Lone Star College System Student Loans
Young adults just out of high school and looking for a jumpstart into their college careers, as well as working adults juggling families and seeking to improve their status, may find a suitable program within the Lone Star College System. One of the fastest growing community colleges in the country offering associate’s degrees, certificate programs, and transfer credits to four-year degree institutions, Lone Star College serves over a 1,400 square mile area around Houston, Texas.
Lone Star College System has six physical campuses as well as multiple learning centers and online course options. Each of the six campuses has their own unique offerings and activities with bustling Student Life Centers and many organizations to get involved in. Around 66% of Lone Star College students are under age 25, and the majority of students attend either the LSC-CyFair or the LSC-North Harris campuses.
An Affordable Option
Community colleges are often less expensive than four-year universities and colleges. Many students will choose to attend a Lone Star College campus right out of high school as a cheaper alternative and then look to transfer to a four-year program after the first two years. Lone Star College System encourages this and strives to make the transition as seamless as possible. Texas residents living in Lone Star College System’s district are offered the lowest prices on base tuition (outside of financial aid). Tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 academic year are as follows:
- In-district base tuition and fees: $92 for the first credit hour/$60 for each subsequent credit hour
- Out-of-district Texas resident tuition and fees: $162 for the first credit hour/$130 for each subsequent credit hour
- International or out-of-state resident tuition and fees: $250 for the first credit hour/$130 for each subsequent credit hour
- Online courses: $15 per credit hour on top of base tuition
Base tuition and fees include a student activity fee, technology fee, general use fee, and a differential tuition fee per program, which is not included above. For more details on the exact fees for each specific program you can visit the Lone Star College System website. Every student is charged a $20 infrastructure and $12 registration fee per semester, which is why the first credit hour is a different amount than the subsequent credit hours. If your course load is entirely online, you will not be charged the infrastructure fee. If you are a full-time student living in-district and taking 12 credit hours, your base tuition is $752 a semester or $1,504 a year for both fall and spring semesters.
In order to calculate, and budget for, your total cost of attendance (COA) other factors must be included as well. These base tuition and fees do not include your textbooks or supplies. Room and board as well as transportation and other personal expenses also need to be factored in. Lone Star College System does not offer campus housing, so students are required to provide their own transportation to and from school as well as make their own living arrangements. You will need a parking pass to park on campus, although this is free for students and staff. You can save money by carpooling or riding your bike as well as using Houston’s METRO system of public transportation, which offers a 50% discount to full-time college students with a student discount card as well.
Rent prices are more expensive the closer to the city center you are, so choosing a place further out may be a more affordable option. According to rentjungle.com the average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in Houston is $1,231 although some neighborhoods are more expensive than others. For example, Greater Heights is the most expensive area, while Bellaire is the least expensive neighborhood in the greater Houston area. Living at home for a bit or finding a roommate can help with rent costs as well. The Lone Star College System Net Price Calculator can help you estimate your total COA.
Applying for Financial Aid
If you need a little extra help in affording college, Lone Star College System has an easy-to-complete three-step process. First, you need to fill out and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This helps determine how much and what type of aid you may qualify for from government and state agencies as well as from Lone Star College. The FAFSA calculates your expected family contribution (EFC) and takes into account your total COA at Lone Star College in order to determine your award amount. In order to complete your FAFSA you will need the following information:
- Name and date of birth
- Social Security Number (and those of your parents if you are a dependent student)
- Current tax records (and your parents’ tax records if you are a dependent)
- Employment information (if applicable)
- Other relevant financial information
- School information
You will need to create a FSA ID in order to submit your FAFSA online. This is a quick and easy process requiring only your name, birthday, and Social Security Number. Your ID acts as your digital signature allowing you to sign documents over the Internet. It also grants you access to all of your federal financial aid information. Do not share this FSA ID with anyone else. Once you have submitted a completed FAFSA, the school may require you to provide additional documentation. After a processing period of a few weeks, you should receive a letter detailing your financial aid package. Your financial aid award cannot exceed your total cost of attendance.
Your next step is to review your aid package and accept it. You may choose to only accept part of the aid package; remember to only borrow what you need. You will need to then sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN), which lays out your responsibilities and rights as a student borrower. Keep this in a safe place.
Financial aid is usually disbursed up to two times a year directly into your student account to pay for tuition and school fees. Any remaining funds will then be disbursed to you in order to pay for other education-related expenses, including transportation, room and board, child care, school supplies, and even a computer. There are several different types of student financial aid, which may include grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans. Grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back, while student loans are borrowed funds that will need to be paid back.
