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'This generation is amazing': Expert explains financial aid for college

As students make the decision on where to attend college based on their major, location, and price, one expert offers advice on how to make that more affordable.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The end of the school year is upon us and with it comes graduation season.

Soon seniors will toss their caps into the air and celebrate the close of one chapter and the beginning of another.

Students will make that enormous decision on where to attend college based on their major, location, and of course— price.

Robinson Senior, Sa’Kia Hardy, will soon close the book on her high school career and turn the page to her dream job.

“I’ve always been around animals and liked playing with animals even if my family didn’t, so I said let me look into being a vet," she explained.

Unfortunately, chasing a dream isn’t free. 

Sa’Kia plans to attend Tuskegee University in Alabama where the veterinary medicine program costs over $44,000 dollars in the 2022-23 academic year.

“I literally still have the tabs on my computer now because I’m still doing research with scholarships and programs I can do once I get to the school," she added.

Sa’Kia is not alone. 

Maumelle senior, Liam Larsen, was accepted to Brigham Young University in Utah to major in math and pursue a Ph.D. 

“For my math ACT, I got one question wrong out of all the math on the calculator and non-calculator. I was proud of that," Liam said.

The average cost is $13,000 dollars for the 2022-23 academic year, which prompted Liam to apply for as many scholarships as possible. 

“One day I decided to go to the library and not leave until I finished my essays," he described.

In Sherwood, Victoria Poland is top 3 in her class at Sylvan Hills and is planning to attend Hedrix College with a degree in biology. 

“I fell in love with biology, and I took college biology in the 9th grade and now I want to pursue that and become a cardiologist for pediatrics when I get older," she explained.

The average cost of tuition at Hendrix is $50,950 dollars for the 2022-23 academic year. This prompted Victoria to ask some questions.

“We looked at cost and had to take a step back and ask is the cost it worth it?" she said. 

Three future doctors have asked the same question nearly every student does, and that question is— how will I pay for college? 

In March, Google reported that searches for “average college tuition” spiked by 3,000%.

Doctor Amy Baldwin is a Senior Lecturer at UCA and the author of A High School Parent’s Guide to College Success.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword doing your research is really important and it can also scare you," Dr. Baldwin explained.

When looking at the cost of college, Dr. Baldwin said she encourages every prospective college student to research two things:

The institution's Tuition and Fees Calculator and the Financial Aid Net Price Calculator.

“One is what’s the sticker and the net price is based on what my information is. My test scores, my GPA, my demographics, or my extracurricular activities might cost me. They should both be on the institution’s website and will give you a better idea of what’s available. Grants, scholarships, or student loans," she described. 

Baldwin also said that before making a college decision, you should check the starting salaries and average pay growth of your intended major after graduation. Even if the numbers add up now, a lot could change during the pursuit of a degree.

“The journey is going to have some twists and turns. You may do something very different than something that you wanted to do and that’s ok too. It’s sometimes about the exploration and the curiosity and does this really fit me and is this something I want to spend the rest of my life doing," she added.

After months and even years of research and planning. Liam, Sa’Kia, and Victoria all feel financially prepared for the next level.

Baldwins believes “this generation is amazing, they’re so inspirational. They have a sense of purpose, and they want to help people.”

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