Rising tuition rates don't have to keep you out of college

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by Sandra Parker

WVEC.com

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 12 at 11:02 AM

NORFOLK -- In the past few weeks, just about every college in Virginia has announced a tuition increase, making it even harder for many parents and students to afford.

Three years ago, Max Turner was a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth.  He says he wasn't sure he'd actually get a college education.

Today, he's a rising junior at Old Dominion University.

"I definitely knew that I wanted to go. At first I was kinda lost. I wasn't sure if I would get in and if I could pay for it," he said.

His parents couldn't help him financially, so he turned to the Access Foundation, which had an advisor right in his high school.

"Access is all about helping students go to college. That's what we've done for 22 years," President and CEO Bonnie Sutton states.

Each year, the Access Foundation helps more than 10,000 students in Hampton Roads.

Since the fall of 2008, the foundation has seen more families from all walks of life that need financial help.

"We've seen a huge drive, just parents and students flooding the Access office for assistance, but in just about every case we can help them find something," Sutton says.

On the Peninsula, Dr. Ellen Fithian runs Hampton Roads Education Consulting, which helps students prepare for college. She offers courses that will help them get ready for the SAT and ACT. She also gives parents guidance on financial aid.

Fithian says don't let sticker shock keep you out of college, noting, "Depending on how much financial aid you're eligible for and how much money colleges have to give, you may find the most expensive colleges are in some cases the cheapest for your family."

She says filling out your free application for federal student aid or FAFSA form by January or February will help you get a jump on the financial aid you qualify for.

After that, Fithian says start applying for all the scholarships you can.

"There are a lot of local scholarships that are for a particular groups of students, so the best advice for scholarships is apply for a lot and there's a good chance you'll come up with something," she recommends.

Another way to afford a higher education is to start out at a community college.

"You can actually start at one of our community colleges and end up at UVA, William and Mary or any of the four-year colleges. That's saving you a lot of money," she says.

Access Foundation is in all 29 southside high schools and its services are free to students and their families.

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