Financial Aid Eligibility
In order to complete a FAFSA, and therefore qualify for state or federal student financial aid, you do have to meet some basic eligibility requirements including:
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security Number
- Males must be registered in the U.S. Selective Service (registration occurs between ages 18 and 25) unless exempt
- Have a high school diploma or its equivalent
- Be enrolled or accepted as a regular student in a certificate- or degree-granting program
- Have no federal loans in default
- Sign a statement of intent to use funds for educational purposes only
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress (SAP) while in school
You will need to resubmit your FAFSA every year to maintain your eligibility for financial aid. Specific financial aid awards may have other eligibility criteria as well. Private or non-profit organizations may provide scholarships that are outside of the federal, state, or school umbrella, and these may have different requirements also. Your financial aid office should have more details.
Your FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for federal or state grant opportunities. Grant funds are considered gift money and awarded on the basis of financial need. Federal grants include the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).The Pell Grant is offered to all eligible undergraduate students with a maximum award amount of $5,815 for the 2016-2017 academic year. The actual amount you may receive depends on your year in school, enrollment status, cost of attendance, financial need, and intention to enroll in school for the entire academic year.The FSEOG is more limited and not all eligible students will receive funds. FSEOG funds are paid to the school annually and then Lone Star College disburses the funds to those demonstrating the most dire financial need. It is important to apply early to be considered for this campus-based grant. You may receive FSEOG award amounts ranging between $100- $4,000 a year.
In addition to federal grants, the Texas government also uses the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for state grants. The Towards Excellence Access and Success (TEXAS) Grant offers up to $2,700 a year to community college undergraduate students who meet the FAFSA criteria. Additional requirements for obtaining the TEXAS Grant include:
- No felony or controlled substance convictions
- Have an EFC of $4,000 or less
- Graduate from a Texas high school
- Complete a Distinguished Achievement Program or Recommended High School Program
- Be enrolled at least three-quarter time at Lone Star College
- Maintain a GPA of 2.75
- Complete at least 75% of attempted hours
Other Texas state grants for those with financial need include the Texas Public Education Grant (TPEG), the Texas Public Educational Opportunity Grant (TEOG), and the Texas Public Education Grant (TPEG) for Continuing Education. Grant awards vary for the TPEG, and to qualify you must be enrolled in at least six credit hours, be enrolled in the U.S. Selective Service, and be a Texas resident without a TEXAS Grant. The TEOG funding awards up to $1,890 a year for Texas residents with an EFC of less than $2,000 and those meeting all the other TEXAS Grant requirements.
Students accepted into the Continuing Education department may be eligible for the TPEG for Continuing Education. This grant does require a separate application. Check with your financial aid office for more information on state and federal grants.
Scholarships and Exemptions
Other forms of gift money that doesn’t have to be repaid are scholarships. Many different organizations and institutions offer them on the basis of merit, academics, race, gender, or minority status. Some require interviews or essays in addition to an application. Clubs and organizations may offer scholarships to members or students entering particular fields of study. Be sure to inquire with as many sources as you can think of about any scholarships you may qualify for.
Texas residents seeking higher education at a public college or university, like Lone Star College System, may qualify for an exemption program that essentially waives tuition and sometimes fees. For example, children or spouses of deceased or disabled in the line of duty public service officers, blind or deaf students, military students, or foster care students may all qualify for exemptions. Additionally, firefighters taking fire science course may qualify. Lone Star College System participates in many exemption programs; for a full list check the website.
Another form of financial aid provides students with financial need with the opportunity to earn money by working on campus in community service positions in order to pay educational costs. This Federal Work-Study Program currently pays Lone Star College System students $7.25 per hour for up to 19.5 hours per week for a total of 32 weeks. This includes 16 weeks in each of the fall and spring semesters. Not all students who qualify for the Work-Study Program will get a job, and employment opportunities vary from campus to campus. These jobs are generally flexible and work around your course schedule.
Often, after you have used up all the forms of free money opportunities that you may qualify for, there may still be a gap between your COA and what you can afford. This is when you may consider borrowing money in the form of a student loan. Student loans are generally low cost and most defer payments until after you leave school. There are two main types of student loans: federal student loans and private, or alternative, student loans.Federal student loans typically offer more favorable terms and flexible repayment plans and options than private student loans. The William D. Ford Direct Loan Program offered by the federal government uses the U.S. Department of Education as your lender and offers low and fixed-rate interest for federal student loans. These loans are either subsidized, where the government pays your interest, or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are based on financial need, while unsubsidized loans may not be. Subsidized and unsubsidized loan maximums range between $5,500 and $12,500 a year. Parents of undergraduates can also take out the remainder of your total COA minus other financial aid through a federal Direct PLUS Loan with a credit check. You apply for federal loans with your FAFSA submission.Private loans are offered by financial organizations and institutions and may have variable interest rates that can go up during the life of your loan. These rates depend upon the individual lender and often require a cosigner in order to obtain the most favorable terms. To obtain a private student loan you will need to apply with the individual lender you wish to use. Private student loans should be your last resort.
Types of Student Loans