. “Whether it’s having a high SAT score, excellent personal statements, or a stellar grade point average, students are convincing universities to invest in their potential when they apply for merit-based aid. The way to maximize the award amount is to have the best scores, the most emotion-evoking supplemental essays, and show the most dedication to the university,” said Vice President of Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center, Sakib Hussain.
Need-based financial aid is of course based on a family’s yearly income, assets, and investments. However, there is statewide assistance, federal assistance, and school-by-school assistance for students who are applying to college. One of the most critical parts of the college application progress is filling out the Free Application for Student Aid, or the FAFSA online. The maximum Federal Pell Grant Award that students can be granted each year is about $6,195. After filling out the FAFSA, students should be sure to apply for statewide financial aid. In New York State, the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Award is granted to any student whose family makes $80,000 or less per year, and the award amount ranges from $500 to $5165 per year.
“The maximum amount of money that the government awards each student yearly comes to be around $10,000,” explained President Tariq Hussain, “and this is where each institution must decide how much money to award the student. If the cost of attendance is $50,000 per year and the government is only providing $10,000, then it is up to each institution to decide how much of that $40,000 deficit they want to cover. It is the duty of each student to present themselves as worthy of gaining those awards.”
These brothers and college application specialists have dedicated their lives to closing the gap in higher education that often ignores low-income, immigrant, and first-generation students. After all, education should be a right and not a privilege. Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center recognizes and acknowledges the importance of a fair playing field, and they’ve spent the last ten years ensuring that their students get into top colleges without breaking their backs with loans and debt.
The federal student loan debt is unlikely to decrease any time soon. But at the very least, students who take advantage of the insights at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center can rest assured that they have done all in their power to decrease or completely eliminate the need to take out a student loan for their education.