Financial Aid is a Lie
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Student Life

Financial Aid is a Lie

Everything hurts, and my family's wallet is dying.

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Financial Aid is a Lie
FreeImages.com/Manuel De La Pena

While we're all cooling off this winter break, fresh after a round of finals, I thought that this would be the best time to think of another petty issue to heat things up. You know, because that's the kind of person I am.

And so, in the footsteps of Peter Griffin, here's my very own edition of What Really Grinds My Gears, on the topic of paying for school.


Like growing more hair and learning how to control your temper at the DMV, going to college is quite the event for everyone the world over, on par with buying a house, getting married, or making any other choice that you might find out you could have done much more cheaply after you have already done so.

But that's ok. The more active of us young people can be rewarded for our efforts in giving back to society and our own communities with scholarships, and even more of us work one or multiple jobs for that sweet, sweet income. But what if you do neither of those things? Well there is, in fact, an app for that: the form we know as the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Filling out the FAFSA merits a whole article all on its own, but for the most part it's not too much of a nightmare, and as of late the filing period actually started this past fall as opposed to the spring as it used to be, making it that much easier to knock that off your college to-do list. Do that and wait a few months, and you'll be on your way to free money for college to fulfill your dreams of getting a fancy piece of paper and a new line on your resume, right? Not exactly.

The cost of college shouldn't be a prime factor in decision-making.

There's no doubt that students the nation over benefit from the aid filling out the FAFSA brings. But let's look a little closer at what the people of our government consider aid. According to the federal student aid website...

Federal student aid includes:


  • Grants—financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund)
  • Loans— borrowed money for college or career school; you must repay your loans, with interest
  • Work-Study—a work program through which you earn money to help you pay for school

Grants are great - they're practically free money. Work-Study is also great because you can really feel like you're earning the money in real time as well. What grinds my gears is the option in the middle: loans.

Expecting payment back with interest is no longer aid, because the amicable no-strings-attached part just dies off.


I started thinking deeper into the topic when I was asking my mom about filling out some financial forms for something or other, and it asked if I had any sources of aid. I was going to put yes, but she told me to put otherwise. I cited the student aid website. She cited common sense.

Loans - essentially debt-creation - is supposedly a valid way to help someone who can't afford to buy a lot of things buy a REALLY BIG THING that will take years on years to pay off? (And at least after paying off years of a mortgage or auto loan I end up with a house or car. These days paying off a college education gives me the the aforementioned piece of paper and the ability to apply for a so-called entry-level job.) I don't know about you, but I'm not buying it, to be quite honest.

Looking further into this somewhat-philosophical question, I found that a lot of other people actually agree with my mom and me. One man, Mike Konczal, wrote a great article on the topic a few years ago on the exact topic. Essentially he says that aid would be helping a student pay for college, no strings attached. Expecting payment back with interest is no longer aid, because the amicable no-strings-attached part just dies off when the money is expected to be paid back in full plus interest following a schedule that can ruin your credit if you don't fork over a payment on time. If you ask me, I interpret it much more pessimistically: to me, offering loans under the name of aid is somewhat akin to getting a papercut and wanting a band-aid, but instead your friend offers to fully clean the cut before splitting the cut wider open than it was before. Yeesh.

Does that mean the FAFSA isn't worth the (digital) paper it's printed on? Not at all. Many students are still eligible to receive the goal of free money that we all strive for like the grubby humans we are. I'm just saying that the cost of college shouldn't be a prime factor in decision-making here. For example, last year a student was accepted to every Ivy League school and subsequently shocked the country when he turned all of their admission offers down because he would not have received enough aid to cover the cost of a whole undergrad career at any of them. Well, not all of the country. Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post wrote her own article on how she agrees with his choice, saying that her family has a personal "no college debt" rule.

That's great and all. I mean these days a degree is a degree as long as you get one, right? But what if college cost enough that the decision wasn't between multiple colleges, but between going to college and not going at all? I have no story for this particular scenario, but that doesn't mean it's not a valid scenario that many high school seniors and their families think about. Like I said before, the cost of college shouldn't be a prime factor in decision-making.

And so, we come back to the question. Should loans be considered financial aid? I'm gonna guess that the government will stick with a yes answer. I may be personally a bit salty since I have accepted such government loans (neither my sister nor I qualify for any grants or scholarships), and I certainly don't feel as if I've been truly"aided" at all these almost-four years, so I have to say no here. Until I get past an entry-level job, I'll just have to hope I inherit a nice house to list on Airbnb or marry rich. *sigh*


What do you all think? Tweet me back, people~

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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